To be honest driving 5 hours from Chiang Mai where there is already a bevy of gorgeous resorts, each emanating its own private exotic milieu, to Chiang Rai, on roads that are windy and bumpy, facing jams that can stretch for miles, isn't gratifying. The itinerary was also somewhat scant - besides a brief stop on the way in to see the White Temple, all other activities were in-resort.
Martini at sunset, overlooking Myanmar from Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle
Patience is nonetheless an exacting virtue and very experiential rewards lie waiting at the end of this journey.
A reclusive male elephant grazing by the hillside at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp
Arriving at Anantara Elephant Camp Chiang Rai, one can't help but be enchanted by the hilly terrains the resort sits upon. There are sweeping vistas of neighbouring Myanmar and Laos from the cavernous suites, and breakfast on the balcony is a great way to start a day. Just as most Anantaras are invested with fabulous dining outlets, one can indulge in the Northern flavours of Thailand (there are over 5 types of wild honey collected from the region that the chef uses in his desserts and drinks) in Sala Mae Nam or opt for hearty Italian fares masterfully prepared at Baan Dahlia.
Afternoon teas are well savoured over idyllic afternoons at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp
The highlight of the resort is undoubtedly the Elephant Camp that is hosted and supported by the Anantara folks in the neighbouring hillside. Guests are conveyed via jeeps to this sanctuary for domesticated elephants that were mostly rescued from Thailand's streets. Operated by the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, these elephants were given new leases of life from a torturous life of labour. Even their mahouts were offered an alternative livelihood looking after them in their new home. Feeding, bathing and walking these gentle giants through the hillside is for me an exhilarating experience that far surpasses the feeling of riding atop their backs.
The lovely milieu of Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp
A short speedboat ride away from Anatara is the superlative hideaway Four Seasons Tented Camp. Designed by prolific landscape artist and budding hotelier Bill Bensley, these gorgeously furnished luxury tents reflect some of his best works, and still enthrall the senses 13 years after the property first opened.
The gorgeous interior of a tent at Four Seasons Tented Camp Chiang Rai
The elephant experience here is slightly more limited than at Anantara, with only morning feeding at breakfast and walks through the camp's ground. The other attractions of the resort are nonetheless sublime, whether it is holistic pampering at its 1 suite spa overlooking a bamboo forest or an epicurean adventure meticulously staged around the camp. My most unforgettable moments here were spent sipping martinis on the veranda of my tent in full view of Myanmar's splendid plains and luxuriating in the plush tub beset with horn taps sipping tea.
In luxurious environs so lush and splendidly cultivated, what else is there to contemplate but bliss?
The Four Seasons Spa, a one-suite destination