Sop Ruak Travel Guide
Sop Ruak is a small village located nine kilometers from Chiang Saen, in Chiang Rai Province, northern Thailand. This is where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet, at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers, in the heart of the Golden Triangle.
For the expediency of tourists, this opium growing area, once comprising thousands of square kilometers, has been compressed into this single spot in Thailand. Visitors have replaced the drug trade as the regional source of wealth and turned this previously remote village into something of a tourist trap.
Sop Ruak’s riverside road is flanked by souvenir stalls, restaurants and a massage parlour and filled with bus loads of package tour visitors in the daytime. In the middle of the village there is a small opium museum, which is rather commercial but nevertheless appealing. Next to the museum, a lookout at the hilltop provides ‘the view of three countries’.
Adjacent to the vantage point is Wat Phrathat Phu Khao, the ‘temple on the hill’, which was created 1,200 years ago. Usually, Sop Ruak is an embarkation point for speed boat cruises that take you a short distance upstream and then down to Chiang Saen, including a stopover at a Lao souvenir village.
Getting There & Away
There are songthaew (shared taxis) from Chiang Saen to Sop Ruak, which leave about every 20 minutes throughout the day. It is also an easy nine kilometer-ride by bicycle from Chiang Saen to Sop Ruak. The nearest airport is at Chiang Rai, a 1-hour, 20-minute flight from Bangkok, Thailand’s main international gateway.