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Thailand: Destination Chiang Rai

Luxury & Lifestyle 01-07-2015

AWM’s luxury travel expert, Varun Sharma,  gives us his opinion on Thailand’s Four Seasons Chiang Rai.

Thailand is one of the most popular travel destinations in Asia, not only because of her diversity in landscape and culture – but also due to the genuine friendliness of her people. From the great, bustling, smog-filled, skyscraper heavy  city of Bangkok which offers luxury and poverty, stunning golden temples and immense squalor in equal measures – to the beauty of ancient cities like Chiang Mai and jungles of Chiang Rai – Thailand offers a unique slice of life that is so far from the order of the West.

After a twenty minute journey down the Mekong River I arrived at the resort’s jetty where two members of staff were waiting with much needed cold towels and drinks. It was a 75 step climb into the jungle where I was met by a memory of elephants. My old friend Yuki (“snow” in Japanese) was at the lead – trunk raised in welcome. I was back at undoubtedly one of the greatest luxury travel experiences in the world. There is one reason and one reason alone why you visit the Four Seasons Tented Camp – to interact with the Asian elephant in a way that is unique around the world. You eat meals with your elephant, gallump with them through the jungle, rest with them and also bathe with them, an experience you would want to revisit time and time again.

Most people who visit the Tented Camp also include a few days in Chiang Mai – the Walled City – often regarded as the cultural capital of Thailand. There is a Four Seasons Resort here (boasting its own rice paddy field) and a lovely Mandarin Oriental. The gateway to Thailand is – of course – Bangkok. This bustling, crowded and crazy city offers some of the greatest hotel names in the world – excellent and varied cuisine and a huge number of tourist attractions that can easily fill a week. With its many temples, river adventures, markets and restaurants – Bangkok is a must for any visitor to Thailand.

The highs

The Tented Camp offers a genuinely unique experience – interacting with pachyderms while living in the lap of true luxury. With just 15 tents, there are only ever a maximum of 30 guests on the property, a luxury in itself. Marrying the idea of glamping with the Four Seasons has worked seamlessly. If Four Seasons were to open a mud-hut resort in Timbuktu, it would a finest mud-hut resort in the world – with faultless, generous and genuine service. The tents in the resort make you feel that although you are deep in the jungle, that you are cosy, safe and living the height of indulgence. The Four Seasons service is also legendary, the staff often know what you want even before you do.

Although several kilometres from the nearest town, the Tented Camp offers a full a la carte menu featuring Thai and international dishes. For those tired from the day’s exertions, tent service is available (including the usual club sandwiches, pizzas and soup) and there is something quite special about eating your meal overlooking a dense jungle where elephants roam and monkeys swing from trees. As ever, the quality of the Four Seasons food on offer was fabulous – there was even Heinz ketchup with my fries which felt like a real luxury.

The lows

The resort is located in the middle of nowhere, there are no shops or restaurants in the local area, while you will only spend three nights in the camp, be prepared to get very wet, bitten by the odd mosquito and ache in places on your body that you didn’t know existed, but trust me it is worth it.

If there was one issue I have with the Tented Camp, it is the ever-present mosquitoes. There are several hundred anti-mozzie products, for me I eat cloves of garlic, slather my body in tea tree oil and a Scottish remedy called Smidge, but alas the mosquitoes ALWAYS seem to find that one place on your body that has been missed!

Final thoughts

There are scores of 5-star deluxe hotels in Thailand. With incredible service, amenities and facilities, Thailand offers a standard that few countries can match. Only one resort offers a unique experience of elephants and luxury accommodation … and that is the Tented Camp in the Golden Triangle.

The basics

 

Stay…

There are 15 custom-designed, air-conditioned tents for two, including three deluxe tents with outdoor wooden hot tub, for a maximum of 30 guests – adults and children over 12 years only. The tents boast handcrafted furniture, hardwood floors and spacious sundecks; a hand-hammered copper bathtub for two and outdoor rain-shower.

Eat…

Dine at the Nong Yao Restaurant for Thai, Laotian, Burmese and international cuisine, the Wine Cellar for intimate dinner gatherings, or in the intimate setting of your own Tent Burma Bar, a thatched lounge perched on stilts above the river.

Relax…

There are two open-air spa salas among the treetops – with side-by-side treatment beds for couples – offering traditional Thai massages and wellness rituals.

When?

The hot season runs from March to May; the green season from June to October; and the cool dry season from November to February.

For more information visit www.fourseasons.com

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