The good news is that as our grumpy driver negotiated his way down the steep and twisty mountain temple road, we knew that our last stop, the opium museum, was right at the base of this mountain. In a Come to Jesus meeting with the powers that be we agreed that we had to be on the road back to Chang Rai by 3:00 or be subject to certain unspecified penalties. As Marce and I pointed to the Opium Museum clearly visible on the right, our driver said no, he knows where the Opium Museum is, and apparently it’s down the permanently clogged two lane road to the left.
After 45 minutes of bumper to bumper stop-and-go crawl we broke free of town clutter and pulled into an impressive edifice featuring a large wide open parking lot that, now that we’d arrived, had exactly one car in it. After slogging up a long humbling staircase we arrived at reception barely able to speak. They wanted 400 baht apiece! This can’t be the right place but we paid because we were already there and the clock was counting down.
The place has an interesting uphill corridor with Hieronymus Bosch-like bas-relief sculpture on the walls. I think this is probably an attempt to dazzle you with distracting footwork because of the longish uphill hike.
The creepy figures seemed to be rising out of the walls, setting the tone of a web of pain due to addiction.
Turns out the backstory to the orientation film is royal propaganda about how the queen rid the nation of opium turning dope into tea. Aside from some great old film footage, this was not what we came for. What’s more, the film suggested the visit would take 2-3 hours.
Marce stormed out of the little welcoming film and demanded our money back. The tiger of Philly wins again! I will say it was quiet in the car going back but the traffic, if possible, was even worse. Chastised, our driver went where we originally said, parked where we said, and waited where we said. He even tacked on a half hour to our drop dead time.
Entering through the gift shop we paid a very small fee and entered poppy land. Ah, this is the place.
Turns out that there are just four main types of poppies that are used.
First things first was a display of the stages of poppy growth and quick D.I.Y. lesson on how to make opium. Does anyone think this is a good idea?
There is a proscribed proper position to smoke opium and apparently this is it. What you can’t see is the block under the head and the feet are in the proscribed position tucked into the butt.
Whimsical weights and scales were invented for the commerce inevitably becoming quite creative with fantastical creatures.
A few tools of the trade.
Some of these pipes are works of art.
Exiting through the gift shop we found beautiful antique pipes and paraphernalia for sale. Sounds a little like buying a prison sentence to me.
It was a frustrating day but we got the most out of it. Then it was back to Chiang Rai and a last visit to the night market for dinner.
The next day we hopped on the first class bus for the long ride back to Chiang Mai, our home base in Thailand. It was good to be back.