Imagine sitting on your balcony, sipping a glass of local wine, and taking in the beautiful rolling hills of the Golden Triangle area, while hearing the trumpeting of elephants nearby. You can have all of this and so much more at the beautiful Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort.
When planning our trip to Thailand, I knew that I wanted to include a stay in the Chiang Rai area with an authentic elephant sanctuary experience. It was to be my third time to Thailand, and I had encountered elephants in both of my previous visits. I was one of the first guests to stay at the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai many years ago, and I took a day trip excursion to an elephant camp from Chiang Mai during my second time in Thailand.
I found that staying at a resort that is affiliated with an elephant sanctuary, such as Anantara Golden Triangle and the Four Seasons, provides a much more authentic experience. More importantly, I feel that it also holds the sanctuary to higher standards, in terms of elephant care and safety.
We were traveling as a multi-generational group of nine people, ages 2 to 65, so we chose to stay at the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort (the Four Seasons only permits guests aged 10 and up). Now, I knew from the reviews I had read about the Anantara that it was a special place, but I would never have imagined that it would be the highlight of our time in Thailand.
The Splendor of our Accommodations
Perched on a ridge in the jungles of Northern Thailand, about an hour outside of Chiang Rai proper, the Anantara Golden Triangle overlooks the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers. It spreads out over 160 acres, and all 61 rooms have panoramic views of the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar). The resort has deluxe rooms, suites, and family suites, so they are able to comfortably accommodate groups and families. The hotel is quite secluded, so we chose to opt for the all-inclusive package when reserving our stay. It included our airport transfers, meals and beverages (both spirits and non-alcoholic beverages), a mini bar that is restocked daily, a choice of activities, and admission to the Hall of Opium museum. Our group was divided into four rooms, and we opted for a spacious family suite for the immediate family. The family suite is made up of two adjoining rooms, one with a king-size bed and sitting area, and the other with two double beds. It also has two large balconies with plenty of comfortable areas to sit, relax, and take in the expansive views.
For the Adventurous Palate
The resort has two restaurants—Sala Mae Nam, serving Thai cuisine, and Baan Dhalia, specializing in Italian food—as well as an upscale bar/lounge where some evenings they have live entertainment, such local Thai dancers. They also have an onsite cooking school, Spice Spoons, as well as Anantara’s signature custom dining experience, Dine By Design.
The breakfast buffet is a well thought-out spread with both hot and cold items, an egg and griddle station, and a variety of fresh juices that will leave you ready and energized for the day. During our stay, we enjoyed meals by the pool, lunch at the Thai restaurant, in-room dining, and we had the most amazing Dine by Design with guest appearances by three elephants on our last evening! The Dine by Design carries a hefty price tag that had us second-guessing whether or not it would be worth it, and at other Anantara resorts we have opted not to do it. However, I can honestly say that at Anantara Golden Triangle, it is worth every penny. Not only are the multi-course offerings delicious, but the presentation and setting are a delight. The staff anticipates that the children may get restless, and they have paper lanterns for them to decorate and release after dinner! And, of course, the elephants who greeted us upon arrival were the most welcomed dinner guests that evening!
For the more adventurous travelers, the Anantara Golden Triangle resort offers one of the most unique coffee experiences on the planet. Black Ivory coffee is to the elephant what Kopi Luwak is to the civet cat. Black Ivory coffee is made through a process where elephants eat coffee beans, and their digestive enzymes refine the coffee to make it less bitter. At US$50 per cup, Black Ivory coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world.
Let’s Explore the Grounds & Away
The resort offers a myriad of onsite activities, including an infinity pool, a fitness center, squash court, and a muay thai kickboxing arena, as well as yoga and rice planting experiences. Guests can explore offsite with tours that include boat rides on the Mekong River, day trips to Myanmar, visits to tea and coffee plantations, daytrips to nearby temples, and much more. Last, but certainly not least, they offer a variety of elephant encounters, where your clients can not only spend time with these gentle giants, but can learn about their behavior and biology from resident experts.
As part of our package, we chose to take a muay thai class, a Golden Triangle excursion, and an elephant experience. However, I must admit that we loved our elephant encounter so much, that we paid for an additional elephant activity!
The muay thai class was taught by a highly qualified former competitor, who was patient and catered to our different skill levels. He also allowed our children to jump in and participate throughout the class. The Golden Triangle excursion was very well curated. It included a longtail boat ride to the heart of the Golden Triangle, where the Mekong River meets the Ruak River. We saw the famous giant Golden Buddha, elephant statues, and various temples.
Our elephant experiences were absolutely magical. We learned so much about elephants, their personalities, and what it takes to care for these beautiful creatures. It was close to impossible to wipe the grins off of our faces when we were visiting with the elephants. The resort does such a great job of making each experience personal and special.
The spa at the Anantara Golden Triangle is intimate and luxurious, and offers a wide array of massage options. Each of the adults in our group visited the spa twice—it was just that good. We had traditional Thai massages each time, and they were some of the best Thai massages we experienced throughout our two weeks in Thailand. Because the spa has a limited number of treatment rooms, they could not accommodate all of us at once, so we had to split our group into two session—hardly a sacrifice for the luxurious treatments they offer!
What’s in it for the Kiddos?
While the hotel does not have a kids’ club or playground, children are welcome to participate in all activities and babysitters are available upon request. They also provide children bath amenities and the most adorable blankets, which my children absolutely loved. Also, if your clients’ children crave more animal encounters beyond their visit with the elephants, there is a resident water buffalo that is brought to the lobby area every morning.
An Round of Applause to the Service
The service at the Anantara Golden Triangle was some of the most personable that we have ever experienced. From the guest relations manager, who helped me to organize our activities, to the general manager who greeted us upon arrival, checked in on us throughout our stay, and saw us off upon departure, to say that they are keen on attention to detail is an understatement. No request was too big when it came to caring for our group. They added extra elephants to our elephant encounters to accommodate our larger group size. When they heard just how much the kids enjoyed the soft baby blankets they provided, they gifted the blankets to our children to take home! Our kids still use those blankets today.
I’m hope you can tell that I hold Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort near and dear to my heart. It is much more than a resort, it is a magical destination, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience it.
For more information, visit anantara.com.
If you want to follow in the footsteps of Mayra and her family in Cambodia, click here.
This story originally appeared in worldstompers.com, a family travel website created to inspire families with kids to expand their idea of adventures. You can follow the adventures of the Bazavilvazo family @worldstompers on Instagram and The Worldstompers on Facebook.