Tented relief far from the madding crowd
The Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Thailand, is accessible by a traditional long tailed river boat ride through exotic bamboo jungles.
It sits where three countries meet, and a stay here is a one-of-a-kind experience for active adults. Guests depart from Chiang Rai and travel 100 kilometres north to the camp which offers 15 tented accommodations.
These carry the same luxurious class as all hotels of the Four Seasons brand, right down to the hand-hammered copper bathtubs.
The “rooms” are spaced at a comfortable distance from each other allow for privacy. They were built on elevated ground along a hillside trail overlooking the Ruak River, Burma, the mountains of Laos or the jungle. At Golden Triangle, each tent is designed as an open space with a large outdoor deck. Furnishings are handcrafted and custom-made, in styles reminiscent of 19th-century adventure expeditions.
An open-air thatched-roof pavilion by the riverbank, with rustic hardwood floors, Nong Yao Restaurant offers Thai, Laotian, Burmese and western cuisine. A bar area, complete with a double-sided fireplace in the middle, is used for pre-dinner drinks. An open-air thatched-roof lounge within sight of Elephant Camp and overlooking the Ruak River and Burma, Burma Bar enjoys perfect views of the sunset. With torches for lighting and glimpses of elephant silhouettes nearby, guests are served a five-course formal dinner at the Elephant Camp.
There is even a spa at Four Seasons Tented Camp, open every day from 9am until sunset. Amid the bamboo forests are two open-air salas featuring double treatment rooms, spa beds and a bathtub/ shower area. With their rustic design and use of natural materials, the salas blend in with the environment.
Traditional Thai massages and innovative rituals assisted by the healing power of mountain botanicals and warming spices guide the visitor on a restorative journey. Private yoga classes are also available on request, for a fee, and conducted in the Yoga pavilion.
All-inclusive three or four night adventures are available through the Kiwi Collection travel website (www.kiwicollection.com) which identifies many of the world’s most remote resorts and their recent recommendations. The company founders ventured to all corners of the earth in search of locales known only by the indigenous people residing there. The result was an extensive online database that enables travellers to search through the world’s most exclusive hotels by location or personal interest. Since all Kiwi Collection properties must offer truly outstanding guest experiences before being invited to join the collection, the site’s recommendations are reliable and unbiased, offering the highest standards in luxury accommodations.
Guests have numerous options to take while at this unusual tented camp. Mahout training is one of them. Upon arrival at the elephant camp, guests will receive traditional mahout outfits. Training starts with learning to bathe and feed an elephant. Together with the elephant’s own mahout, guests learn the basic commands needed to drive an elephant, and later they will have an opportunity to drive on their own elephant on an exploration through the Thai jungle. Sundowners are served when the sun begins to set, after which the elephants are be released into the jungle for night feeding.
Other activities include hiking on mysterious mountain trails, taking a river excursion down the Mekong or discovering the cultures of hill tribes. On the camp grounds, pathways along the hillside lead guests to secluded accommodations nestled in the midst of a magical natural forest environment. A suspension bridge 18 metres above the San Valley connects two ridges, offering an alternative to the winding trail in the verdant valley below.
Fishing in the Mekong fishing is a favourite past time for locals as well as visitors, and fishing poles are available at the main camp pier for guest use.
Traditional Thai, Laotian and Burmese cooking lessons are also available from the camp’s team of master chefs. Using local fresh ingredients combined with distinctive regional flavours guests can create dishes with unique northern Thai appeal. Special cooking classes include a trip to the wet market in Chiang Saen.
When visiting Thailand, seasonal highlights to watch out for include the April Songkran, the celebration of Thai New Year which is, above all, a festival of water. Festivities in the Golden Triangle include boat races along the Mekong River. Thai, Laotian, Burmese and Chinese competitors take part in exciting contests.
Later on is Loy Krathong, a festival of lights held on the night of the full moon in October or November. This is one of the most important Thai holidays. Small, handcrafted floats called krathongs are made from banana leaves, banana stems and fresh flowers. Celebrants light candles, place them in the krathongs, make a wish and let the floats drift down the river. Hundreds of candles glistening on the water make an ethereal sight.
In northern Thailand, bordering Burma to the north and Laos to the east, mountainous Chiang Rai province lies an average of 580 metres above sea level. The northern-most part of the province is an area well known for its surrealistic mountain sceneries and picture-perfect sea of cloud and mist. In this fairy-tale setting live some of Thailand’s oldest civilisations - the colourful hill tribes, each with unique culture, distinctive customs and mystic charm.
This region also falls into a 195,000-square kilometre area known as the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma converge. Historically infamous for its connection to the opium trade, relentless efforts of the Thai Royal family have transformed the agricultural landscape to one of coffee, tea, fruits and highland crops in neat terraced fields. Exotic hill tribe crafts of jewellery, silverware, textiles and embroideries have also blossomed in popularity throughout Thailand and overseas.
The provincial capital of Chiang Rai, 829 kilometres north of Bangkok and named first capital of Lanna Thai (Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields) over 700 years ago, was a crossroad of cultural diversities between Thailand, Laos and Burma. Today, locals selling produce from their farms mingle with western tourists in streets lined with hotels, spas and quaint shops. It has also become a starting point for visitors embarking on their adventures to explore the region’s captivating scenic beauty.