Brown Mixture

800 kilometers north of SriRacha is the Golden Triangle. Tourists identify this fabled name with the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak Rivers. The term more accurately referred to the opium-growing regions in Burma, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, where once most of the world’s opium was grown by the tribesmen living beyond the law.

Back in the 1990s the highlight of many backpacker’s mountain treks from Chiang Mai was a night’s stay at a remote village, where the headman offered opium or fin to the farangs. More enterprising westerners attempted to ship the narcotic back to Europe. Some only made it as far as a Thai prison. One of the world’s worst destinations this side of the grave.

Viktor Bout, infamous arms dealer most recently extradited to the USA from Thailand said, “Prisons in the States are like mental hospitals and here they’re like a zoo.”

Even money won’t save a farang, but this doesn’t prevent westerners from challenging the gauntlet of police snitches, DEA, and custom inspectors.

I haven’t seen opium or ‘fin’ in years, although in 2007 I went to the local pharmacy in Pattaya and asked the chemist for medicine to cure a persistent cough.

The druggist prescribed a small bottle labeled ‘Brown Mixture’.

20 baht or 60 cents.

I returned home, where I took a slug, then read the read the label. The last ingredient was ‘tincture of opium’. In other words I was drinking laudanum. The drug of choice for the 19th Century. I finished the bottle in one go andI slept like an angel. A good destination for a man my age and my cough was gone too.

Good old Brown Mixture.

Nothing like it in the States.

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