Listening to the sounds of elephants trumpeting while sipping coffee on your private balcony overlooking the rolling hills of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand is nothing short of magical.
The Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort is located in the northernmost province in Thailand, Chiang Rai, and unlike most luxury resorts you're likely to visit in your lifetime, it offers activities that are truly unique to the area.
Originally the capital of Thailand's ancient Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Rai is a destination known for rich cultural attractions that include ornate temples such as Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple), historical relics such as Wat Phra Kaeo (the Emerald Buddha) and sites like the Hall of Opium and Golden Triangle Park, which gives insight to the region's dark past as a narcotics hub.
In addition to providing transportation and guides for many of these attractions and excursions in Chiang Rai, the resort features on-property activities that immerse its guests in Thai culture.
Culinary-driven activities include cooking classes where you learn how to cook your favorite Thai dishes like green curry, pad Thai and mango sticky rice with the help of the resort's head chef, rice planting where guests are invited to try out ancient rice cultivation methods in private rice paddies and tasting the rare Black Ivory Coffee, a coffee made of Thai Arabica beans that have been digested by elephants.
For active guests, Anantara Golden Triangle Resort offers mountain biking to the nearby Sob Ruak Village, a tennis and squash court, yoga classes, and my favorite, Muay Thai kickboxing with professional instructors who not only teach you how to kick butt, but also teach you the history of this traditional Thai fighting style.
Those looking for a more leisurely activity will be floored by the resort's picturesque, tranquil pools which overlook the lush landscape of neighboring Myanmar and Laos, dotted with roaming elephants. I highly suggest waking up early to take a dip in the infinity pool while you unwind to the sounds of the jungle and views of the hazy, mountainous landscape and nearby Mekong River.
What absolutely cannot be missed, is the Walking With Giants experience where guests can literally walk through the jungle alongside beautiful elephants. While elephant experiences can be found throughout Thailand, the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp is one of the few places where you can ethically interact with these gentle creatures.
Led by trained veterinarians and mahouts-elephant keepers who have spent their lives cultivating a close bond with elephants and are responsible for their health and overall well-being-this camp works alongside the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation to ensure their elephants are as well taken care of as possible.
"Elephant welfare is our top priority, each program we have designed place the elephants first," said Dr. Nissa Mututanont, DVM, Head of Veterinary Services. "We are one of the leading camps that promote training done with positive reinforcement instead of the traditional Thai, Laos or Cambodia-style of training with force, command and harsh words."
There are few things as special as interacting with elephants in their natural habitat. Walking with Beau and Pluem, two elephants that had been rescued from the streets of Bangkok while working as tourist attractions, was one of the most epic and cherished experiences of my life.
The Anantara Golden Triangle Resort is a stunning property featuring 61 rooms, including 21 suites, each with its own spacious balcony, teakwood floors, an enormous terrazzo bathtub, top-notch amenities such as flat-screen TVs, espresso machines and tasty treats like elephant-shaped cookies and native Thai fruits.
Anantara's Chiang Rai spa offers five treatment rooms with private en-suite steam rooms and alfresco soaking tubs with Mekong valley views. The spa welcomes you with ginger tea and refreshing, damp and fragrant towels.
In addition to massages, facials, body wraps and scrubs, it also features signature spa treatments like the Lanna Experience which utilizes "poo loey", a ginger species known for cooling inflammation, combatting joint and muscle aches and nourishing skin, within a scrub, wrap, massage and more.
The food on property is absolutely delicious. Anantara Golden Triangle Resort has two restaurants. There's the spacious Sala Mae Nam, which serves a full buffet breakfast with regional Thai dishes and signature dishes such as the famous Khao Soi Gai, a delicious northern-style yellow noodle coconut curry with chicken.
For those that crave Italian and Mediterranean, there's the Baan Dahlia, which also offers an extensive international wine list.
While walking through the expertly landscaped property, you're enveloped in rustic jungle vibes. Everything about the resort exudes a relaxing, peaceful ambiance. If you're looking for a resort to elevate your Thailand vacation beyond the norm, definitely check into the Anantara Golden Triangle Resort.
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