n 2006, when I visited an area near the northern Thai-Burmese border called the Golden Triangle — a place which, between 1960 and the 1990s, was the single biggest source of opium in the world — I rented a motorcycle and took an exhilarating ride through the mountains. My Golden Triangle stop was one of my favorites excursions in Thailand, and it was made even better by my visit to the Hall of Opium, a lavish museum, sitting in a former poppy field, that traces the history of the drug’s trade. The museum explained how opium was used as medicine, how it became popular, how it was abused and used to control China, and how it came to dominate the Golden Triangle and Afghanistan. At the end of the museum tour, I walked through a 500-foot-long tunnel, plastered with terrifying The Scream-like depictions of human faces, designed to simulate an opium-smoking experience. I’m still not sure that the simulation was accurate, but the museum was exceptionally well-designed, surprisingly educational, and utterly bizarre. WB
Moo 1 Ban Sop Ruak, Wiang, Chiang Saen 57150, Thailand. One kilometer north of Sop Ruak, across from the Antara Golden Triangle Resort. 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM, Tuesday to Sunday. +66 (0) 5378 4444. www.tourismthailand.org.
To read the whole story of the trip on which I discovered Hall of Opium Museum, read: Poppy farms and heroin in the Golden Triangle — Getting lost on a motorcycle near the Burmese border.