The legendary Mekong River traces part of Thailand’s border with neighbouring Laos in the north of the country. A distant and exotic land less travelled by western explorers until recently.
A place where history combines with legend and together, in the traveller’s imagination, make it an interesting venue that you might like to visit.
The Mekong River, at the confluence of the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma, now Myanmar, forms a kind of triangle. This spot is known as the Golden Triangle.
Its history is related to opium-growing, a great business and a tragedy that fortunately already belong to the past.
Another fascinating episode of history is the existence long ago of a lost army, the remnants of which fled in retreat to Taiwan in 1949 when Mao’s communists took power in China.
At the time, the Thai government tolerated their presence for some years as refugees until they were eventually integrated into the country as citizens of Thailand in the 1980’s.
The symbolic more than the geographical centre of the area is the legendary city of Chiang Saen, where the river Kok flows into the Greater Mekong.
This area was the place where Thais who emigrated from the Chinese province of Guangxi entered the country, before creating their first independent kingdom with the capital in Sukhothai.
Nowadays, it is the scene of busy trading with its northern neighbours, Laos and China, and numerous large barges cross the river every day.
It has around 11,000 inhabitants and is a popular destination for discovering the legendary Mekong River and the history of opium growing, as well as offering beautiful natural areas for trekking and the chance to visit some of the country’s ethnic minority tribes.
In the Laos shore, there is a small market and a curious casino.
Museums on opium
House of Opium
The small one, in the Golden Triangle.
A collection of paintings, charts, pictures and opium related stuff, which explain the life of a society under the rules of the opium trade. A vast industry that caused a tragedy.
Enough to get an idea about it.
Hall of Opium
The big one, 2 km away from the Golden Triangle.
A modern interpretation centre on the opium nightmare, the business, its procedures, the wars as well as their victims. Very complete and visual.
For those travellers more interested in this topic.
How to get to the Golden Triangle
» Public transport. From Terminal 1 bus station, downtown Chiang Rai.
» Private vehicle with or without a driver. You can rent it in Chiang Mai, but we recommend you do it in Chiang Rai.
» Join a group tour. In Chiang Mai or, better, in Chiang Rai.
If you are interested in travelling to the Golden Triangle, take a look at this post about Chiang Rai province.