ANANTARA GOLDEN TRIANGLE - CHIANG RAI
By Rhiannon Taylor, January 2018
In Thailand's North, nestled deep in the hills (formerly home to Opium fields) we find ourselves at Anantara Golden Triangle; an elephant camp and luxe resort. It's a long journey to Chiang Rai, a city that overlooks Myanmar, however pulling up to the long driveway we catch sight of an elephant going for a walk in the distance and we're instantly excited.
Checking in, we're surrounded by an open air, sprawling resort, which could quite easily be mistaken for a palace. Check in is swift and comes with a shoulder massage that instantly sets the tone for the next few days: relax.
Rooms are small and simple but come all the necessary finishings to make us feel comfortable. There's a huge bathtub for a late afternoon soak for weary travellers and a balcony that comes with views over grounds that are dotted with elephants bathing and grazing.
You can easily explore Chiang Rai from the resort and we booked in for a local market and temple tour, followed by a cooking class. Exploring the market, which lies upon the Mekong River, in the early hours of the morning is fascinating. Starting with tea from a local vendor, we then stroll the aisles to see who has the freshest herbs, curry pastes and seafood. Followed by a light breakfast at an empty nearby temple, we head back to the resort to try to master the art of Thai cooking.
Northern Thai food is vastly different to the rest of the country and in Chiang Rai you have a wealth of unique dishes to try. There's Thai sausage being grilled on open flames at every corner and we fell in love with Khao Soi; a rich, thick, yellow chicken curry that is served over crisp noodles (the resort's version was outstanding). Dining at Anantara Golden Triangle leaves guests with no shortage of options with both northern and more familiar Thai classics featuring throughout the menu. In the evenings, book in for the resort's Italian restaurant Baan Dahlia which offers authentic pasta and antipasto. We loved the Parmesan Spaghetti, which oozes on to your plate as it is served table side out of a wheel of Parmesan cheese.
Food and culture aside, the heart and soul of our visit to Chiang Rai was to connect with the rescued elephants in the Golden Triangle Camp. These beautiful creatures now have a sanctuary, courtesy of Anantara, away from the street life they once had and live healthy lives on the property. Guests are able to interact on an intimate level with the huge giants, from feeding or bathing to going for a guided walk around the grounds. We also recommend booking in for a conservation and preservation talk to learn more about the elephants, the initiatives the resort takes to look after them and how you can help ensure that these creatures survive for generations to come.
The Hall of Opium Museum lies directly opposite the resort and is the perfect spot to spend the afternoon learning about the history of Opium from it's origin, the opium war, opium warlords, opium effects, drug smugglers, the fight against opium and poppy growing, to the rehabilitation of living conditions of the people who live in the central of the Golden Triangle (the former worldwide drug trading zone).
If you're after some rejuvenation, book in to the award winning spa for treatments carried out in rooms that look out to the mountains. A traditional Thai Massage relieves aches and pains whilst leaving you relaxed and refreshed and expert therapists are on hand to guide you with health and skin concerns.
In Chiang Rai, you really can choose your pace of travel. By morning you feed the elephants at your breakfast table and unwind surrounded by the tranquil, quiet mountains. You can pass the day exploring local villages and getting a taste of true country life in Thailand, or indulge at the spa. By night you can feast on cuisine that will excite the senses and go to sleep with the sound of elephants trumpeting in the distance.
THE TURN DOWN
ACCOMODATION CATEGORY: Plush Resort.
ROOM PICK: Any, they all offer views over the countryside.
MINI BAR: Water is refilled daily. There's a full mini bar with local snacks, coconut juice, beer and wine charged on consumption.
FEEL: Traditional Thai Luxury.
LOCATION: Chiang Rai - a one hour drive (transfer included in your booking) from Chiang Rai Airport.
RATES: Starting at $1220 AUD p/n which includes breakfast and a daily activity.
POOL/GYM/SPA: There's complimentary yoga classes that run throughout the week and a fully equipped gym and a spa.
TURN DOWN SERVICE: Yes, with fresh fruit and water.
GOOD TO KNOW: Book activities in advance to avoid missing out.