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Thailand’s Golden Triangle

From the Opium Trade to the Tourist Trade

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The Golden Triangle-where three countries meet.
The Golden Triangle - where Thailand, Laos & Myanmar meet.

The Golden Triangle today is a far cry from the one described by Alfred W. McCoy in The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia. Rather than mule caravans carrying bags of Double U-O Globe Brand heroin from the jungle refineries of Burma and Laos on the first stage of their journey to the cities of the west, there are now convoys of buses carrying curious visitors to gawk at … well nothing really.

At one time, the name described a sizeable piece of Northern Thailand, the Burmese Shan states, the hill tribe areas of Laos and a swathe of Yunnan Province in China; areas where opium was, and in some cases still is, a major crop. Today the term Golden Triangle only describes the area immediately around the confluence of the Mekong and the Nam Ruak rivers. This is where Thailand, Laos and Burma meet and it is a tribute to the marketing skills of the Tourist Authority of Thailand that such a successful and popular tourist destination has been conjured from an evocative name and some pretty views.

The Golden Triangle Village.
The Golden Triangle Village.

Every day bus-loads of tourists stop at the small village of Ban Don Sak at the apex of the Golden Triangle. This is a popular lunch stop, so there are a large number of restaurants along the riverbank, set among lychee groves and tobacco fields. There are also a number of guesthouses and resorts here making it a good base to explore the region. Rent a bicycle and ride along the river to the historical city of Chiang Saen or visit the local villages for a look at the northern lifestyle. Many people in this area are Thai Yuon, descendants of the Buddhist Singhanawati dynasty, which supposedly founded Chiang Saen around 568AD.



 

 
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