One is its location: at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers, in Thailand but only a mile from Burma and Laos. Once upon a time, this was serious no-go territory: the Golden Triangle produced most of the world’s opium and was ruled by druglords. Since then, a concerted clean-up, initiated by the Thai royal family, has opened the region to visitors, who are drawn as much by its mysterious past - this was Lanna Thai (the Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields) - as its mountainous and riverine landscapes. The second distinction is an elephant camp, for those that have been rescued from the streets of Chiang Mai and Bangkok. It's such a hit that a third of guests, from honeymooners to families, come principally to observe these gentle giants.
- The award-winning elephant camp, which sets standards in elephant conservation around the world
- The dramatic architecture and idyllic gardens, pools and terraces, plus 160 acres of grassland, riverbank and bamboo forest, which guests can explore on foot, bike or elephant
- The option of private dining, with a chef cooking to order, at a table set in a rice paddy, or on a ridge with views over the entire Golden Triangle
- The infinity pool, which seems to merge into the Mekong valley
- The 3 Country View Rooms have views over Thailand, Laos and Burma
- For all its striking design, lovely location, creature comforts and excellent service, this is very much a resort, and the scale of the place won’t appeal to those who like their hotels small, quirky and homespun
- Rates are expensive, but they do include all meals and activities
- Our in-room internet access was glitch-prone
- Yoga classes, when not held on the terrace, happen in a rather functional, unconducive ballroom
Best time to go
Our top tips
Bring a jacket or cardigan for the evening: with an extra layer, you can comfortably dine outside under starry skies at any time of the year.
- Spa Resort & Elephant Camp
- 63 rooms
- All inclusive
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Heated Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Car recommended
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
- Tennis Court
- Bicycles Available
- Elephant camp
- Cookery classes
There are 40 Deluxe 3 Country View Rooms, 6 Anantara 3 Country View Family Suites and 15 Anantara 3 Country View Suites, housed in 2 wings either side of the temple-like main building. Paths wind through carefully planted tropical foliage to semi-external staircases which in turn lead to just a few rooms: there are no long, institutional corridors and consequently you’re largely unaware of your neighbours.
All rooms and suites fuse traditional and contemporary Thai design, with gleaming teakwood floors, locally woven cottons and silks and a harmonious mix of old (or repro) and modern furniture. Beds are kingsize (twins are available on request) and supremely comfortable - ours, in an Anantara Suite, had a pillowtop mattress. Colours are understated - natural tones with the odd dash of ochre or burnt sienna - so as not to argue with the views of the valley unfurling below your window. Glass doors lead to a balcony with a daybed cantilevered from the wooden structure like a giant windowbox. Suites are larger than the rooms, and have a distinct sitting area with a sofa and 2 armchairs. But we’d recommend you gave the Anantara Suites a miss, and opt for one of the Country View Rooms or Suites, as the view is simply breath-taking, how often can you sit in one spot overlooking 3 different and fascinating countries (Thaliland, Laos and Burma)?
Bathrooms are large and semi-open-plan, with twin basins and terrazzo baths big enough for 2. In the rooms, the bath is rectangular with shower overhead; suites have separate showers and oval tubs filled with flowers on arrival. There’s a wooden bookrest, a stack of handtowels deftly arranged to look like an elephant and if the petals aren’t soothing enough, you can add a tea infusion to the water.
Mod-cons are as standard; the minibar runs to 2 cabinets, for hot and cold drinks respectively, and fruit is replaced daily. TV and hi-fi, including an iPod connection, are housed in a wooden cupboard, which swivels to face either bed or sofa. All rooms have fans as well as air-conditioning.
- Safe box
There are 2 restaurants, Sala Mae Nam, named after the surrounding mountain range, and Baan Dahlia, a smaller, more intimate restaurant with the atmosphere of a wine cellar.
Sala Mae Nam serves a mouth-watering array of Thai dishes such as Naem Chiang Rai (Chiang Rai sausages), Nor Oua (deep-fried young bamboo shoots stuffed with minced pork), Gai Ob Samliam Thong Kum (roasted marinated chicken with Thai herbs and spices) and Gaeng Hung Lay (traditional northern-style spare ribs served in a spicy curry sauce). Staff are happy to advise and recommend food.
In contrast, Baan Dahlia’s menu is decidedly Western, with buffalo mozzarella from Italy, New Zealand lamb chops and Margaret River Wagyu beef (from Western Australia). In a bid to offset these food miles, the resort sources many of its other ingredients from local farms and its own kitchen garden.
The Elephant Bar and Opium Terrace serves light meals alongside signature cocktails; particularly recommended is the Street Hawker, a vodka martini with mango nectar, lime juice, coriander and red chilli.
Private dining is available (nicknamed Dining by Design) with chefs cooking to order in a choice of several enchanting locations, from a rice paddy to a ridge with views over the entire Golden Triangle. A favourite spot is the terrace overlooking the baby elephant sanctuary, understandably so!
Breakfast is a huge international buffet served in Sala Mae Nam - though it’s tastefully done without a bain-marie in sight. An array of terracotta pots holds everything from a full English to Dim Sum and Miso soup. Eggs are cooked to order, and the staff remember how you like your coffee. Try to get a table on the terrace, as a baby elephant may make an appearance for a morning cuddle and snack (usually between 8.30-9am).
- Coffee / tea making
- Kids' meals
- Room service
- Many guests come for the elephant camp, supported by sister charity, the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. Home to recovering street-rescues, babies and new mothers, all guests are welcome to visit the camp and see the elephants feeding and bathing (8am-2pm daily). Other elephant related activities include an elephant learning experience, in which you'll discover their biology and work alongside the vet, washing and playing with the calves
- The Hall of Opium Museum, opposite the resort’s gates, offers a fascinating exposition of the Golden Triangle’s infamous history (included as one of the daily complimentary activities)
- The Anantara Spa with a range of beauty treatments, Ayurveda and massages (including a special mahout massage to straighten you out after clenching thigh muscles you didn't know you had), all delivered in stylish suites with outdoor tubs and chill-out balconies
- Shopping and sightseeing in Chiang Saen, the ancient capital of the Lanna Kingdom (about 30 minutes by car), or in Chiang Rai, the provincial capital (an hour’s drive away)
- Go on an excursion into the hills to see colourful hilltribe villages, wonderful handicrafts, flower plantations and great views
- Take walks along nature trails (with or without a guide) and keep your eyes peeled for the vast array of tropical birds
- Play golf at Santiburi Golf Course (70km away) and Waterford Valley (50km)
- Swim in the infinity pool - where else can you float around while looking over 2 rivers and 3 countries?
- Take a trip along the Mekong River in longtail boats, continuing into Laos and all the way to Luang Prabang - great if you have 3 days to spare
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Cooking classes
- Mountain biking
- Museums / galleries
- Shopping / markets
- Table tennis
- Traditional cultures
- Well being
This resort is well suited to adventurous children who like being outdoors. As for adult guests, the elephant camp is the main draw, and children of any age are welcome to observe the elephants.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
All of the rooms and suites can accommodate an extra bed or a baby cot. If you have older kids, book 2 connecting Deluxe 3 Country View Rooms which have a shared balcony (request on enquiry).
Cots Available, Extra Beds Available
Babysitting available by arrangement. Prices double after midnight.
- Baby bedding
- High chairs
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
High tea and early dinner sittings feature a kids menu. The restaurants serve both Thai and Western food.
Kids Activities on site:
- Elephant camp
- Swimming pool
- Children's DVDs and a selection of toys and games
- Tennis, squash and table tennis
Kids Activities nearby:
- Explore the forest and riverbank on foot
- Bird watching
- Hire bikes to explore the neighbourhood
- Take a longtail boat trip down the Mekong River
Families Should Know:
The pool isn't fenced and there's no lift. You will all need a number of vaccinations before travelling in Thailand, particularly in this jungle area.
- Airport: 60km
- Hospital: 12km
- Nearest shop (for nappies, baby food and toys): 2km from resort
The resort is in northern Thailand, overlooking the Mekong river and a short distance from the borders with Laos and Burma (Myanmar). The nearest big town is Chiang Rai (60km), the nearest smaller town is Chiang Saen (13km).
The closest airport is Chiang Rai (60km), with frequent flights from Bangkok. The nearest international airport is Chiang Mai (260km), which is about 4 hours' drive away and has flights from neighbouring countries - but most visitors with time pressure would choose to fly from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai rather than drive.
From the Airport
The hotel offer complimentary round trip transfers from Chiang Rai Airport, so it is best to arrive here.
It is possible to arrive via a river cruise along Mekong from Luang Prabang in Laos, arriving at Chiang Saen, where you will be met by a car and driver. It is also possible to continue up the Mekong into the Golden Triangle, to a jetty where the hotel will transfer guests to limousines or elephants for the last mile of the journey. Check destinations with your cruise operator.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com
More on getting to Thailand (international flights) and getting around
- Chiang Rai 60.0 km CEI
- Chiang Mai International 260.0 km CNX
- Beach 800.0 km
- Shops 2.0 km
- Restaurant 13.0 km