The Golden Triangle — where Thailand, Burma and Laos converge — is one of the most unique destinations in the world where the experience of ‘borders’ is not as rigid as it is on paper; as soon as you see the confluence of the Ruak River and the Mekong, with Laos to the east of the Mekong, Burma to the north of Ruak, and Thailand to the west of the Mekong, there’s something magical about feeling all three countries at your fingertips.
Golden Triangle has all it needs to be a gorgeous ‘glamping’ destination. The first to spot the potential of the region is Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, which opened Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in 2011, the luxury hotel group’s first all-inclusive resort offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience in 15 luxurious tents amid Thailand’s exotic bamboo jungles.
To experience Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle is to have a ‘glamping’ experience of a lifetime — let the opulent, vintage-inspired transport you to the era of the 19th Century explorer, discover the joys of interacting with rescued elephants in their home habitat, explore spectacular mountain trails and bamboo forest, absorb the tropical tranquillity with an open-air massage among the treetops — all in the comfort of the Four Seasons hospitality.
Located in the heart of the Golden Triangle on elevated grounds along a hillside, the Camp commands majestic views of the Thai jungle, Burma across the Ruak River and mountains of Laos in the northeast. From Chiang Rai International Airport, guests are escorted through a 75-minute drive through quaint villages and rice fields before reaching the West Post river dock on the Thai side of the Golden Triangle. The Camp is accessible by a magical 10-minute long-tail boat ride downriver during the day time, and alternatively a short trek through the jungle by a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Hidden within a tropical jungle, the Camp pier slowly comes into sight amongst the misty mountains fringed by dense bamboo forests on the Ruak River as you approach in a long-tail boat. After a warm welcome by the Camp Manager, you hit the gong three times to notify the elephants of your arrival, and signify the start of a magical journey.
The Camp is home to 15 fully air-conditioned, originally-themed tents and one Explorer’s Lodge conceived by the celebrated interior designer Bill Bensley. Positioned far enough apart from one another to allow for privacy, the canvas tents, including five Deluxe tents and ten Superior tents, are pitched on wooden platforms and connected by a verdant, fern-abundant pathway. Each of the 15 tents, named after local hill tribes or fauna and flora, shares a common layout, but is uniquely decorated and furnished in individual colour schemes with coordinated furnishings.
We stayed at the bead-themed Superior Tent, where every conceivable surface is decorated with beautiful beads. Behind the elephant tusk-style door reveals furnishings and decor reminiscent of 19th century adventure expeditions with exquisite metal craftwork created by exemplary local artisans, hardwood floors, and an eclectic array of explorer-themed antiques. We particularly liked the hand-hammered copper bathtub that stands in the centre of the room, adjacent to a refreshing outdoor rain shower. A luxurious king-size bed takes up another side of the tent, which is extended to a spacious outdoor deck overlooking the mountains of Laos and the jungle, featuring a daybed and wooden patio table and chairs. We found it the perfect spot for morning yoga amongst birdsong and misty treetop. The Deluxe Tents measure the same (54 sq m), uniquely appointed with a custom-made wooden hot tub perched on the private outdoor deck facing stunning views of the surrounding jungle.
Ideal for a family or bigger groups, the safari-style Explorer’s Lodge was introduced in 2016, which comes with two airy bedrooms, a generously spaced deck, and a tree-fringed infinity pool. The interiors reflect a combination of modern luxury and the spirit of adventure, decorated in a unique color scheme and with coordinated furnishings — from the custom-crafted bathtubs and bespoke accessories to the carefully chosen artwork and objets d’art — offering a glimpse into Thai culture and craftsmanship. Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle undoubtedly sets the benchmark for ‘glamping’ destinations, offering guests an authentic experience in the wild without having to sacrifice all life’s luxuries.
The Camp houses three venues for food and drink: Nong Yao Restaurant, Burma Bar and Wine Cellar. The food at Nong Yao Restaurant is excellent and varied, serving up a medley of authentic Lao, Thai and Burmese dishes. The menu is so well-curated and diverse that we found something new to try everyday, and could easily spend a whole week having our meals here without getting bored. Every morning at 7-9am, guests have the opportunity to have breakfast with the elephants, share precious moments with the gentle giants while feeding them. For lunch, we’d recommend the tom saab gai (Laotian chicken soup), khao soi hor (Northern Thai-style egg noodle curry with chicken and coconut milk) and larb pla thod (deep fried sea bass with spicy Thai herb sauce). Daily changing set menus are served for dinner, highlighting seasonal, fresh produce and the Camp chef’s pick of the day so guests can expect something different every night. Before or after dinner, make your way to the Wine Cellar for a wine and cheese tasting session, where you can select from an impressive collection of international and Thai wines for a private wine-pairing for two.
An open-air thatched-roof lounge within sight of the Elephant Camp and overlooking Burma and the Ruak River, Burma Bar is a stunning location to sip Thai ingredient-inspired sundowners and enjoy a romantic sunset. The cocktail menu is full of surprises, with highlights including the crowd-pleasing lemongrass Martini and extoic Tom Yum Martini, The best seats in the Bar, in our opinion, is the two-person table that directly faces the scenery, offering views unobstructed views of the natural surroundings. You’ll also find overstuffed leather couches near the fireplace, where you can curl up and soak into the tranquility of the home-like environment.
Ideal for adventurous holidays, the Camp offers a great base to discover the natural wonders and cultural treasures of the Golden Triangle.
My Elephant & I
Many guests are drawn to the property because of its program for rehabilitated elephants, nearly all of whom were rescued from Thailand’s crowded city streets and mistreatment in the tourism industry. Working in collaboration with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, the Camp supports the rehabilitated elephants to make sure they are living safe and free in the wilderness. The Camp’s activities team is made up of social elephants who love to interact with people, and the immersive ‘My Elephant & I’ programme allows guests to keep them company in their own natural habitat. The experience begins at the Elephant Camp, where the mahout (caregiver) explains how elephant anatomy works and how to ethically interact with the majestic creatures. Then, set off on a peaceful walk through the jungle with your elephant companions until you reach the river, where you can join the cherished daily ritual as they take a bath in the water. Our new friends were especially playful and the time we spent bathing with them was easily one of the most memorable from our trip.
Golden Triangle Excursion
A tour designed to allow guests to experience the local way of life and explore the cultural delights of the region, the excursion starts with a cruise down the majestic Mekong River on-board a traditional, custom-designed long-tail boat. As it makes its ways to the heart of the Golden Triangle, a spectacular view that encompasses Thailand, Burma and Laos emerges. Next, hop onto a songtaew (local pick up truck taxi), followed by a tuk tuk, to visit a vibrant local market selling everything from durian to live chickens, and a revered ancient temple, Chedi Luang. Your private guide will accompany you throughout the excursion, relating fascinating stories and interesting facts along the way.
Health & Wellness
Designed to be in harmony with the surrounding jungle, the open-air spa lies amidst the leafy bamboo forests of the Golden Triangle, featuring two salas with double treatment rooms, spa beds and a bathtub. A haven of rejuvenation for mind, body and soul, the outdoor spa offers traditional therapies inspired by the healing powers of mountain plants and local warming spices, presented in an ambience of barefoot luxury. For the ultimate in pampering, book the signature Ruak Bamboo experience, a full-body massage using a combination of local herbal oils of lemongrass, ginger and smooth natural bamboo sticks to target deep-seated muscle tension. Lulling in and out of slumber surrounded by chorus of jungle and forest murmurs in perfect serenity of the bamboo forest, our body became one with nature. It was without a doubt one of the best outdoor spa experiences of all time.
For an adventure of a lifetime, Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle truly befits the definition of ‘glamping’ as a unique destination where nature meets understated luxury in the heart of the historical region. Given the five-star facilities, wildlife conservation, cultural enrichment activities and Four Season’s world-class hospitality, the Camp offers an extraordinary stay for any travellers looking to spend time in nature, away from the stressful city pulse.