The Golden Triangle used to be a major hub of the opium trade. Today, it’s still involved in some sketchy business.
I went on a tour that advertised seeing the Golden Triangle along with a quick boat trip into Laos. As I reached the bottom of the dock a random Thai man shoved a camera in my face and took a picture then disappeared into crowd. What the hell?! Was that their version of border security?
On the boat, everyone was told to put on life jackets. Those that didn’t have them were told they didn’t need them. We took off up the Mekong River to ogle at some enormous casinos that looked like Vegas mini-me’s. Next, we docked in Laos. Once there I realized the trade had gone from opium to designer handbags. There were shacks filled with fake Luis Vitton and Channel handbags. In fact, that seemed to be the main reason most people were on the boat. They descended like locusts on the stacks of phonies and started haggling with the owners. I myself bought some sunglasses. The only option was knock-off Ray Bans which cost about $1.50. The only other noteworthy item for sale was some really nasty looking whiskey that came with a snake in the jar. It’s supposed to give you the strength of the snake. I figured I already looked pretty tough in my sunglasses so I passed on purchasing actual strength.
Once we were back on the Thailand side, looking twice as fabulous and strong as before, I saw why the Thai man had taken my picture. He had a photo of everyone getting on the boat and decoupaged them to little wooden plaques while we were in Laos like photos you get from a Disneyland thrill ride. He was trying to sell them as souvenirs for $3. This was my favorite thing I saw for sale and by far the most authentic. It was an array of dozens of photos of surprised and irate looking tourists, all hot, sweaty and annoyed, rather than what we all seemed to be going for; cool, affluent and fabulous. I think my look pretty much says it all in the bottom photo.