Set in a peaceful jungle setting at the point where Thailand meets with Myanmar and Laos, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort is situated on a ridge overlooking a valley of winding rivers, paddy fields and verdant vegetation with a backdrop of misty mountains. Located within a 65-hectare estate in northern Thailand, the low-rise property is comprised of just 40 rooms, 15 suites and six family suites and features an award-winning elephant camp, scientific research and conservation programme. A unique feature of this property is the Jungle Bubbles – an opportunity to stay overnight in a fully-furnished transparent bubble offering unbeatable views of the elephants in their natural habitat.
When hunger bites, there are three food and drink venues including Sala Mae Nam for international breakfasts and all-day Thai food feasting, Baan Dhalia for fresh Italian flavours and the Elephant Bar and Opium Terrace for relaxing, the name a link to the Golden Triangle’s infamous past. The resort’s Dining by Design initiative offers a custom dining option with a tailored menu prepared by a personal chef at a location of your choice – within the Elephant Camp, on the boat pier overlooking the Ruak River or even in a rice paddy.
Facilities are many and varied and include a three story, open plan spa with three double treatment rooms with shower, herbal steam room and outdoor terrace with a sunken terrazzo tub and two for al fresco massages on a wide balcony. There is also a Spa by Nature massage pavilion in the midst of rice paddies. Along with the Beauty Salon for those vital beauty rituals, there is a layered infinity pool with Jacuzzi for cooling off; a Fitness Centre for keeping to a gym routine with classes and yoga; a squash court and a Muay Thai Kickboxing outdoor ring with professional trainer. For the ultimate in take home skills to impress your friends, there is a cooking school too in Spice Spoons to learn how to cook Thai dishes to perfection. You can even learn how to cultivate rice by planting seedlings and/or saplings to conserve the landscape or go for a ride in a vintage Royal Enfield sidecar through the surrounding countryside.
The most popular attraction is undoubtedly the Elephant Mahout Camp where you can meet these magnificent, rescued animals in a more natural environment with a range of experiences to make the most of your encounters.
Located amidst 65 hectares of verdant bamboo forests and beautifully landscaped gardens, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort is majestically set on a ridge overlooking a valley with views out over the Mekong and Ruak rivers. With a backdrop of misty mountains at the junction where Thailand meets with Laos and Myanmar and the Golden Triangle begins, the property is located around 60 kilometres from Chiang Rai / Mae Fah Luang International Airport (CEI), a transfer time of around an hour. The property offers a parking and valet service for motorists and helicopter transfers are available for guests travelling from Chiang Mai.
For a regal entrance, travel by limo from the airport to the riverside town of Chiang Saen, 15 kilometres from the resort, and continue your journey on a private longtail boat along the Mekong River, pulling up at the resort’s private jetty on the Ruak River. There is then a choice of walking beside the elephants along to reception or taking a resort jeep transfer. The entire experience from the airport to the lobby takes around two hours.
Once the centre of Thailand’s opium cultivation, the Golden Triangle has an ancient history with opportunities to visit the nearby Hall of Opium Museum, to wander around the old Lanna capital Chiang Saen, take a longtail boat trip along the mighty Mekong River or to take a day trip across the border into Laos and Myanmar. There are temples galore to experience along with visits to the Choui Fong Tea Plantation or the Doi Chang Coffee Plantation but the most unique must be a ride in the sidecar of a vintage Royal Enfield motorbikes for an unbeatable trip through the surrounding countryside.
There are just three categories of classically styled room types at the resort and it’s all about the space. The Deluxe Three Country View Rooms offer 32 square metres of space, the Suite version is double the size at 64 square metres and the Three Country View Family Suites are larger still at 96 square metres of living space.
All situated within a low rise building with views over three countries, the accommodation breaks down into 40 guest rooms, 15 suites and six family suites. All enjoy private balconies with those far-reaching views and they feature floor to ceiling windows, teak flooring and carvings, hill tribe fabrics, Thai silks and traditional artwork. The balconies have Thai day beds whilst amenities include a terrazzo soaking tub with shower; Anantara Spa products; complimentary mini bars; a Nespresso machine; in-room safe; individually controlled air conditioning; ceiling fans and a flat screen television with international satellite channels. The suites also feature a walk-in rain shower and a separate lounge for relaxation whilst the Family Suites are effectively an interconnected suite and ensuite twin room and come complete with a DVD player and Bluetooth sound technology.
Accredited guests may also book an overnight stay in the luxurious two-bedroom Jungle Bubble Lodge – fully furnished, air-conditioned transparent bubbles that are set on a wooden deck offering uninterrupted views over the elephants going about their daily business. There are two bedrooms, a communal living space and a plunge pool with al fresco lounge area for one of Thailand’s most unique experiences. The bubbles were custom designed by Eye in the Sky and are constructed with high-tech polyester fabric.
Undoubtedly the most popular attraction at the resort is the elephant camp at The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) which is essentially a home for rescued elephants, mahouts, and their families. The elephants come here from illegal logging camps, the street or elephant shows to live in a more natural, native surroundings. There are a number of elephant experiences available for guests including Walking with Giants as the elephants take their daily walk to the river to socialise, wash and feed; ELE Elephant Learning Experience to take a deeper look into the elephant world; Elephant Walk and Yoga – walking alongside the gentle giants to a Sala in the paddy fields for a yoga session; enjoying an elephant picnic in the valley accompanied by these majestic friends; taking an elephant walk at sunset or Dining by Design within the elephant camp. American fashion designer Nicole Miller has even launched a collection of elephant-inspired day wear with a percentage of online sales donated to the elephant’s welfare.
Guests may also sponsor an elephant too for around USD18,000 per annum with funds put towards food, general upkeep, and medical care.
For a refreshing dip, the multi-layered infinity pool offers those amazing valley views with a Jacuzzi alongside or for a daily workout, there is a jungle facing Fitness Centre with a range of cardio and strength machines alongside a sauna, steam room and whirlpool for easing tired muscles. For the competitive, head to the squash court or try out some Muay Tai Kickboxing in the outdoor ring with a professional trainer. There is also individual and group Hatha yoga sessions available. For those who like to give back, there is an opportunity to learn how to plant rice or donate a native tree to conserve the local landscape.
For pampering, there is the stunning, serene three-story spa - an open-air pavilion with teak wood suites and magnificent views. There are three treatment suites for two with showers, herbal steam rooms and outdoor terraces with sunken terrazzo tubs and two deluxe treatment rooms with an al fresco massage balconies. For the ultimate experience, there is also a Spa by Nature massage pavilion set in the rice paddies. Signature treatments include the 135-minute Mahout Relaxation Package to relive tiredness and tension or the Lanna Experience using Plai, a ginger species known to cool inflammation and combat joint and muscle ache. For those finishing touches, head to the Beauty Salon to work on that inner goddess.
Enjoying a traditional northern Thai style with beautifully crafted rooms decorated with local fabrics and silks, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort enjoys an unbeatable location looking out over a stunning landscape of rivers, paddy fields, bamboo forests and distant misty blue mountains. Based in the north of the country, it is ideal to rehabilitate our gentle grey giants – the forgotten and neglected elephants – and to keep them safe in a better, natural element.
Apart from creating and running a beautiful resort however, what is impressive is that Anantara takes its social responsibility obligations extremely seriously. It is only to be admired that, at a time of Covid, when travel diminished overnight, borders were closed and funds were tight, that the group continued to invest and support the elephants, the local community and indeed to extend medical assistance to support elephants across Thailand by pro-actively asking for financial donations from overseas. That to me is style personified.
When hunger beckons, there are three food and drink venues including Sala Mae Nam for international breakfasts and all-day Thai food feasting, Baan Dhalia for fresh Italian flavours and the Elephant Bar and Opium Terrace for relaxing, the name a link to the Golden Triangle’s infamous past.
Sala Mae Nam is located in a two-story pavilion with stunning valley views and offers a wide choice of breakfast treats with international favourites, live cooking stations and tropical fruits. For lunch and dinner, the restaurant focuses on northern Thai dishes and street food favourites with fresh organic produce sourced from the Royal Project. Kids menus are available.
For a touch of Tuscany, head to Baan Dhalia for handmade pastas highlighted by herbs from the chef’s garden, gourmet pizzas, healthy salads and fresh soups accompanied by an award-winning wine list.
With an elephant camp, there had to be an Elephant Bar & Opium Terrace here. The al fresco pavilion offers a wide outdoor terrace overlooking the infinity pool and valley. There are coffee treats enhanced by the resort’s elephants and all-day dining with bistro stalwarts alongside a Thai and Italian from the resort’s other two restaurants. There is also an Afternoon Tea, a cigar menu, an extensive wine list and a range of thirst-quenching innovative cocktails available.
The resort’s Dining by Design initiative offers a custom dining option with a tailored menu prepared by a personal chef at a location of your choice – within the Elephant Camp, on the boat pier overlooking the Ruak River or even in a rice paddy.
For the culinary ambitious, head to the resort’s cooking school - Spice Spoons – for cookery classes unraveling the secrets of perfect northern Thai specialities. The class begins with a visit to the market to buy fresh ingredients and spices before heading back to the resort to prepare curries, soups, main courses and desserts to impress your friends and families at home.
With properties across Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, Anantara is committed to preserving the world’s most beautiful destinations. They aim to preserve and nurture their host communities and environments, operating in a way which is beneficial to the locals and sustainable for the generations to come. They believe in grassroots involvement in the local community as well as matching guest donations to organisations that provide vital services such as child welfare and wildlife protection.
Each property is committed to water and energy conservation, minimising water consumption in all areas of the hotel. Waste management is also a priority with resorts reducing, re-using and recycling solid waste, implementing composting programmes and purchasing long life, durable products which are able to be recycled. The group works with local communities, offering opportunities for the locals, promoting cultural awareness with their guests and integrating indigenous culture into everyday experiences. Where possible, the group will employ members from local communities and will source environmentally and culturally sustainable products and services.
Anantara’s Group Director of Sustainability & Conservation, John Edward Roberts, is also Director of Elephants & Conservation for the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. Despite the funding issues caused by border and hotel closures caused by Covid-19, Anantara has continued to keep all funding for their charitable initiatives including looking after the resort’s 20 resident elephants and even taking in three additional elephants made homeless by the pandemic. The group also supports the ZPO Mobile Clinic in the elephant’s home of Ban Ta Klang in Surin, home to 400 unemployed elephants and two full time English teachers who help with the village school to bring better opportunities for the offspring of mahout families.
John is also collaborating with US partners to subsidise the wages of 14 specialist elephant vets and vet nurses employed by the tourism industry across Thailand with the aim of helping any elephant north of Bangkok.
The resort’s construction materials and interior design elements have been sourced from the country, helping and showcasing the work of hill tribes and silk growers. Other resort initiatives include buying produce locally from the Royal Project and maintaining a chef’s garden for those vital herbs and spices.