Thailand // The north //

Sop Ruak

The “Golden Triangle”, a term coined to denote a huge opium-producing area spreading across Burma, Laos and Thailand (see The Princess Mother Pagoda), has, for the benefit of tourists, been artificially concentrated into the precise spot where the borders meet, 70km northeast of Chiang Rai. Don’t come to the village of SOP RUAK, at the confluence of the Ruak (Mae Sai) and Mekong rivers, expecting to come across sinister drug-runners or poppy fields – instead you’ll find souvenir stalls, pay-toilets, a huge, supremely tacky golden Buddha shrine, two opium museums and lots of signs saying “Golden Triangle” which pop up in a million photo albums around the world.

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