A mystical and romantic area, there is a downside to the area’s allure; it is a region where opium is cultivated by the poverty-stricken natives and converted into the highly addictive narcotic heroin. It is estimated that one half of the globe’s illicit heroin production has its roots in this area.
Thailand’s Hall of Opium museum, situated in Chiang Rai in the Golden Triangle is dedicated to inform and educate visitors on the dangers of opium and heroin consumption and production, and how these activities may be controlled and regulated.
Constructed with the aid of a royal foundation, with assistance from Japan, the expansive museum encompasses 6,000 square metres of area on a pleasant green hillside looking over the Mekong River.
The journey begins as visitors enter the museum premises via a misty dark tunnel; appropriately enough, the first display is a pretty flowerbed of white and red poppies. This is the plant whose sap is harvested and brought to a boil in the manufacture of black opium. The resulting material is then processed into heroin which substance abusers will inject or smoke.
Opium has a history stretching back centuries, as its pain-killing properties have been known for millennia; before the 20th century it was unrestricted in many nations. The museum depicts how the trade in opium has caused revolutions and wars, and brought unimaginable riches to governments and dealers worldwide.
The opium trade was resisted by the dynasties ruling China, and this opposition was mercilessly eliminated by the forces of Britain in the 19th century Opium Wars, as the museum elaborates.
Among the museum’s most prominent attractions is a reconstruction of a clipper ship of a type employed by the British to transport opium from the Indian subcontinent to China, in which country the opium was bartered for spices and tea.
In other sections of the museum visitors will see displays of how opium is smoked and manufactured, with video documentaries depicting the tragic tales of drug abusers from across the globe.
The Hall of Opium is the result of many years of preparatory work using the skills of researchers from across the globe. The museum aims to present vital information in an interactive interesting manner which will appeal to visitors both local and foreign.