Flowers and Opium of the Golden Triangle Tour
Your guide and driver will pick you up from your hotel in Chiang Rai for your Golden Triangle Tour. First, we drive to Doi Tung. Doi (“Doi” means mountain in Thai) Tung used to be a major opium-growing area. Local, mostly tribal, people grew opium on the slopes of the mountain. HRH The Princess Mother established the Doi Tung Development Project in 1987 under the management of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, also established by the Princess Mother.
The project aimed to eradicate opium cultivation and help the hilltribe people of Doi Tung to earn their livelihood from cash crops such as coffee and macadamia nuts. As she traveled to remote areas by helicopter, she was given the name “Mae Fah Luang” (“Royal Mother from the Sky” in Thai). The Royal Project turned a troubled mountain into a wonderful tourist destination. We will visit the magnificent Mae Fah Luang botanic gardens and learn about the Royal Project. Taste some of the delicious Doi Tung coffee.
The Golden Triangle and the Mighty Mekong River
We will continue to the Golden Triangle. This region used to be the main opium-growing and trading region in Southeast Asia. Triangle refers to the area where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet. Traders used to pay for opium or heroin with gold, hence the name Golden Triangle. The Mekong River forms the border here between Thailand and Laos. We will have lunch at a riverside restaurant.
We’ll proceed to the actual spot where the three borders meet. The small House of Opium Museum is fascinating and well done. The museum tells the history of the use of Opium, poppy cultivation, and the opium trade in the Golden Triangle. It also exhibits opium pipes and traditional dress of the ethnic groups of North Thailand. Beware: this is not the Hall of Opium.
Then we will continue to the boat landing, where a fast local boat is waiting for us. It will take us to Chiang Saen, a small town down the river. The trip will take only 15 minutes.
Ancient Chiang Saen and Wat Phrathat Pha Ngao
Chiang Saen is one of the oldest settlements in North Thailand. It has impressive, well-preserved city walls and some beautiful, centuries-old ruins. We limit ourselves to our favorite ruin, which is Wat Pa Sak. Then we will follow the city walls back to the Mekong River and head for Wat Phrathat Pha Ngao. Few foreign visitors make it to his extensive temple complex, which is a pity. It is a very active temple with lots of things to see.
Many local people visit this temple. There is a small but interesting weaving center and textile museum and a viharn with amazing wood carvings. The main attraction, though, is the white chedi on top of a hill. This chedi is called Phra Borommathat Putta Nimit Chedi. The reason that we drive up to the chedi is the majestic view we have over the Mekong River and Laos. This view is so much better than the view at the actual Golden Triangle.
Return to your hotel in Chiang Rai late this afternoon.
It is the end of your Golden Triangle Tour. Look here for other things to do in Chiang Rai!