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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Golden Triangle Adventure

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

After a few days of traveling we found ourselves in Mae Sai, the most northern trading post in Thailand on the border of Myanmar (Burma). To continue on our journey, we hired a sontheow and driver to take us to the sleepy town of Chiang Khong with two stops along the way; One at The Hall of Opium Museum in Chiang Saen's Golden Triangle Park, and a lunch stop at the Golden Triangle tourist stop a few kilometers down the road. The cost was 1200 Baht, about $36USD, for the 5 hour ride. What a bargain to have your own private driver!

Off on another adventure with our private driver.

Not worrying about directions or the driving itself makes for a restful trip, allowing us to look out both sides and the back of our vehicle. The weather was gorgeous, and the five hours allowed us to leisurely view the wide open green spaces.

Rice fields in various stages of planting, hillsides filled with stalks of corn or sugarcane, and the natural jungle of Thailand all whizzed by.

This barefoot monk could have been walking town-to-town or perhaps he was on a personal pilgrimage.

When we take these journeys, there is a sense of newness that accompanies us as we travel, seeing things we have only read about in books or magazines in years past.

Barefoot Buddhist monk

The Hall of Opium Museum was our first stop and proved to be much better than we had expected.

The history of opium spans centuries. Humankind has employed the use of opium in one form or another since prehistoric times; as a food, as medicine, a spice,  decoration, and of course, it has been used and abused for recreation and psychological escape.

 

The Hall of Opium Museum was an entertaining mix of multimedia where the answers to many questions about opium are given; How it is grown and processed, how it spread throughout the civilized world, and how illegal opium growing came to be identified with The Golden Triangle. One chart showed the rankings of production worldwide and we were surprised to discover Mexico on that list. We would expect to find Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Burma, sure. But to see Mexico, a country on our own nation's southern border, was disconcerting.

The sign just to the right of her said: No Photos Please....

Displays in another area traced the Opium Wars back in history. These wars were fought for the opium supply with its immense value in trade and the role opium played in Hong Kong becoming a British territory was explained.

Exhibits showed the production cycle of opium from poppy to paste. Many unique and ornate pipes used for smoking as well as the decorated weights for measuring the amounts of opium being traded or sold were also on display. In the 'Hall of Excuses' the museum finished up with pictures and the names of famous people you would recognize who have either passed on or have kicked the addiction to opiates.

The admission price was worth the 300 baht per person, and we highly recommend a visit there. Plan to stay several hours.

Myanmar in upper left corner, right is Laos, standing in Thailand

The Hall of  Opium Museum and the Doi Tung Development Project were initiated in 1988, by Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother, late mother of His Majesty the King of Thailand. The Development Project regenerated the forests and improved the lives of the people living in the heart of The Golden Triangle ending their dependence on opium growing, use, prostitution and child labor. It changed these people's lives forever, for the better, and gave Thailand a much uplifted reputation overall. The Opium Museum is for the education of the public explaining how the mental, physical, economic and social effects of illegal opium use destroy societies and ruins the family structure.

This would be a sloooow boat to China!

Royal Projects are designed specifically to enhance self-sufficiency and to educate the Thai people.

Next on our adventure was The Golden Triangle itself, and  is the area where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet along the Mekong River. This area was made famous for the amount of drugs passing through this region before making their way to the West.

After our riverside lunch, we rode on to the unhurried town of Chiang Khong which lies right on the mighty Mekong River. This river plays a big part in commerce even today, and the ferry crossing to the Laotian riverside town of Huay Xai can be seen in this photo.  Unfortunately, many travelers simply pass through on their hurried way down river into Laos. (A slow boat, two day trip to Luang Prabang, 1,500 Baht. An adventurous, fast boat 8 hours for 1,900 Baht, helmet included!... both prices include water taxi from Chiang Khong).

Billy resting on the teak window ledges of the Ruan Thai Lodge

More importantly, Huay Xai is where the Asian Highway starts and makes its way north to the Chinese province of Yunnan. There are plans to build a bridge connecting these two towns, beginning in March of 2009, which would allow the flow of goods from China into Thailand. Besides this bridge, there are plans for a 5 star resort, housing estates, and both golf courses and tennis courts on the Thai side.The future development of this Economic Quadrangle is being promoted through a policy of 'turning battlefields into marketplaces' and will change Chiang Khong forever.

Traveling light!

The Chinese have already cleared the river of large boulders to the north of Chiang Khong making the river passable and are now running river barges at a constant stream into Thai ports carrying Chinese made products.

 

After our bumpy trip from Mai Sai in the back of a pickup, we decided to stay for a few nights at the Ruan Thai Sophaphan Lodge (600 Baht per night, double).  Upon arriving, the owner, Sophaphan, made sure our every comfort was met, and offered to cook our dinner that evening.

Overlooking the Mekong River, this beautiful resort was a welcome stop.  The words serene and tranquil come to mind, as we often sat for hours watching river life slowly pass by. There were no sounds at all except for the crowing of some roosters, the creaking of the teak wood in the lodge and the occasional river boat passing by. It was astoundingly placid.

After a few days of enjoying this respite, we were ready to hike out to the surrounding area.  Hitching a ride in the back of a Toyota pickup we drove four kilometers out of town to revisit a White Hmong Hill Tribe Village we had discovered five years prior. The Hmong tribe used to be known for opium cultivation, but now due to the Queen Mother's Development Project, they grow other crops.

Our moments in Chiang Khong passed by quickly and it was time to make our way back to Chiang Mai. Here we are in this photo, packed up with our gear and ready to roll to the next city on our list. We have a bus to catch at the edge of  town, and the Ruan Thai Lodge offers us a complimentary ride to the bus station.

We bring our own water and travel food, and are sure to bring jackets for the unpredictable air conditioning temperatures of the buses!

We figure that at age 55, we still have some years ahead of us for this adventurous style of travel. Care to join us?

For more information on The Hall of Opium, click here ....

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About the Authors
 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Billy and Akaisha continue to journal and photograph their world travels.

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