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Where three countries meet | © ryan harvey/Flickr
Where three countries meet | © ryan harvey/Flickr

Sop Ruak: Thailand's Golden Triangle

Picture of Iona Proebst
Updated: 12 February 2018

Ever wanted to know more about Thailand’s mysterious Golden Triangle? We’re here to tell you what you need to know about this iconic area in northern Thailand.

First things first. The Golden Triangle is located in Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand.It earned its English name from being where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet. To the locals it’s Sop Ruak, as it is where the mighty Mekong and Ruak Rivers meet.

This lush jungle and misty mountain area is steeped in history, and is famous for its opium growing past. Today, the Golden Triangle is a popular tourist destination, but still well worth a visit.

What’s to see

Be prepared to hustle in the crowds and dodge the big buses. Here, throngs of tourists seek a prime location for that all-important Golden Triangle selfie, marvel at the giant golden Buddha, bargain for souvenirs or rest in the many Western-style cafes that have popped up on the river bank. Don’t be disheartened though, as there is more to this area than meets the eye. Check out the revered Phra That Doi Pu Khao, an ancient temple located on a nearby hill, and the highly educational Hall of Opium, a museum-come-opium theme park, where you will learn about all aspects of opium production around the world.

Hall of Opium, Wiang, Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai, Thailand, +66 

Beyond the triangle

Looking to explore the surrounding area? Hiring a boat to take you along the Sop Ruak, popping over to Don Sao, a small Laotian island, or heading down the Mekong River to Chiang Saen or Chiang Khong are great options. If you’re keen to skip the tourist touts then simply catch a local songthaew (communal taxi) from the Golden Triangle to explore Chiang Saen, Thailand’s oldest town. Chiang Saen offers a more authentic Thai experience and is a perfect stop-off point for discovering the charming towns of Phrae and Nan.