Chiang Mai: Opium at Doi Pui, Thailand for Travel Photo Thursday

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Chiang Mai, Destinations, Thailand, Travel Photo Thursday | 42 comments

Doi Pui

Updated May 2018 

Maybe I shouldn’t be doing a drug blast on my blog, but it’s true, if you go to the mountain town of Doi Pui, about a 45-minute drive from downtown Chiang Mai, you will find opium growing. It’s all in the name of tourism. Welcome to week 216 (02/26/2015) of Travel Photo Thursday.

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A small fee of 10 Baht (about .30) will take you to the opium poppies.

Opium Poppy, Doi Pui, Thailand


There’s 3 or 4 poppy “beds” growing here, and as you can see they come in a variety of colours.


Opium Poppy

Where to stay in Chiang Mai 

Where does the opium come from? Well, if you look at the green “pod” you’ll see that milky yellow/brownish secretion. From my research, I’ve learned that stuff is scrapped off and air dried, and that’s the opium. You can read more here.  Although the Thai government maintains that opium production has been eradicated from Thailand, I’ve read differing opinions on the Internet. It seems that if you know where to go that you can probably score some in Chiang Rai. However, that’s just what I’ve read. I have no first-hand experience.

During the Vietnam War, the biggest producer was the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Laos, and Burma). Both Thailand and Laos have eliminated opium production (or so they say). However, Burma (Myanmar) is among the top 3 producers of illegal opium (Afghanistan and Columbia are the other two).


Here’s another view of the pods growing in the Doi Pui gardens.


Opium Poppy


 Where to stay in Chiang Mai 

I think it’s strange that the Thai government is okay with growing the (supposedly illegal) opium poppies at Doi Pui, for visitors/tourists to see. However, it was interesting to get to view first hand, and joke about whether anyone would notice if we helped ourselves to a pod or two (which we didn’t!).

In case you’re wondering where you might find legal opium production you can go to India, Turkey, and Australia. About 2000 tons are produced annually and used to produce medicinal products.

You can learn about the history of opium in the Golden Triangle at the Hall of Opium in Chiang Saen.

Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday. 08.30 – 17.30 (Last admission:16.00)

Hall of Opium
Golden Triangle Park
Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Tel. 053 784 444-6 Fax. 053 652 133

Best to call ahead to confirm opening hours and admission fees. 

Have you ever seen opium poppies, or visited the Hall of Opium?

This is the 216th edition of Travel Photo Thursday. You can browse the archives here.


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  1. I wrote about plants too today Nancie, but not opium poppies!! I’ve never seen opium poppies being grown but I’ve stayed in remote Vietnamese villages, with local families, where they were smoking opium and it was certainly readily available when I lived in Hanoi in the 1990s. Interesting that you can visit this plantation. Is the idea just to raise some money from tourists from viewing the flowers or do they actually do something else with them?

    • Hi Phoebe. I’m not sure what it is done with them. There’s only 3 or 4 small beds, and the charge to see them is about 15 cents. I was told that the government wants tourists to see where opium comes from. Honestly though, I have no idea! 🙂

      • Poppies are also the source for legal opiates like morphine, aren’t they? unless most morphine now is synthetic. If so, there must be someone somewhere growing poppies for pharmaceuticals

  2. Hi Nancie, I was actually surprised then entertained I didn’t expect an opium garden to be opened as tourist site where opium is supposed to be illegal. I’m pretty sure it’s for money but why charged only 10 baht? I’m sure people would pay double for curiosity 🙂 I’d say the flowers are actually pretty. I didn’t realize that opium production is legal in India and Australia. It’s good to know 🙂

    • Hi Marisol…Yes, legal to produce medical products (not surprising). I’m surprised they charge so little to view. I’m not sure about the thinking behind the admission fee.

      I was amazed too that the Thai government would want to ‘flaunt’ something that is illegal. Then again, here in Korea eating dog meat is illegal, but during the 2002 FIFA World Cup the government had stalls set up where visitors could sample dog meat (and it’s illegal here!!).

  3. That is so interesting Nancie. Who would think that a country so opposed to drugs would have this as a tourist attraction? There is definitely a lot of corruption and underworld activity taking place in Thailand, which I have witnessed on several trips. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    • Hi Kathy….yes, Thailand has more than its fair share of corruption.

  4. Actually, I have a post on Turkish poppies I’ll be finishing up and scheduling real soon….so stay tuned!

    • Hi Corrine…I’ll watch for your post!

  5. Interesting, I had never seen an opium plant before–thanks for sharing! And actually, they are really quite beautiful!

    • Hi Jess. I think they are lovely! 🙂

  6. I remember seeing an Opium Museum when visiting a little Chiang Mai village on the way up to Doi Suthep. We didn’t have time to stop, though. I’ll admit that I never knew exactly what part of the poppy the drug came from. Luckily, I am naive about all things opium. As bad as a scourge opium is, it inspired people to carve some exquisite Chinese Opium Beds. Think what they could have accomplisehed if their minds hadn’t been fogged up by opium use.

    • Hi Michele. I had no idea there was an opium museum close to Chiang Mai. This village is just beyond Doi Suthep. There are two in Chiang Rai. I visited the government run museum a few years ago (before this blog). I don’t know much about it either, except what I learned at the museum years ago (and have forgotten lots), and the little I learned the day I took these photos. 🙂

  7. Amazed at the poppy connections mentioned in the comments, I had no idea that poppies/opium were such a budding tourist attraction!

    • Hi Jackie. That surprised me too!

  8. This was an interesting attraction and glad you shared it with us. I didn’t know they came from those pods. Who knew something so tiny could be damaging. It’s always fun to learn something new in the blogosphere.

    • Hi Mary. I had no idea, either.

  9. Beautiful photos and interesting story. The Thai government doesn’t always make sense…

    • Hi Jennifer. Isn’t that the truth! 🙂

  10. Here in New Zealand, I found some of these growing in our garden when we moved in. Since the house was remote, I did wonder about them! I have plenty of flowers and you can buy seeds by the spoonful on the local version of eBay. They are certainly prolific!

    • Hi Bettyl. Do they produce the ‘opium’ pod, or just the flowers? That might be a silly question, but I’m assuming that not all poppies produce opium.

  11. Wow. the poppies are nice…

    • Hi Eileen. They are pretty!

  12. Hi Nancie, that a flower so beautiful can produce such a dangerous drug is another example of Nature’s duality.

    This is the same poppy that’s used to remember the soldiers who died in WWII. You’ll see a lot of people wearing poppy pins in November in Britain and a lot of colonies.

    • Hi Marcia. Beauty doesn’t always mean safe! 🙂

  13. I’ve never seen opium poppy pods. Smoking opium was a thing when I lived in L.A. in the early 80’s and I might have seen some. 😉

    • Hi Betsy. I don’t think that opium smoking was ever big in Halifax, but it could have been…haha

  14. This is one of those dilemmas in traveling. I have seen legal poppy farms .. or maybe they weren’t.

    • Hi Paula. It’s sometimes easy to think that something is legal when in fact it isn’t! 🙂

  15. I know there are a number of variety of poppies. I’ve never seen opium poppies (as far as I know), but I love the poppy flowers I have seen. I didn’t realize that you could find opium poppies as a tourist attraction. Interesting to ban them but then grow them for tourists.

    • Hi Donna. It’s like here in Korea. Eating Dog meat is illegal, but during the 2002 World Cup there were stalls set up so that visitors could sample it. Go figure!

  16. Poppies are really beautiful flowers and your story is interesting. In Tasmania you can see full fields of these poppies but you can’t get as close to them as you did!

    • Hi Yasha. They are beautiful. My research showed that Australia is one of the places where there is legal production.

  17. I didn’t know about this. I’m not into opium or drugs LOL but it would have been interesting to see the plants in person and not just in photos!

    • Hi Aleah. Well it was, and unexpected. I relate to not being into opium or drugs! 🙂

  18. Certainly not something I was aware of when we briefly visited Chiang Mai back in 2009.

    Thanks for the tip on something a little quirky for if we ever get back there!

  19. Are these the same poppies as those of Flanders Fields fame? We visited the Elephant Nature Park and Doi Southep when we were in Chiang Mai, but somehow we missed the opium poppy museum. Oh well. Next time.

  20. Great article and comments!
    So interesting how poppy flower and opium generates big discussion until now a days. We are heading to Chiang Mai next week, and I have to admit I´m curious to visit the plantation…
    Thanks for sharing such interesting facts!

  21. Nancie, I’m glad to hear that you refrained from grabbing a pod or two. It really is interesting about the tourism aspect of the opium as well some of the history. Cool that you got to learn about that and see those lovely plants.

  22. I’ve seen some of these around in public gardens in America. I don’t think a lot of people realize what they are. Its sort of funny that Thailand is using the gardens for tourism. Oh Thailand!

  23. This is an old post, but I noticed it on the sidebar and I was curious.I have seen opium poppies before. It was the early seventies and I was driving by a house that had a huge flower garden in the front yard. There were these huge poppies like I had never seen before. I couldn’t resist picking one that was hanging over the little picket fence. I put it in my sun visor and drove around with it all day. I was working that day and several coworkers and others saw it. A few commented on how pretty it was. At the end of the day, it was wilted and I threw it out. It wasn’t until later when I decided to look it up that I discovered it was an opium poppy. What do you know about that! There was a whole front yard of them growing in front of a house on a busy Los Angeles residential street. The best place to hide something is right out in the open, according to Edgar Allan Poe.

    • Hi, Joy! That is so funny. Last fall I could look out my kitchen door here and had a full view of a small marijuana grow-op. It isn’t back yet this year.


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