The Golden Triangle is the area where Thailand, Burma and Laos meet – on the banks of the Mekong. Long seen as a byword for drug production and associated criminality, the area is now being transformed into a tourist and gambling ‘Special Economic Zone’.
Click image below for larger image
Burma (Myanmar) and Laos own casinos, the Thai side does not – so far. You will need a passport to enter the other countries (from Thailand) and will need to subject yourself to immigration formalities; for quick trips this can be daunting and probably not worth the bother.
It is possible to take a Mekong boat trip from the pier near the big Buddha on the Thai side, this will take you up past the Myanmar casino (called Paradise) and then down river past the Lao Casino to a Lao island that has a market. It’s 30 Bht to enter the island and you will find Lao products like Whisky (with snakes) along side the usual fake hand bags and T-shirts. You don’t need a passport for this trip, although the boat operator may ask to see it before setting off. The speed boat (long tail) for this costs around 500 – 600 Bht and takes about an hour.
Just out of town on the Mae Sai road is the Hall of Opium, this is somewhat undersold, and well worth a visit. After entering via a long tunnel lined with nightmare scenarios (presumably to reflect the use of opium), there are displays and films showing the spread of opium use along with history and associated paraphernalia – well worth the hour or so that a visit will take.