The Hall of Opium
Or: Man, this Place is Awesome. If it's Real. I'm Not Sure. I Think Maybe I Should Lie Down
Disclaimer: I in no way advocate the use of illegal drugs.
Having never used the stuff myself--the closest I've come is a poppy-seed bagel--I can't speak to its quality or value as a way to spend one's time. Perhaps, however, the Hall of Opium, located in Chiang Rai, Thailand, can.
Chasing the Dragon: The Backstory
Over half the world's supply of heroin comes from the Golden Triangle, an area carved out of the mountains and jungles by Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. It also refers to a specific point at which the borders of all three meet, where the Sok Ruak joins the Mekhong River. My knowledge of Asian geography is about as good as my lunar--virtually naught--so I will leave you here to your maps and charts.
The entire economy of the region is based on the illegal production and trafficking of opium and her descendants. Needless to say, it's a mysterious, beautiful, and highly dangerous area, with something of a tourist trade, though I might not want to be hiking alone there.
, the Thai Royal Family
, in the person of the Princess Mother Srinagarindra
, got it in her head that perhaps something ought to be done about it. So she cooked up
the Doi Tung Development Project
, aimed at making northern Thailand more than just hidden drug factories and a bad reputation. The Hall of Opium is a result of this initiative.
Opened in 2001 in Golden Triange Park, the Hall combines a sort of history museum of opium and opiates, as well as an information center for research and education.
So, Um, Er, Is This Place for the Stuff, or Not?
Not, or so they would have you believe. It is supposed to be part of the WAR on drugs, such as it is. But the website--www.goldentrianglepark.org--advertises the Hall like this:
The Hall of Opium is not just a museum. It's not even just an exhibition. It's a multimedia experience that will stimulate all your senses as you immerse yourself in its captivating realm.
As I said, I've never used the stuff, but I've seen movies and read some books. Seems to me you could describe opium use with a lot of the same words, if you take my meaning. So whether it's genuine anti-narcotics education or thinly-veiled genuine narcotics advertising is up to you.
In truth, a description of the facilities--again, check out the website--seems as if it is more con than pro, with plenty of images and testimonials from people whose lives were destroyed by the stuff. One section, they say, duplicates the sensation of prolonged opiate use--from initial euphoria to abject agony and overwhelming misery.
So pack your bags. And if you plan on bringing anything back with you, remember, you don't know me.