Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Golden Triangle - Laos and Mekong River

On we speed to the Golden Triangle and Sop Ruak on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. This is the first trading point for China in Thailand and we see vessels flying the Chinese flag carrying building materials and bullocks, some laden others empty.

We take a boat trip up river to view the huge new casino on the banks of the Mekong in Burma. Gambling is not allowed in Thailand so this casino is a popular cross border destination. We see the free boat service shuttling early morning punters out to the complex which operates 24 hours a day.

We then turn and cross the river towards Laos, here they are building a huge sports complex, due to be completed I think in time for the Asian Games, which are to be held in Laos in a couple of years time.

We disembark at Don Xao, get our passports stamped and are offered locally brewed whisky laced with all sorts of horrific additions. I opt for an egg cup full from the King Cobra jar. Nana our guide pushes it around a little with the ladle and its tongue lolls out. I swallow quickly, it tastes of whisky. Keith goes for the tigers penis! What more can I say! We must have been mad, total sanitary switch off! But we survived to tell the tale and neither of us have had stomach problems so far.

Then we buy postcards and pretty Laos stamps, and send a postcard to ourselves that we slip into a large white wooden box. I shall be surprised if it arrives, but who can tell.

We look around yet another souvenir market with t-shirts and nick-knacks for tourists and then leap in our boat and head back to Thailand.

Our final visit in Sop Ruak is the Opium Museum, an informative museum with lots of detail in both English and Thai explaining how opium is made and the history of the trade in the area. Case fulls of opium pipes, neck cushions made of wood and ceramics, hubbly bubbly pipes for tobacco or 'Marihuana', terracotta tobacco pipes and so on fill the attractive old building.

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