Sitting in class one day, our professor told us we didn’t have anything planned one weekend and asked if we’d like to go on a tour to the Golden Triangle via a private tour company. A handful of us raised our hands and our trip to the seedy North was about to begin! Our drive would take us from Chiang Mai through the Chiang Rai province to Sop Ruak & into Myanmar (Burma).
Our first stop along the way was a house of a Thai family farming in the area. They had dirt floors and two rooms and this was our first look of poverty in Thailand. I’m sure the family was compensated from the tour company for letting us view their living conditions, but it was not easy to see the extreme poverty these people were living.
The next stop was to the the small village to see the Thai long neck women. These women start added rings around their next to “stretch” their necks. It doesn’t actually stretch the neck, it compresses the shoulders and chest given the weight of the rings and gives the illusion of a longer neck. The village itself is a way for the tribe to make money off of tourists peddling their wares and the long neck women are the draw for these tourists.
Our final stop of the day was the town of Sop Ruak, a small town at the Golden Triangle and located on the Mekong River. Our last tour of the day took a small longtail boat, first up the river towards Burma (Myanmar) and the second down to a small island of Dansao, Laos. This was just another tourist village where you could purchase various items, but the most appealing was the snake whiskey. I was offered to try from one of the open bottles and tasted similar to American whiskey, but with floaties. After our trip to the island, it was time to head to our hotel near the Hall of Opium.
At dinner at the hotel that night, the power went out, so we enjoyed a nice candlelight meal with the group and called it a night. The power didn’t come back on until the morning.
The next day was a trip to the Hall of Opium. The region know as the Golden Triangle was once one of the largest producing regions of opium in the World. Here we learned about the destruction heroin had not only in the region, but the World. It was an eye opening experience, because at the time I was unaware of the devastation this drug had on so many people.
Our last stop of the day was a trip to Myanmar (Burma) and it was definitely exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. At that time, a United States citizen was not supposed to go into Myanmar and because of this, we had to leave our passports on the Thai side of the border. We had heard an American passport was valuable and was skeptical to do so, but the tour guide assured us that we were fine.
The moment we entered Myanmar (Burma) we were greeted by bicycle rickshaws who would show us around the town of Tachileik. The ride was only an about an hour and we toured various shopping areas and temples. The food vendors in the area didn’t seem sanitary and flies and various bugs were crawling over all of the meat and vegetables. The Buddhist temples in Myanmar (Burma) were similar to Thailand, but had holiday lights all around.
Our short weekend trip was packed with a lot of awesome experiences and our final was a trip to Cabbages and Condoms. This was a place for a Thai chef to promote his food along with the need to wear protection as the country has/had a very high STD rate.