Thailand is such an amazing and beautiful country with its pristine beaches, bountiful jungles, incredible temples, and out of this world cuisine. For me, the Golden Triangle in the extreme north stood out; there is just something so special about the jungles near Chiang Rai.
WHAT TO DO:
Interact with elephants: The highlight while exploring the lush jungles near Chiang Rai was learning about the wonderful relationships that Mahouts (elephant caretakers) and elephants share at the Four Seasons Tented Camp. Here elephants are treated with the respect they deserve and not as a machine, which is VERY important to me. The elephants that visit the Four Seasons Tented Camp each day are all part of a local rescue operation that saves elephants from bad situations in Asia. The Mahouts personally train you to interact and ride these amazing creatures. You learn Thai commands and ride these massive gentle giants (with NO harness or saddle, you simply sit right behind their ears) through the jungle and even in the river where get to bath them!
Temples: The northern region of Thailand is rich with stunning Buddhist temples and is a must see!
Wat Rong Khun was my absolute favorite and is also referred to as the White Temple. This stark white Buddhist temple glistens in the sunlight with millions of pieces of glass in the plaster. Hours of operation: open daily from 8 am -6 pm. Admission is free but donations are welcome. Important Tip: You must dress respectfully which means NO revealing clothes! Also shoes must be taken off before entering the temple.
Take a day trip into Myanmar: Step back in time as you immerse yourself in Burmese culture in the border town of Takilek. Explore the bustling streets via tuk-tuk, see a local food market, visit the beautiful Rangoon temple and find what animal corresponds to your birthday and make an offering. Visit the stunning Shwedegan Pagoda and marvel at the gold gilded stupa.
Visit the Karen Long Neck tribe: Take a trip to see this incredible tribe and their way of life. As you explore watch as women weave beautiful textiles and shop their handmade goods.
WHERE TO STAY:
Four Seasons Tented Camp is one of the most incredible hotels I have ever stayed at in my life! The thing that is so special about this place is the interaction you have with the elephants. Your day starts with elephants at breakfast: yep, as you are enjoying your coffee two elephants arrive and the staff put out a massive table of bananas for you to feed the elephants! While at the (very) high end of the price scale, the entire resort is all inclusive so you don’t have to worry about a thing once you arrive. Enjoy some of the best Thai cuisine you could ever dream of and wash it down with a Beer Chang or champagne; you won’t have to worry about a large bar bill when you depart!
Each “room” is actually a private “tent”, but you won’t exactly be roughing it! Enjoy a free standing tub, outdoor shower, and beautiful bed dripping with mosquito netting and, of course, a fully stocked bar. Each tent boasts a two level deck over looking the Golden Triangle. TIP: Get the room with the outdoor tub, it is worth the splurge! Staff will fill the tub with hot water in the evening upon request and fill it with floating flowers for a romantic night for two. Just don’t get too comfortable and fall asleep in it!
The hotel boasts amazing views of three countries (Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar), an awesome outdoor spa, and an impeccable service expected from the Four Seasons brand. But the thing that really takes this hotel to the next level is the activities it offers its guests. Elephant adventures, day trips to Myanmar, yoga and exercise sessions, and visits to Chiang Rai markets with English-speaking guides are all included.
The highlight was definitely the elephants. Mahouts (who actually dedicate their entire life to just one elephant) teach you how to respect and interact with these amazing animals during your first intro class. After mastering some easy Thai commands, your second elephant adventure takes you on an amazing jungle trek (the Mahout walks along side, you really get to “drive” these amazing creatures on your own), complete with a stop for a river bath!
I look forward to sundowners in every exotic location, but the sundowner at the Four Seasons Tented Camp cannot be beat (not included). You ride elephants up a hill to a hut overlooking the entire Golden Triangle! Spending one-on-one time with these magnificent creatures (they will even pick you with their trunks!) while sipping champagne as the sky lights on fire with the last light of day is something you will not soon forget!
Finally, I highly suggest the Elephant Camp Dinner (also not included). Book it upon arrival for your last night, it is the perfect way to end your time at the camp. Enjoy cocktails with the elephants and Mahouts before the master chef hand tailors a private dinner just for your group! You will be dining under the stars next to a roaring fire and serenaded by a live Thai band. After dinner, light a Thai lantern, make a wish, and send it skyward! This is truly a unbelievable experience!!!
WHAT TO WEAR:
Northern Thailand is very much influenced by the Hill Tribes. I chose tribal inspired pieces and bright colors with fun textures. It is HOT here and maxi dresses will become your BEST FRIEND, but oddly enough you will want a light jacket or shawl for the evenings. The shawl will come in handy when visiting the temples as well; most of them require women to cover their shoulders. Take comfortable sandals that are easy to slip on and off (you must take them off before entering certain temples).