Ban Sop Ruak, a village in the heart of the Golden Triangle, was once the domain of the opium warlord Khun Sa. Thai and Burmese troops hounded him out in 1996 and he spent the remaining years until his death in 2007 under house arrest in Yangon, where he lived comfortably in the company of a personal seraglio of four young Shan women. His picaresque reputation still draws those eager to see evidence of the man who once held the region under his thumb.
This simple riverside town has one main street, 1 km (½ mile) in length, that winds along the southern bank of the Mekong River. It's lined with stalls selling souvenirs and textiles from Laos. Waterfront restaurants serve up fresh catfish and provide vantage points for watching the evening sun dip over the mountains to the west.