THE HISTORY OF OPIUM AND HOW TO OVERCOME IT

The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park
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The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park

The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park

The Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park

When the 10-million-dollar Hall of Opium opened in 2005 after 10 years of planning, some critics branded it as a legal means to continue making money out of tragedy. Either they hadn’t looked into the research behind the 5,600 square-meter building, or they hadn’t looked into the sophisticated, interactive exhibition itself.

Only a few kilometers from the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers, where a tiny spit of golden sand originally gave the name to this Thai/Laos/Burma junction, the idea came to the late Princess Mother that education might help turn curious tourists into drug opponents. Her Mae Fah Luang Foundation began international research; financial assistance came from the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Japanese government; and the result is vivid, memorable, and most vitally, responsible.

Close to fields which not many years ago yielded millions of poppies - the white sap of which was extracted and boiled to make opium - visitors enter a very long, very dark tunnel filled with the sound of muted wailing, and skeletal figures reaching out uselessly for help.

This experience dispels at once all suspicion of glorification of a trade estimated to be worth 400 billion dollars a year as recently as 2000. The tunnel opens out into pretty flowers and ugly facts. Merchants and criminals were not the only elements thriving on opium 4,000 years ago (and later its refined product, heroin). Governments also exploited the substance which started as a pain killer and fashionable habit, but degenerated into expensive misery and, quite simply, a killer.

Other displays allow one to glimpse life on a British clipper ship, racing through the seas laden with opium grown in India to barter for tea grown in China; the opium wars fought between the UK and China in the 19th century; secrets of smugglers, gambling possible death sentences against enormous profits; and the famous British Hong Kong finance houses based on the trade. One emerges into the light and can’t help but be saddened by the massive loss and misery to poor and humble, and rich and famous alike.

A visit will take two to three hours. The Hall is closed on Mondays. The nearby fields are closed to poppies. The Golden Triangle, at least Thailand’s third, now yields tea, coffee, and macadamia nuts. Long may it be so.

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