Some say it was Greeks who first said ‘elephants never forget’ and, indeed, Asian elephants apparently really impressed Alexander the Great in battles in the 4th century BC. In modern peace-time language, the elephants of Northern Thailand are waiting for travellers to return.
It’s certainly elephants and Thai massages, temples and space at Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle. From Bangkok, fly into Chiang Rai and after a 90-minute drive, and Mekong immigration at Hirannakhorn Pier, climb into a waiting long-tail boat. 20 minutes later, disembark at the camp, with ‘bedrooms’ complementing the bamboo terrain as if artistically posed – overall designer’s Bill Bensley. As well as a 232 sqm two-bedroom Lodge, with pool, there are 15 identical luxury tents, 54 sqm, ensuite and good WiFi since non-stop experiences with selfie overload thrown in are guaranteed, the absence of televisions is not even noticed.
The camp pier’s next to the main pool and Nong Yao restaurant. From there it’s about a 50-metre hike up, and over a suspension bridge, to reach, say, Tent 10. Showing typical Bensley flamboyance, its freestanding bathtub would be the showpiece but it competes with the view. With tent walls rolled up, look out, far down, over bamboo, figus, kapok and more, to the Ruak, ‘bamboo’, a feeder river to the Mekong. A view of any lifetime, taking in Laos and Myanmar as well as Thailand.
It’s all-inclusive, which covers food, alcohol and other beverages, spa and experiences (the boutique takes cards for splurges on jewellery or souvenirs). Mix Thai with global, spicy beef salad with young eggplant, green curry with prawns, hot chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream. Sorry, no kids under ten.
Chat to Resort Manager Macall Newman about your schedule – she’s pretty versatile, with double-degrees, back at Fordham in New York City, in African Studies and Spanish Literature. Perhaps go off-site, for a temple-traipsing Golden Triangle Excursion, long-tail boat and tuk-tuk. Refresh at the camp’s spa on stilts, completely private among the greenery. Choose the best-selling ruak massage, with bamboo rollers. Or add to your relax logbook, merely sitting, wherever, savouring the symphony of nature.
Shattering the calm, a nearby trumpet’s a call to duty. Six elephants await. Retired from such duties as heavy logging, they and their mahouts live here, adjacent to the main camp. Camera at the ready, walk slowly alongside these giant beasts who so impressed that Greek leader 25 centuries ago. The mahouts show how to feed the animals bamboo lengths, and apples – yes, Alexander knew’em, they had been a staple of Athenian feasts since the 7th century BC.
With elephants, mahouts and that view as backdrop, time for your own picnic, chosen ahead. Full English-style afternoon tea is an incongruous statement, but makes an awe-inspiring photo. Deep-fried spring rolls and the like, with elephants watching, are similarly memorable.
Mary Gostelow publishes the daily girlahead.com and a unique weekly 15-minute industry Mary Gostelow Girlahead Podcast, both part of Almont Global.