This luxurious 32 acre property, a pastoral paradise of glamorous pavilions, residences, lush gardens and ponds is set amid terraced rice fields with a backdrop of dramatic mountains. Taking in nature’s grandeur from my private veranda perched atop the sprawling grounds, was sublime. Exquisitely designed rooms reflecting the Lanna style with opulent interiors showcase striking paintings, artifacts, sculptures, fabrics and posh furnishings. With all the modern conveniences and the indigenous ambiance, it’s a perfect blend of tropical luxury, authenticity and Thai culture.
The food is superb. I relished scrumptious Northern Thai dishes such as khao soi gai and crab curry under the stars while traditional hill tribe dancers performed at Sala Mae Rim. The Spa offers a comprehensive menu of rituals and treatments; I had an exceptional Thai massage. A highlight was sunrise yoga at the over-water open-air Yoga Barn with master teacher, Dheeraj. The sun rose casting its golden light on gardeners going to work, tools in hand, farmers walking oxen as Chiang Mai woke up.
The resort runs shuttles to Chiang Mai City for guests wanting to visit the dazzling temples including the impressive hilltop Doi Suthep, the famous night market, to shop and explore. However, it’s hard to leave paradise.
Heading north toward the Golden Triangle, I took in some of Chiang Rai’s art and nature along the way. The fantastical White Temple created by Chaloemchai Kositpipat with pictures of Michael Jackson and Harry Potter added to the Buddhist murals inside is a must see. Also noteworthy is The Black Museum, the paintings and artwork at Art Bridge, and lunching with glorious views of tea plantations, for which the locale is known, at Singha Park.
After about a 3-hour drive I arrived at Anantara Golden Triangle Resort and Elephant Camp. Set on 160 acres of verdant jungle with views of Myanmar and Laos, this luxurious hilltop resort offers truly unique experiences. The real stars here are the gentle giants. Their cutting edge elephant camp focuses on conservation, plus an array of activities where guests can get up close and personal with the gentle creatures. These include Elephant Learning, The Mahout (trainers) Experience and more. After feeding an elephant a banana at breakfast, I proceeded to ‘Walk with Giants‘ as they trekked, snacked on leaves in the jungle, played with each other, and bathed in the river. It was quite something.
There’s a snazzy Elephant Bar, a full service spa with indulgent treatments and the gourmet food is outstanding. The popular ‘Dine by Design’ option lets guests pick their location and menu. I enjoyed a gastronomic feast of Thai specialties at the rice paddy. Stylish rooms and suites with Thai silks, artwork, teakwood floors and carvings offer balconies with stunning panoramas. The resort is so atmospheric, it was chosen as a location for The Bachelor reality show.
The close by Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle offers an even more exclusive experience with their ultra luxurious tented suites and similar elephant experiences. This is a resort for couples.
There’s no shortage of local attractions, such as the nearby world class Opium Museum with videos and exhibits documenting the locale’s infamous past. Hop on a traditional longtail boat along the scenic Mekong River for a short jaunt to Don Sao Island in Laos. Take a tricycle tour of charming Chiang Rai City stopping at Wat Phra Kaeo Temple where the revered ‘Emerald Buddha’ was discovered. Here you’ll also find lively markets, a vibrant arts scene and the ever friendly, sweet Thai people.
Cathay Pacific offers seamless daily non-stop service from major cities to Hong Kong, connecting to their intra-Asia airline Dragonair to Chiang Mai. Business class offers the ultimate in comfort and amenities that make a huge difference on long flights. Spacious seats turn into roomy lie flat beds with soft pillows and plush duvets. The food is excellent, with a choice between Asian favorites and International dishes. It’s like a flying 5-star hotel. Additionally, the huge, spectacular new Pier Business Class Lounge in Hong Kong opened this June. It offers a fast lane with street food kiosks, a hedonistic noodle bar, a slow lane with luxurious lounge seating and a Tea House.