A residual whiff of Opium at the House of Opium
The province of Chiang Rai as part of the Golden Triangle and a big propagator of opium in the early years preceding the 21st century has left much of its mark in the infamous reputation within the province. Efforts to clean up the image were set upon by the Princess Mother in the 70s to replace opium fields with other sustainable crops. So nowadays if you are hoping to still enjoy the hippy lifestyle of opium smoking days, they are very much over and what you get instead are pineapple and strawberry fields as well as rice and other crops but not the familiar red poppy flowers and intoxicating poppy buds!
The still curious history of the poppy growing days to produce opium can be seen at the house of Opium or sometimes known as the Opium Museum are one of the attractions of Chiang Rai province. You can arrange for a tour to the Opium Museum from your local Thai tour guide or have a tour arranged from thaitourismguide.com for a tour of Chiang Rai Museums and historical places.
The Opium Museum was established in the 1990s but recently expanded and renovated to include more exhibits. If you are thinking you can get a chance to sample the heady stuff here, think again as most of the original banned substance are just mock ups but real enough for viewing! What you do get to see here are mostly the packaging logos, the origins of opium and their related legends, history of the drug lords who used to control the trade, measuring instruments and smoking pipes for opium as well as other items related to the trade. There are also some murals and hill tribe historical pictures as most of the opium were grown by the hill tribes as a cash crop in those days. Check out the 1000 year old Burmese bai man stone cigarette holders and the opium pillows as well as other ceramics, wooden and stone wares which are the highlight of the antique collection in this museum. There is a little gift shop downstairs where you can buy memorabilia of the Opium Museum but don’t expect to buy the little packets of opium as so called gifts here!
Also included in the Opium Museum tour tickets is the Chiang Saen Little Buddha Image Museum which is attached to the second floor of the annex building. The tour for the Opium Museum itinerary makes it worthwhile with the inclusion of this little museum where you can see a plethora of spiritual decorative pieces of the Buddha in all manner of craftsmanship. There are also displays of stone and jade necklaces, elephant and other wildlife items carved from petrified wood, jade, quartz and stone. All in all a beautiful collection of craftsmanship to feast your eyes upon and you can buy some of the more recent replicas or even some recently made little crafted jewels in the gift shop if you are tempted to won some of these items!