Today we have been cycling through the infamous Golden Triangle. This was the name given to a region encompassing a portion of Burma, Laos and Thailand during the the American War on Drugs.
It has now been appropriated by the town of Sop Ruak to designate the point where the three countries come together. The opium fields in Thailand are all but gone, although across the river, in Laos and to a greater extent in Burma, their cultivation continues.
We spent a couple of hours in the Hall of Opium, a world class museum set up with the Royal Patronage of the Queen Mother. Here the long and interesting history of opium is told. From the Opium Wars to the CIA’s complicity in the drug trade, Western powers were not the good guys. Many of the cups of tea sipped in the British Empire were paid for with opium, despite the active opposition by China and other countries. No wonder we don’t learn about the Opium Wars in our school history classes.
We are spending New Year’s Eve on the Mekong in the laid back town of Chiang Saen. Even though the Thai New Year is not until April, they have also embraced the western one. The band is setting up as we speak with flavours of Hendrix with an Asian twist.
PostScript: it is just after midnight and the sky is full of glowing mini hot air balloons that you can see for miles!
Happy New Year!