Chiang Rai Honeymoon – Walking With Elephants – Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort
The Golden Triangle elephant camp experience was definitely one of the most exciting parts of our honeymoon. Following Hong Kong and Chiang Mai, we visited Chiang Rai. Perched on a ridge overlooking the hills of Myanmar and Laos with amazing views of the magnificent Mekong River, the Anantara Resort at Chiang Rai was absolutely enchanting!
Chiang Rai is surrounded by fragrant gardens in the jungle hills of northern Thailand. It is the place to enjoy the magical views of the Mekong River, Myanmar, and Laos.
The Golden Triangle (also known as Samm Liam Thong Kham), found in the Chiang Rai Province in northern Thailand. Although in English it is known by this because it is where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet, for the locals it is referred to as Sop Ruak because it is where the Ruak River meets the Mekong. We discovered that there were even more things to do in Chiang Rai than we expected.
Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort
The thing that attracted us to a Chiang Rai honeymoon and this resort, in particular, was the chance to spend some time around elephants, as there is the world-famous elephant camp on-site. It has been designed to resemble a traditional mahout (a South Asian And Korean word that means ‘someone who rides and works with elephants’) village. The idea behind it is to give guests a chance to experience the biggest land mammals on the planet up close.
Luxurious and Beautifully Decorated Suites
We had booked to spend three nights at Anantara for our Chiang Rai honeymoon and while I wish it was longer, it was a truly memorable experience and we were well catered for. Our room was exquisitely decorated and had a comfortable king size bed and balcony that offered great views of the surrounding jungle, gardens, and countryside. There was also a very romantic terrazzo-style bathtub that was big enough for two and great for relaxing in after a busy day of seeing the local sights and animals.
Infinity-Edge Swimming Pool – Stunning Views Of Mekong Valley
One of our favorite features of the Anantara Resort was their well-maintained infinity swimming pool, that also had an adjoining Jacuzzi. If you are interested in working out or pampering, there is a full gymnasium, tennis court, squash court, steam room and sauna. Depending on the time you have you may also want to make use of the bird-watching trails, jogging tracks and nature walks they have within the 160 acres of bamboo forest and gardens at the resort.
Getting In Touch With Nature On Chiang Rai Honeymoon
For one of the more interesting, but equally fun things to do in Chiang Rai, is to take in the surrounding countryside in all its majesty, you could rent a mountain bike and head out on two wheels. Along with all this, you can also experience all things Thai, you can take a cooking course, practice Thai boxing or even participate in some nurturing tree planting, rice planting, and harvesting to get back to nature and enjoy something traditional.
You could be forgiven for wanting to spend all day in there, just looking out over the Mekong Valley. However, there was so much to see and do and we only had a couple of days to experience it. It is though, worth mentioning that there is the Opium Museum (which I will go into a bit more detail later), rice fields, day trips to Myanmar, Tachileik Shwedagon Pagoda, Laos Islands and boat trips along the mighty Mekong River.
When it comes to food, The Golden Triangle Anantara Resort has you covered. There are three different eateries, as well as the chance to have a bespoke meal arranged for you and your significant other. The Sala Mae Nam is a beautifully designed restaurant that offers some of the finest food from the local Thai cuisine, as well as international favorites too. It has an open-air setting and is suspended over three different countries, making it rather magical. As it seats 90 diners at one time, it is by far the biggest restaurant on the resort but is still very relaxing.
Baan Dhalia is a very modern looking place with touches of authentic ‘traditional’ Thai style and interestingly it serves a primarily Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. This is great for when you want a break from Thai and something more comforting. The cocktails are to die for, as are their wide selection of wines from all over the world. With just 30 seats, it never feels too stuffy or full.
Elephant Bar and Opium Terrace
Another modern looking place with lots of Thai aspects, it is a comfortable way to relax with a few drinks and some tasty snacks, from the very light Mediterranean and Thai menu. It seats just 45 people, so it never feels particularly full even when it is at its busiest.
Dining By Design
The Anantara Resort offers a more intimate way to enjoy some food at the end of the day. They will have a table set up for you and provide you with a customized menu that has been prepared by your own personal chef and it can be served (within reason) at the location of your choice. Wherever you choose to eat, you can enjoy your favorite Thai meals, something more interesting or international favorites, while sitting watching the elephants in the bamboo forests, the rice fields or the dramatic and glorious Mekong River.
Our Travel Itinerary
Elephant And Mahout Training
I have always been fascinated by elephants and I thought this would be a truly amazing way to experience the towering, but gentle giants who call this local area home. The resort’s Elephant Camp is called this for a very good reason, as they offer unique and once-in-a-lifetime elephant adventures. We got to spend time with elephants a lot over the 3 days we were at the resort, as they are always somewhere close by. They are fairly tame and are the chance to roam freely around most of the 160 acres. Not only did we get the chance to see them closer than we ever expected, it was educational too as we learned why the local people and elephants have such an important and special bond.
The baby elephants were particularly delightful to watch playing and being looked after by their parents. As we took part in the elephant and mahout training experience, we didn’t just get the chance to admire these creatures. We actually got the chance to try and learn the different commands that mahouts use when working and riding elephants.
As they are so popular, and really it’s not that difficult to see why being up close and personal and either working with or riding these glorious beasts would be popular, you are only allowed to take part in one activity per day. E.L.E or Elephant Learning Experience is one of the options is and this is the more educational side of things. Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation has rescued many baby and infant elephants and conduct scientific research projects into the mighty creatures. If you are interested in the conservation and continued support of this beautiful species, the resort will donate THB 2,000 for every booking made by guests at the hotel to take part in the E.L.E.
Walking With Giants
This is probably one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had – walking with these giants. The walk takes you through the surrounding jungle wilderness, accompanied by the herd and their companion mahouts. It is a great opportunity to not only catch a ride high above many of the roofs (as illustrated by some of our photographs) but to also admire them as they play and splash in the mud and river, snack on branches and leaves and socialize with their the other members of the herd. When you experience the natural world up to this close, it reminds you of how marvelous it is and it really touched my heart.
Golden Triangle Discovery Excursion
We were told that no Chiang Rai honeymoon would be complete without taking part in the Golden Triangle Discovery Excursion and we were not disappointed. This takes you on a tour of the local Thai surroundings, Myanmar and the beautiful Laos Islands. When you arrive, you are given your own car and so we didn’t have to do anything on our special trip away, we got a driver and a knowledgeable guide who helped with any immigration issues that came up while regaling us with stories and historical facts about the local area. As a tourist, you could so easily be ripped off, due to the language barrier more than anything else, but because of the guide, he was able to assist us and secure the best prices possible for those souvenirs for our friends and family back home.
Tha Khi Lek, Myanmar
The ride is undertaken in a tuk-tuk (a three-wheeled motorized taxi-style vehicle used in Thailand), given you a truly authentic experience as you have the chance to try out various tasty delicacies at local food markets. There is also the intriguing Shwedagon Pagoda, which I would encourage all animal lovers traveling to the area to visit because you can learn the animal that corresponds to your birthday and make offerings in the temple. A pagoda incidentally in East Asia and India is a Buddhist or Hindu temple, which is usually designed to resemble a tower with numerous tiers.
As Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred of all Buddhist pagoda in the Myanmar region. There is also a chance to explore the dazzling Jade temple before moving onto the next destination.
Chiang Saen, Thailand
Chiang Saen is the ancient capital of the area’s Lanna Kingdom and dates back to the 7th century. This was a memorable part of the trip and one of the reasons why this trip within a trip is one of the best things to do in Chiang Rai. We were taken along the sprawling Mekong River from Chiang Saen by longboat and floated by the bank of Laos and all the way back to the resort. The Mekong River was one of the best decisions we made for our Chiang Rai honeymoon.
There is also the opportunity to stop at the tourist-focused market at Don Sao on Laos Island which you can visit without any visa issues and buy anything from delicious rice whiskey to local handicrafts and thirst-quenching and famous for a reason Laos Beer.
The Hall Of Opium Museum
Another of the great things to do in Chiang Rai is visiting the Hall of Opium Museum. While it is nice to relax, we wanted to make sure we made the most of the local area on our Chiang Rai Honeymoon and took in some culture and history too. The museum is a remarkable mixture of exhibitions and features lots of multimedia elements to bring everything truly to life. this is not your average dry lesson in history, that’s for sure. What I have often found is that textbooks and history books will often portray a certain part of the world or period in history from a specific angle or bias – this museum tackles the subject of opium from all sides of the story.
It takes you from the beginning and origin of opium, through to the opium war, the warlords, smugglers, devastating effects of this drug and the battle against the growing of poppies and producing opium. It doesn’t stop there as we were impressed to see it highlights the rehabilitation of Golden Triangle inhabitants living conditions and what used to be one of the most infamous trading zones for illegal substances in the world.
The exhibition is divided into separate zones:
Entrance Zone – 137 meters of dark tunnel that leads to an artificially formed poppy field that sits in the Hall Zone
Hall Zone – where the artificial poppy field is located and you can learn about the wide variety of poppy flower species there are.
Opium in Siam Zone – this is a realistic recreation of a traditional Chinese tea house in the Yaowarat area, where people would visit smoke opium and explains Siam’s opium history.
Magic Medicine Zone – this zone looks at the science involved in the production of heroin and morphine
Opium Effects Zone – this highlights the negative effects of illegal drugs and addiction to locals and society in general.
Our pictures, although beautiful and wonderful mementos of our amazing Chiang Rai honeymoon, they really don’t do the area, resort or any of the experiences justice. It is definitely something you have to live and breathe for yourself. I will miss the relaxing and luxurious infinity pool and the truly outstanding vistas of the Mekong River, Laos and Myanmar that are almost too real to be real – the Thai countryside just leaps out at you and the fragrant scents it gives completes it.
I would therefore highly recommend anyone looking to have a Chiang Rai honeymoon, to consider booking some time at the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort.
Following Chiang Rai, we spent four unforgettable nights of our honeymoon in Bangkok. The Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok had riverside location with panoramic views of the famous Chao Phraya River and the Bangkok skyline.