Tropical green jungles, unique hill tribe villages, mesmerising mountain views, lush rice paddies, you have just arrived at one of the most infamous destinations in Southeast Asia- ‘The Golden Triangle’. From the description it sounds like an amazing place to visit and it is. However historically the area gained notoriety in the 1920s as one of the world’s most prolific opium producers thus, the CIA department came up with the name ‘Golden Triangle’.
The Golden Triangle is in the far north of Thailand, and known locally as Sop Ruak. It is where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand converge and can be seen from one vantage point where the Ruak and Mekong rivers join. The main area is on the Thai riverside where you will find the majority of attractions and amenities.
On the Thai side you can experience the the Lanna culture and community and that has existed for several centuries and was called the “land of a million rice fields”, which tells you that you can expect to see amazing scenery in this part of the world. There are a number of exciting hill-tribe communities that are dotted around the Golden Triangle including the Hmong, Shan, Yao, Karen and Lahu with the opportunity to visit them all with local tour operators.
Most visitors come to the area from Chiang Rai, Thailand which is a laid-back city on the banks of the Kok river. It became the first capital of the Lanna kingdom in 1262, under King Meng Rai, and is dotted with landmarks such as the Wat Rong Khun (White Temple).
There are many ways in which to see the area and one of the best ways is by boat which can be hired to view scenery around the golden triangle from along the Mekong River. You can also take a popular boat ride to Don Sao from the Thai side, which is an island belonging to Laos for which no visa is required but you are not allowed to enter into the rest of Laos from there without a visa.
To educate yourself about the area and the recent history behind it make sure you visit the Hall of Opium Museum in the Golden Triangle Park. It is considered to be one of the best museums in all of Thailand. The museum exhibits the history of opium around the world and in the area, the process of production, the effects of opium smoking and campaigns to eradicate and substitute the crop. You will even find an opium plantation inside. The museum is run by the royal Doi Tung Foundation with profits going to charity.
Another close popular attraction to visit is Phra That Doi Pu Khao which is situated on top of a hill just before the Golden Triangle and was built in the mid-8th century. Not far is the stunning Doi Luang National Park which numerous walking paths, wildlife, flora and fauna. It is located close to the Burmese border and contains the must see Tat Mok waterfall.
As Well as Chiang Rai, the towns of Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong are located closeby. Chiang Saen is set on the banks of the Mekong and was a 14th-century Lanna capital is dotted with temples, historic buildings and ruins. Chiang Khong is more remote yet livelier than its neighbour Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong is historically an important market town for local hill tribes and for trade with northern Laos and at one time the city was part of a small city called Juon.
There is a limited number of accommodation of available on the Thai side to suit all budgets with more choices to be found in Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong and Chiang Rai as most visitors choose to visit as a day-trip. You will also find restaurants and cafes along the riverside promenade.