The Shan State of Burma and North Thailand – June 1999

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The Golden Triangle (only 30 kms away), also known as Sob Ruak, where the
Maesai river meets the mighty Mekhong river, is a popular destination for
most travelers. There is a little magic that attracts people to this
location expecting to find a pot of gold like at the end of the rainbow.

Most sight seekers come to view the poppies that are supposed to be
flourishing in every garden and island on the Mekhong. Having heard
ridiculous announcements by travel guards (guides) of tourists, a popular
one was, “See that triangular island (sandbar) in the middle of the river?
That is why this place is called the Golden Triangle! See the sand of a
golden color and the plants growing on it are poppies (imagine a bus load of
tourists listening and camera shutters clicking), however, we will wizz by
on the boat. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to disembark on the

Actually, the first King Kobra G.H. was on the banks of the
Mekhong in the early 90’s and I know all the villagers who planted the
vegetables, mostly peanuts, on the islands! So, I laugh when I think of this
and at the time I didn’t want to hurt the reputation of the travel guards!
But, at least give the right information.

I learned to attract business to
my shop at the time and guesthouse by placing on a whiteboard in ink, the
question, “Why is the Golden Triangle called the Golden Triangle?” For
those of you that visit this website and think you have the answer, forward
it to the Kobra. For the winner, you get two choices, wrestle with one of
my headhunters or wrestle with our pet python (just a baby, only 3 meters
long)! Any winners must come and collect in Maesai. The other option, if
you decline the two other choices, is 3 shots off viper whiskey
on the house and a free ride to the Golden Triangle and a baptism on the
banks of the Mekhong!

Boat rides around the Golden Triangle are available and most of the boat
drivers know me by Mr. joe, Kobra Joe or Saddam. The nickname Saddam goes
way back when I used to live there! Most of the villagers knew me quite
well and knew that I had worked in Saudi Arabia many years and grew up in
the Middle East. With a moustache, one of my local drunken regulars thought
I resembled Saddam Hussein. Completely untrue, mine is not as bushy as his!
So the name stuck.

By the way, if you give them my name, you’re probably
not going to get a discount anyway, but you may hear of some stories about
me! Boat rides for about 1/2 hour spin around, does not allow one to get
off in Burma, but you view the almost complete Golden Triangle Casino and
Resort on the Burmese side.

The main attraction now is that one can get off in Donsao, Bokeo Province, Laos; an island that has set up a
tourist attraction to sell Laotian goods, Lao beer and handycrafts. It is
now my favorite stop because the Laotians now know the Kobra better and
offer me and any foreigners, all the Penis-of-tiger whiskey, seahorse,
seacucumber and herbal whiskey to drink, free of charge! Last time there, 8
shots of the tiger and I was done! The P of T whiskey is an aphrodisiac
concoction that seems to work! Enjoy the Laotian party any time. They are
always open for business. Just convince the boatdriver to stay a little
longer and buy him a couple of beers!

General Information about the author, Kobra Jo:

My name, as most people remember, and the place as well , is Kobra Jo.

Many people ask why. Well, it all started with snakes, mainly, always in search of the King Kobra. Then it eventually developed into the “Trek Of The Kobra”, Burma-Laos-China-N. Thai…I had a pet mongoose that just loved heading out to the rice fields with me to hunt snakes. Always found some every morning. The villagers thought I was just plain crazy to see me out on the fields with this little creature bobbing up and down across the fields.

Finally, the villagers started to turn up at the house with snakes in bags and in cans, thinking I was going to feed them to my mongoose. My mongoose really didn’t like snake meat, he would just play with them for practice and then leave them alone. He preferred pork!

My present wife is of the Wa tribe out of Burma, former headhunters and cannibals. Needless to say, I try not to piss her off.

People/tourists come to me and the border for different reasons. For me, Maesai is not like the rest of Thailand or like Burma. It is a unique border town with everything to offer. When I speak of Maesai, I can include Tachilek, Burma the twin town of Maesai.

Maesai is known world wide for gems, primarily for rubies and jade from Burma.

Be careful though, because not everything that glitters is real. Synthetic stone pushers are everywhere and the King’s treasure under the glass case is guarded by a 14 year old gal that swears that red glass is a Ruby the Sultan of Brunei should be wearing!

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