Sop Ruak aka Golden Triangle is located in the north-eastern region of the Chiang Rai province in Thailand. It earned its English name because of its location; it is the point in northern Thailand that converges with Myanmar, and Laos, where the Ruak and Mekong rivers meet. Nestled inside a lush mountainous area, the area boasts of a rich history and its opium growing past. It is now a popular tourist destination, with plenty to offer to nature lovers as well as adventure enthusiasts. It makes for a great day trip and can be easily visited on a guided bus tour from Chiang Rai.
Historically, the Golden Triangle was a well-known drug producing hub in South East Asia. Owing to its strategic location, the area was used for growing heavy quantities of opium, which were then traded off to the countries harbouring it. However, with the onset of royal projects such as the ‘King Rama 9’ and the mounting economic pressure from China, the drug culture in the region has slowly been put to rest. Today, the Golden Triangle is a flourishing tourist hub of the Chiang Rai province.
What’s So Awesome About It
Famed for its unique location, the Golden Triangle is where the countries of Thailand, Laos, and Burma interject with the flowing Mekong river on each side. The area also boasts vistas of the Ruak river (between the borders of Thailand and Burma), that eventually flows into the Mekong at Sop Ruak.
The main area is located on the Thai side of the river and features a wooden triangle with the names of the bordering countries inscribed on it. The area also features an arch and a stylised boat installation with a statue of a giant golden Buddha perched atop it. The entrance to the Golden Triangle is adorned with sculpted elephant statues, with two more of them carrying miniature stupas on their back, next to the life-like edifice of the Buddha. Other attractions at the Golden Triangle include royal shrines and temples, elaborate souvenir shops, and a string of western-styled cafes. During the dry season when the Mekong isn’t at its mighty best, the main area also doubles into a handy sandbar.
What’s The Catch
Owing to its growing popularity, the Golden Triangle Park is flocked by thousands of tourists at a time. Maddening crowds and a buzz of activities can deter those seeking solace, although there are several offbeat places in its vicinity that offer a laid-back vibe as an alternative.
How To Reach There
The Golden Triangle is located 9 kms from Chiang Saen city and 70 kms from Chiang Rai. To reach there, catch a Green Bus minivan from the Chiang Rai bus terminal. It runs every hour or take a local taxi/bus to Chiang Saen and then a tuk-tuk to cover the last 9 kms up to the area. Alternatively, one can take a Green Bus to Chiang Khong and further opt for a boat cruise from thereon to the park.
It is advisable to reach the Golden Triangle early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Opt either for the Green Bus minivan or the blue songthaew for your commute and don’t miss the last one that departs from the area. Avoid tuk-tuks and motorcycles taxi drivers as they can overcharge you.