The Golden Triangle in the north of Thailand

The Golden Triangle is located in the far north of Thailand. It is a legendary area and is one of the most popular tourist destinations on a Thailand vacation.We tell you about the most beautiful sights that await you on a Golden Triangle round trip

Golden Triangle Round Trip: Place with a Mystical Reputation

The Golden Triangle Thailand is surrounded by myths and legends of warlords and opium cultivation in the misty mountains. These stories have a kernel of truth that makes the Golden Triangle round trip so exciting. Actually, the region includes a little more than just Thailand:It is the tri-border area near the Thai town of Sop Ruak in the north, which includes areas of Laos and Myanmar. They are all located on the banks of the Mekong River. Originally, even a much larger area was called the Golden Triangle: it also included parts of southern China and Vietnam. For centuries, local farmers have grown opium poppies here, which they traditionally processed into opium, which in earlier times was sometimes weighed in units of gold. This gave rise to the still common name“Golden Triangle”. It is a relatively difficult to access area in the mountains. Its inhabitants eluded a clear national affiliation until the last century. To the present day, they tend to live by their own laws.

What sights does the Golden Triangle have to offer?

On a Thailand vacation, the region is one of the biggest tourist attractions because it offers a culture that goes back over centuries, surrounded by beautiful nature. The myth of poppy cultivation and opium production has persisted, even though both are still sporadic and clandestine at best, and more so in the deep mountains of Laos and Myanmar. There live the peoples of the Shan, Wa and Akha, who bend with difficulty to the laws. On the Thai side, however, there are hardly any poppy fields to be discovered; most tourists never see them. This is just as well, because the drug is considered very dangerous. The present Thai royal family therefore warns against it, and the laws against it are very strict. For tourists, the sights of the Golden Triangle are indeed interesting, such as the Doi Tung Development Project, located about ten kilometers outside the town of Chiang Saen. It is an interactive museum over which the Thai Queen Mother has taken patronage. On an area of 40 hectares, she had a Golden Triangle Park created, which is supposed to depict the Golden Triangle of Thailand. Its centerpiece is the aforementioned museum, whose exhibition area alone covers 5,600 square meters. Ten years of research preceded the realization of the project. Visitors enter the museum through a tunnel 140 meters long, which uses sounds and images to depict the hellish torments of opium addicts. It leads through a hill into the museum, where a cinema room awaits you first. Here you will see a film about the creation of the museum and the intentions of the royal family. Then, in a domed room, you will learn all about the 5,000-year history of the region and its opium cultivation. This is followed by a replica ship dedicated to the great seafarers, which also tells about the opium wars between Great Britain and China. The Chinese Emperor and Queen Victoria narrate them in person. The exhibition on the Golden Triangle Thailand also takes up aspects of the economic importance of opium, its production and its artistic utensils. Other exhibits include Chinese porcelain items. The museum is open daily except Monday (08:30 – 17:30 h). Cameras are not allowed.

From the museum to Chiang Rai

The nearest city to the north is Chiang Rai, where the biggest attraction for tourists is the royal temple Wat Phra Kaew. It used to house the world-famous Emerald Buddha, which is actually made of jade and is now on display in Bangkok. It is the national shrine of the Thai people, and a copy can be seen in Chiang Rai. Near the temple of Wat Phra Kaew is Navel City Pillar, a monument in the form of over 100 Khmer pillars. You can also visit the Fah Luang Museum with its Lanna artifacts. When vacationing in Thailand, a visit to this fascinating city is a must.

The Golden Triangle in neighboring countries

In recent years, the entire region of the triangle has become a tourist magnet,which, among other things, has given rise to a small Las Vegas in Laos. The Laotian government set up a special economic zone there with a now already famous casino, many hotels and a gigantic golden crown, which is in itself again an attraction in its own right. Myanmar also has a large casino with an attached luxury hotel on a spit of land that Thai businessmen leased for 99 years. If you travel further upstream on a ship along the Mekong River, you will then reach the next tri-border area between China, Myanmar and Laos.

The Buddha at Sop Ruak

Sop Ruak is a small place on the Thai side. Actually, there is not much to see here except souvenir stalls, some restaurants and ATMs. Although Sop Ruak also has an opium museum, it is relatively small and rather of nostalgic significance. However, the hustle and bustle is overlooked by a huge gold-colored Buddha on a ship that is permanently anchored on the banks of the Mekong River. This statue is considered an attraction not only because of its dimensions, but also because of its cultural and political significance. Rumor has it that in the tri-border area, Thailand wanted to visibly prove its superiority to its neighbors Laos and Myanmar. In addition to the Buddha, there are elephant statues, archways and countless Golden Triangle panels. This ensemble is one of the most popular photo opportunities in the area.

Viewpoint behind the old museum in Sop Ruak

Behind the old opium museum in Sop Ruak, a path leads up a hill past a temple complex to a famous viewpoint. This offers a stunning view of almost the entire Golden Triangle and is a must-visit for photographers. These pictures virtually prove that you have been here. You can also book a boat tour on the Mekong River in Sop Ruak. This is a little diversion, but not with such beautiful views. Also a short trip to Laos, which borders directly here, is not really worth it. It is hawked, but it involves nothing more than a crossing of the bordering Mekong River and a visit to a less-than-authentic Lao village with the usual junk market for souvenirs.

Visiting Chiang Saen

We advise you to visit Chiang Saen. It is located just nine kilometers downstream from Sop Ruak and is the oldest Thai town, settled to this day. It is surrounded by an enchanting mountain panorama, already in prehistoric times people are said to have settled here and once founded the kingdom of Ngoen Yang. It was located on the trade route to Yunnan and Jinghong in southern China. King Mengrai then founded the Lanna Empire, and his grandson had the more modern city of Chiang Saen built and walled in 1329. The city wall is still partially visible. It once had five gates, the Chiang Saen gate has been fully restored. Many tourists consider Chiang Saen only as a transit point, but this is a pity, because the eventful history of the city is highly interesting. It certainly tries to attract the travelers. Among other things, a BBQ is held every evening on the Mekong River.

You will never forget this vacation in the Golden Triangle of Thailand!

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