Mention of Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle conjures up images of poppy-growing hill tribes, drug smugglers' mule trains, defiant drug warlords, CIA skullduggery, and triad dealers. In Thailand, that era has passed with government crop-substitution programmes having succeeded in replacing nearly all of the poppy cultivation with fruits, vegetables, coffee, and tea. These days, the gold in the Golden Triangle is tourism. This is the destination – Baan Sop Ruak, where the Ruak (foreground) and Mekong (background) rivers meet, defining the borders between Thailand, Myanmar (left), and Laos (right).
What to do if you come here? In the town itself are two opium museums – the Hall of Opium, and the House of Opium. You can also arrange touristy boat trips on the Mekong that will give you a view of a casino hotel on the Burmese side of the border and stop at a village on the Lao island of Don Sao without the need for a visa; better to incorporate a river trip as part of your onward journey, such as downriver to Chiang Saen. We recommended, however, taking a trek through the rugged countryside of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai provinces where you will enjoy mountain scenery, jungle, and hill tribe villages in areas that tour buses cannot reach. (Brian K. Smith photo.)
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