As part of the tour I took to Wat Rong Khun, I also visited the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar intersect. It is also known as Sop Ruak in the local tongue because the Mekong and Ruak rivers meet here.
In the past, this area was known for its opium trade, but today I’m pretty sure only tourists cross the rivers. My group boarded a boat and donned life jackets for the 10-minute ride down the river to Don Sao, Laos. On Don Sao, we had to pay a visa fee and were given a piece of paper with an “official” visa stamp that gave us free rein on Don Sao for an hour.
According to our Thai guide, the black market on this island could be thousands of baht cheaper than in Thailand, so I suppose anyone in the mood for shopping could get a great deal. In addition to the knock-off designer handbags, handmade handicrafts and light refreshments, vendors on Don Sao sold alcohol made from a variety of animals. We were even allowed to sample a shot and those with a sturdy constitution like me gave it a go. I went for the snake whiskey, but there were also things like lizard, scorpion and, of course, tiger penis.
On the boat ride back to Thailand, I noticed rows of houses that lined the riverbank. They were more like shanties though, and I wondered if they were tourist accommodations or local dwellings. There was a new-ish casino down river and a huge golden buddha sitting atop a restaurant boat, so I assumed there were visitors to the area.
To be honest, this part of the tour was the least interesting to me, and if I had done this independently, I would have definitely skipped the Golden Triangle. But, as this was part of the tour, what can you do about it, right?