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Mekong river boat journey: Houixai, Pakbeng to Luang Prabang: 09 - 14 Feb 2007
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Hall of Opium in Golden Triangle Park
Satellite image (Google Earth) of the Golden Triangle Park containing the Hall of Opium and Greater Mekong Lodge.

After the ticket hall visitors walk the 130 meter long tunnel in the hill connecting to the exhibition hall. The entrance tunnel uses lighting, sound, and occasional impressionist images to create a mystery of the world of opium and other illicit drugs. Then comes the introduction hall displaying opium poppy and its products and production. The auditorium next to the introduction hall presents a multimedia show and an overview of opium production and use in Golden Triangle area and other parts of the world.

Visitors are then introduced to the 5000 year history starting with discovery of opium poppy around Mediterranean and the Europe. The exhibit includes written references, medicinal texts, and the spread of drug to South and East Asia by 1000 AD.

The museum presents the flow of opium from West to East; how British, French, and American powers tried to import the drug to China - at first to pay for the inport of Chinese tea, and later as a tool to dominate and colonise the East. It is followed by opium wars I and II, unfair treaties, colonisation, and political changes. Some (Western) writers emphasize that corruption among Chinese officials helped the smuggling of opium into China possible.

In 19th and early 20th century Siam or Thailand (and the Golden Triangle area) was selected as a production base of illicit drugs, albeit legally by Western powers. At the same time scientific advances developed methods, equipment and materials to create advanced forms of drugs such as Morphine and Heroin.

Other sections shows prohibition, crimes, wars, and effects of opium, as well as case studies and gallery of victims.

Tourist buses at Golden Triangle
Tourist buses at Golden Triangle
I finished the tour of the museum in about 2 hrs together with other three people. It looked like we were the only visitors of the day. Everyone working there was sleepy. The food shop and a gift shop were selling nothing. When I got out of the hall to walk 500 meters back to the Golden Triangle point where my friend was waiting, large air-conditioned buses carrying loads of tourists were roaming the road simply bypassing the multi billion Baht park.

Mekong Hotel in Houixai
Mekong Hotel in Houixai (Laos)
After a lunch at a riverside restaurant we took a public pick up truck back to Chiang Saen, where as we did not find another public transport to Chiang Khong we rented a truck. Chiang Khong is the port of Thai immigration where tourists can leave to enter Laos in Houixai. Ferry boats are available just below the immigration station. On the Lao side immigration is about 40 meters up the road from the ferry boat landing. Visa on arrival is available in Lao side; and you are required to produce your passport with one colour photo, fill up the forms, and pay the fee. This three story Mekong hotel in Houixai on the eastern part of the town is a bit far from the immigration, restaurants, shops, and the boat pier for Luang Prabang.

Pak Tha, Mekong, Laos
At Pak Tha at the meeting of Nam Tha river and Mekong river, we stopped for the stamp from a Lao immigration station. The other side of the river is Laos; we had passed the last section of Mekong as a border line by several kilometers.

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