by Lucas Raven
Anantara’s superb setting on a sylvan hillside above the Mekong River, an hour north of Chiang Rai, isn’t the only reason to love this 61-room and suite hotel. The accommodations, all with balconies, have teak floors and are decorated with northern Thai objects and textiles. The infinity pool has glorious Mekong views, and there’s a first-rate spa and two excellent restaurants, one serving spicy northern Thai and the other surprisingly good Italian. What really puts this place over the top, however, is the sweet, attentive, and welcoming staff, who would go above and beyond trying to anticipate your needs.
Perched on a hillside with sweeping views of the famed Golden Triangle – Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. This resort boasts Lanna-inspired architecture, a world-class spa, and perhaps the most unique encampment of mahouts and elephants. This haven of nature offers a chance to learn about Asian elephant history and culture through guided walks that’ll make you fall in love with the magic of travel, all over again. There’s a natural, subliminal, bond between man, animals and earth, you’ll honestly feel it in your bones the moment you set foot here.
Surrounded by 160 acres of forested hills and grasslands, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort enjoys a quiet location near the junction of the Ruak and Mekong rivers where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. The kind of place that silences the background noise and allows you to focus on yourself and nature.
Chiang Rai International Airport is 42 miles
away, about an hour’s drive from the resort, while the small town of Sop Ruak is just over a mile away.
Lanna art and culture tells a story through the design and décor, making ample use of vaulted ceilings, polished teak floors, gilded wooden sculpture and hilltribe textiles. A gated entrance leads to an open-air lobby mezzanine beneath a high sloping roof; a dramatic interpretation of
northern Thai temple architecture. A relaxed bar-lounge off the lobby leads to an infinity pool overlooking the valley and forest below.
Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation cares for 25 pachyderms in two villages next to the resort, and can arrange Walking with Giants, a pleasant meandering walk alongside the animals while they forage for shrubs and tree leaves on the Ruak River plain below. At the end guests can water and bathe the elephants under the supervision of a local expert who shares insights into elephant biology, behavior and conservation. At the three storey spa, treatments include Yam Khang Therapy, in which the masseuse warms her feet on a heated ploughshare before using them to knead tired muscles. Yoga and muaythai kickboxing training are available. The ample staff caters to guest needs and requests in an attentive yet relaxed fashion.
All rooms have undergone extensive renovation, and are decorated with hardwood panelling, local fabrics and northern Thai art. Every room and suite features a veranda with a view over the valley. Bathrooms include a deep terrazzo tub with a partition that slides open to take in the view.
Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort offers the best dining for miles in any direction. Authentic northern Thai dishes such as Gaeng Yod Mapraw Gai Bai Cha Plu (chicken curry with young coconut shoots and wild betel leaves) are the focus of the indoor/outdoor Sala Mae Nam. The more elegant and intimate Baan Dhalia serves creative Mediterranean and Italian cuisine paired with wines from a well-stocked cellar; white truffles foraged in Chiang Mai Province are a house specialty.
Drinks and lighter fare, from phad thai to burgers, are served at Elephant Bar and Opium Terrace. The morning buffet in Sala Mae Nam encompasses a varied selection of well-prepared Asian and international dishes as well as fresh fruits and juices.
Hands down, a must-experience. Anantara Golden Triangle is a bucket list favorite that transcends stories of adventures.