North East of Chiang Rai close to Chiang Saen lies the infamous Golden Triangle, once the center of opium production and trade in South East Asia. Those days are gone. Now the area is peaceful and tranquil dotted with hill tribe villages, ancient temples and markets.
The Golden Triangle locally known as Sop Ruak is where Thailand, Burma and Laos meet separated by the Mekong river. The border between Thailand and Burma is marked by the Ruak river, which flows into the Mekong at Sop Ruak.
To do & see in the Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle is known for its beautiful scenery. From the viewpoint you will see the three neighboring countries, the Mekong river and the hilly landscape with its small villages and hilltop temples.
Some of the sights in the area include a large golden Buddha image seated in a boat, an ancient temple on a hill and the House of Opium Museum.
Get up close to all three countries taking a long tail boat ride along the shores of Thailand, Burma and Laos.
Golden Triangle Park
On the Thai side of the river where all three countries can be seen from the viewpoint is the Golden Triangle Park. An entrance gate adorned with sculpted elephant statues welcomes visitors to the Golden Triangle.
On the banks of the Mekong river is a large golden Buddha image seated in a boat. Next to it are two large elephant statues carrying miniature stupas on their backs.
Long tail boat ride
A fun way to explore the area is to take a long tail boat trip on the Mekong river. Boats can be chartered for trips along the shores of Burma, Laos and Thailand lasting about 20 to 30 minutes. A trip all the way to Chiang Saen and beyond will take some 1½ hours.
A short boat ride away is Don Sao, a Lao island in the river where tourists can visit a local market. A visit to the island does not require a visa to Laos.
Ancient hill temple
On a hill near the Mekong river is a temple named Wat Phra That Pu Khao, believed to date back to the 8th century.
Although it takes a bit of effort to get to the top, the views of the Golden Triangle, the Mekong river and the forested mountains are worth the climb. Two large multi headed Naga snakes at the bottom of the stairway protect the temple.
Hall of Opium Museum
The Hall of Opium is a large museum that shows the history of opium growing and trade in the Golden Triangle. Entrance to the museum is through a tunnel with sculpted depictions of people suffering the pain and horrors of drug addiction.
Section on the British Opium Wars
An interesting and informative museum with lots of displays and information in Thai and English, there are several sections including one on the British opium wars and one on the financial and social cost of drug use.
Eradication of poppy cultivation in the region
Another section is dedicated to the hill tribes in the area that used to grow opium poppies. A highly successful project initiated by the Royal Projects Foundation of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has achieved the eradication of poppy cultivation in the region.
The project was started to improve the lives of poor local farmers, especially the hill tribes people and to rehabilitate the forests. This project has given local farmers an alternative for poppy growing. Crops like coffee, rice, flowers and many sorts of fruits and vegetables are being grown now that are sold all over the country.
Location, opening hours & entrance fees
The museum is located near the Anantara Golden Triangle hotel a little away from the river. It opens daily except Mondays from 8.30 am until 4.30 pm. Admission is 200 Baht per person. Photo taking inside is not allowed.
How to get there
Most foreign visitors to the Golden Triangle arrive by organized tour from Chiang Rai. Alternatively, rent a car with driver through hotel or local travel agent.
It takes a little longer to get to the Golden Triangle using public transport.
First take a bus from Chiang Rai to Mae Sai which takes about 90 minutes. Then take the blue songthaew from Mae Sai to the Golden Triangle, a 45 minutes trip. Check the timetable to make sure you don’t miss the last bus back to Mae Sai.
Visit the Golden Triangle
+ The White Temple