“This didn’t used to be coffee,” says Phanpaiboon (Nud) Panudcha, a tour guide for Exotic Voyages, gesturing toward an expanse of neatly plotted land. “This used to be all opium fields. That’s why they call it the Golden Triangle: Gold was exchanged for opium, and people got addicted. It was very sad,” she says.
Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle spans the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. In 1983, the Thai royal family developed an initiative to transform Thailand’s agricultural footprint in the area, providing farmers with Arabica plants and coffee-growing education.