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Taking off

Thailand's Hall of Opium tells tales beyond history's borders

Email|Print| Text size + By Rob McKeown
Globe Staff / March 12, 2004

A walk down a long, eerie tunnel. Walls carved with twisted human forms. A facsimile of poppy fields basking under sunshine from glass walls. This is how one first encounters Thailand's newest, and arguably first, world-class museum, the Hall of Opium. This $10-million project took a decade to build and is backed by the royalty-sponsored Mae Fah Luang Foundation. Carved into a grassy hillside and a series of caves, it is near the town of Chiang Saen in the formerly drug-ravaged area known as the Golden Triangle. Exhibits span centuries and continents and use opium as a lens through which to view the last 300 years of Asian history. Scholarly displays examine the botanical aspects of the opium poppy flower, the Opium Wars and colonialism, the legal opium trade in old Siam, even antique smoking paraphernalia and a mock-up of an old British East India Clipper. The final series of chambers is dedicated to the heroin addiction of modern times, done up in graphic black-and-whites, and houses a poster gallery of drug campaigns across the world. The Hall of Opium stays with you long after your first encounter. Hall of Opium, www.goldentrianglepark.org; 011-66-053-784-444-6.

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