Two months ago I could not have told you what the Golden Triangle was or where the Mekong River was located. Tonight, I’m looking at the flashing lights of the Chinese Casino located in Laos just across the Mekong River from our hotel in the Golden Triangle of Thailand. I’m sitting outside at the hotel lounge with the peacefulness of the night occasionally interrupted by motorcycles racing on the road behind the hotel. “Song Sung Blue” sung by a female Thai voice is piping through the sound system. An occasional patrol boat is slowing cruising by on the river.
From all outward appearances, I could be relaxing by any river in the US. Waves are lapping at the shore. The sky is dotted with stars. A crescent moon is reflected upon the smooth glass of the river. I feel full and satisfied from the pizza I just finished. (OK, I’m lying. It was two pizzas and a giant salad and two beers and two chocolate chip cookies, and shot of vodka but I didn’t order that, it was a “gift” from the owner) But, I do feel satisfied and not all that full actually.
But, here’s what makes today’s experience so unique:
First – We ate at Mekong Pizza – Aside from delicious pizza, it’s the first pizza place I know that delivers to three countries, yes, I said COUNTRIES: Burma (Myranmar – depending upon your political ties), Laos, and Thailand.
Me: I’d like to order a pepperoni pizza.
Mekong Pizza: OK. That will be about 15 minutes. What’s your address?
Me: I’m at the Casino in Laos, black jack table #10.
Mekong Pizza: That’ll be 300 Baht. I’ll send the pizza boat driver right over.
Second – I met my first NPR correspondent, Michael Sullivan who writes the blog Mouth of the Mekong .Yep, we met a real journalist. A guy who takes cool pictures at sunrise, or makes observations about local politics, or writes whatever he wants because who is really going to fly 26 hours to fact check anything. A journalist. For NPR. So, just pinch me already. Does that make me more famous just by association?
Third – I could gamble, if I that were my passion. I could grab a boat across the Mekong River (the 10th largest river in the world I learned today at the Opium Museum) and gamble. If I spoke Chinese I’d head to Laos to the Chinese casino where they speak only Chinese. If I spoke Thai, I’d head to Burma where I don’t know what they speak but the Thais go because gambling is illegal here, and come on, do you really need words when there are the two universal languages of cards and money? I can see both casinos, and countries for that matter, from my vantage point.
So, today’s seemingly normal experiences at the Golden Triangle, a place I’ve only recently learned about, had their unique twists. The Golden Triangle, the intersection of the borders of three countries, means three golden opportunities for fun (eating pizza or photographing the backside of a golden Buddah in Thailand, gambling in Burma, or gambling in Laos) all at one convenient location in SE Asia.