Monday, August 26, 2013

Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle

by Regin Reyno

The meeting point of three countries, Thailand, Burma, and Laos is called the Golden Triangle. It's called "golden" because of the wealth that that area was producing before-the wealth from Poppy plants which are used to produce Opium and its derivatives, Morphine and Heroine. 

3 countries at a time, anyone?
The area is mountainous and rivers border the countries, the Mekong and Ruak River. 

Because of the nature of the place, a lot of hill tribes reside in the area; the Shan, Tai Lu, Hmong, Akha, Lisu, and Yao are some of the examples of those hill tribes.

From 1960's to 1990's, drug plantation, production, and trafficking was rampant in that place. Each of the countries had their own plantation, and trafficking was easy because of the proximity of the countries.

Mekong river
photo credit: Franz Calipuzan
Back then, it was one of the most dangerous places in Southeast Asia. Imagine drug trafficking, smuggling, poppy plantations, carts carrying opium, hill tribes, drug lords, war lords, private armies, guns, wars, shootings, CIA, remote villages, corruption, bribery, DEA, mountains, and untamed rivers.

Upon reading about this place before, it became one of my target destinations in Southeast Asia. I want to experience a kinda wild, wild west experience. I want to see what it looks like and I want to behold three countries at a time.

with Kimi
Last week, together with my batch and friends in college, we visited that infamous place. But instead of seeing warlords, private armies, poppies and all that stuff, what we saw was a touristy area with souvenir shops, tour agencies, Opium museum, hostels and up-market hotels. There's even a boat ride offering you to go visit the other two countries. 

with my friends and college batchmates
I know the Thai government-with the pressure from the US-eradicated those drug activities a few years ago, and Burma and Laos is slowly getting rid of it as well. Instead of being disappointed, I just behold and savored the moment and the place imagining what it was like 20 years ago. It was a great experience to be able to see 3 countries at time!

My batchmates and I wasted no time and took a lot of photos and talked about the beautiful and interesting scene that we saw and some history that we know about the area. We were beholding 3 countries plus the 12th longest river and one of the most important rivers in the world. 

Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai, Thailand
The drug lords, warlords, secret armies, poppy plantations, drug mules may be gone, but nevertheless it's still a wonderful place to experience, and definitely a must-visit when you are in Northern Thailand.


-The Golden Triangle is located in the village of Sop Ruak about 9 km. from the historic city of Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai. 

-Visit the Opium museum. 
-You can take a boat ride to visit the souvenir village in Laos and Burma but you'll need a passport or a pass if you want to go further in those countries.


  1. Sayang do. I was not able to join you here! This place is so historic.. This is why they always refer the Mekong River as the mighty Mekong River.

    1. Oo nga do. Sige lang may next time pa. I'm planning a slow boat ride from Chiang Rai to China along the Mekong in the future.

  2. nice post! i want to experience this one also. anyway how do we get here from bangkok? thanks!

    1. Thanks. In our case we rented a van from Bangkok going there. I don't know exactly how to go there via public ride. I hope you experience it too. It's amazing.