Mena, a 35-year-old Indian elephant that was rescued from a Thai logging camp 10 years ago, was my ride for the afternoon. We waded into the Ruak River as my mahout (elephant trainer) barked his orders for her to turn, stop and sit down. The water was cold but we couldn’t care less, as we were having the most memorable experiences of our lives riding these amazing animals.This excursion is only part of what makes a stay at the Four Seasons Golden Triangle so great.
The camp has partnered with the Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation Rescue and Adoption Program. The organization rescues elephants from mistreatment at Thailand’s logging camps or from the hot streets of Bangkok where they perform for tourists. Part of the guest’s hotel fee pays for the well-being of the mahout and his family as well as the animals.
Guests are able to interact with the gentle giants, learn a few basic commands and are then embark on a two-hour tour of the jungle atop their backs. At the Ruak River, the elephants wade into the water to bathe. During our trip, one of the elephants began to spray water on us, a moment we won’t soon forget.
Located in Northern Thailand, the property is spread over 400 verdant acres on a hillside along the country’s and Myanmar’s borders. The region is called The Golden Triangle since three countries come together there. From the camp’s outdoor terraces, guests can take in the vast countryside. The facilities include a restaurant, bar, spa and picturesque free-form pool. A brick and bamboo path nearby leads to a wooden suspension bridge that connects the resort to the tropical forest. Guests can stroll the grounds here or jump in a vintage 1970s Land Rover Defender for a tour.
The all-inclusive camp holds 15 tents with a maximum of 30 guests and is spread out in a lush tropical forest of three-story-high bamboo trees. However, there is nothing rustic about these tents, which are more like a 1,000-square-foot plush jungle villas. The first thing that you’ll immediately notice from the 20’ veranda and outdoor living space is the view. The tents overlook Myanmar’s lush grass and trees and Laos’ mountain ranges in the distance.
Indoors, the 19th-century inspired décor was created by designer Bill Bensley. It boasts a vintage safari motif with period pieces, antique ceiling fans, local artifacts, hardwood floors and an outdoor shower. Rooms come with an all-inclusive mini bar with wines and spirits. The centerpiece of the tent is the turn-of-the-century hammered copper and yellow soaking tub.
For meals, guests can enjoy haute and inventive Thai, Laotian, Burmese and Western cuisine at Nong Yao restaurant. The eatery is decorated with elephant artwork adorning the adobe fireplace as the warming fire crackles in the cool evening air. At the opposite end of the property there is the Burma Bar which was designed with various period pieces, antique books, maps, and a telescope pointed over the savanna.
The spa is in a remote area of the property with only two cabanas, and is designed with a large wooden tub and circular curtain, seating area, and the treatment space. This is an indoor/outdoor room with two walls open to take in the rich natural beauty of the jungle. All therapies begin with a foot washing ritual with salt and rose petals. Check out the Mahout Recovery Treatment which utilizes a fusion of Asian and European massage techniques melded together.
If nature and exploration top your list for a great vacation, the Four Seasons Golden Triangle is a great choice. Along with an elephant trek through the jungle, guests can book off-site experiences such as visiting Chiang Rai and practicing mediation at the temple of Wat Pra That Pra Ngao in Chiang Saen. All-inclusive rates begin at THB 92,000 (USD $2,646) a night and children under 10 are not permitted.
Image Source: Pixabay