The House of Opium, in the town of Sop Ruak in the Chiang Rai province of Northern Thailand, is everything you ever wanted to know about opium but never dared ask.
This small museum is located right on the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia, the area where Thai, Lao and Myanmar borders converge. The region is known for being one of the world’s two largest producers of opium, along with Afghanistan in the Golden Crescent.
The museum was founded by Patcharee Srimatyakul in 1990. Born in the area, Patcharee had a passion for collecting opium paraphernalia and memorabilia. When she noticed that opium items were becoming extremely hard to find — with Thailand cracking down on the illegal drug trade — she turned the collection into a museum open to the public.
The exhibits display tools and objects used to plant, harvest and trade opium, including pipes, scales, weights, knives, scrapers. It also includes some lovely poppy flowers, the source of opium production.
The bulk of the opium cultivation was done by hill tribes in the Golden Triangle, as the drug trade offered a good source of income for farmers otherwise living it poverty. Alongside the objects in collection, the museum provides interesting information and old photographs related to the production and consumption of opium, and the drug’s impact on the lives of the hill tribe people.