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
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.
The Hall of Opium Museum
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
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,
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
click here ....