The Golden Triangle: Where three ASEAN countries meet


The “Golden Triangle” is a term used to the border regions between Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. From one vantage point where the mighty Mekong and Ruak rivers meet, all three countries can be seen.

The History

Back in the 1920’s the Golden Triangle was once a prolific opium producer in the world. Chinese traders used golds as payments for opium; hence the term “Golden Triangle” coined by the CIA was born. Most of the world’s heroin were produced in this area.

But in order to stamp out the growing drug trade particularly in Thailand, the Thai government introduced crop substitution program for farmers in 1959. Opium-cultivation was also banned. However, across the border particularly in Myanrmar (Burma), there is a concern that opium production is gaining back its moment again.

Things to see and do

We were at the Golden Triangle (Thai side) when the world welcomed 2017. We just came from Mae Sai so we thought it was nice to spend a night where we can see Laos and Burma from a distance.

Golden Triangle
Giant Golden Buddha

The area is full of amazing natural resources, hilly landscape and ancient temples that warrants a visit. There is a giant golden Buddha on a ship which can be a nice backdrop for your next selfie; two elephant statues where you can climb up from the ladder behind and pose atop a palanquin, souvenir shops lining up the road, as well as signs all around saying that you are indeed at the Golden Triangle. But the experience we enjoy most was renting a motorboat that took us to a small area of Laos called Don Xao.

Golden Triangle
Took a pic of Thailand whilst standing on Laos soil

Crossing the great Mekong river from Thailand to Don Xao is popular for tourist. You don’t need to obtain a visa or re-entry prior to your trip. We just left our passports to the tour operator, paid the 800 baht motorboat and the 30 baht per person visitors pass, and we were on our way crossing the river to Laos.

Don Xao, Laos
Yes, I am in Laos.

Keep in mind though that this is just in a small area of Laos where the only thing you can do is to go shopping for local and Chinese made products, as well as knock off  designer stuff. I believe you know what comes next if you wander of the beaten path.

Anyhow, even if it’s just in a small area, feel free to claim you’ve visited another country. There’s a sign with a Laos flag indicating that you indeed traveled abroad.

There are probably other things that we could have done if we have more time. Perhaps in our next visit we will explore more.

Where to stay

There are guesthouses and hotels sprawling alongside the Thai side of the river costing about 800 baht up depending on the availability and season. However, if you like better rooms you can go straight to Chiang Saen which is just 10 kilometers away.

I don’t have the resources yet but if finances permit on my next visit, I’ll certainly choose Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle. According to their website “they’re the perfect escape in the world.” You can check out their website to get to know more of their services. Unfortunately, up to 50,000 baht per night is way beyond my means yet. Soon, I hope.

How to get to Golden Triangle

If you’re from Mae Sai you can take the blue songthaew which runs approximately 45 minutes and cost about 50 baht through Golden Triangle. It will then continue its course to Chiang Saen which is about 15 minutes and cost about 20 baht – and back again every 20 minutes or so.

There are also green minivans running from Chiang Rai Bus Terminal and drops passenger at the Golden Triangle which can take up 2 hours and cost about 50 baht. If you wish to go back to Chiang Rai, minivans run every 30-60 minutes and stops behind the Big Buddha statue.

Should you wish to make your trip more comfortable, you can take a guided tour bus. It is arguably the most popular mode of transportation for tourists to date.

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