Starting out as a painkiller, opium initially had a medicinal use and only later did it start being used as a narcotic substance. Legally available in many countries until the early 20th century, opium has even resulted in wars and revolutions because of the large amount of wealth it has brought to many individuals and governments.
Grown in China it was been exchanged for spices and tea in India during the British regime. In fact this was the cause of the Opium War during the 19th century where the ruling dynasty of China opposed this trade. As a result they suffered defeat to the hands of the British.
The Hall of Opium Museum located in Chiang Saen is an attempt to capture all of these aspects. Located in the Golden Triangle area it is within Thailand’s territory and cost $10m. Built together with the royal foundation and Japanese assistance, the museum overlooks the picturesque Mekong River and spans 60,000 square feet.
The entrance is through a tunnel and on arrival visitors are greeted by healthy red and white poppies. Opium is made from the sap of poppies, a white substance that is boiled to create a black coloured substance. A refined form of this was what gave rise to heroin. The museum also has a model of a British Ship that was used to carry opium for trade. There are also showcases of how this substance is smoked, as well as documentaries on its adverse affects. A good 2 to 3 hours is needed for a full tour of the museum which you will greatly appreciate.
Apart from giving visitors a glimpse of the past the museum aims to educate one on heroin use as well. Approximately half of the world’s unlawful heroine is produced in these regions. The information provided also deals with how this trade can be regulated and controlled.
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