The expression “Elephant in the Room” is commonly used to describe something so big and important it can’t be ignored. At Anantara Golden Triangle, the inevitable distraction is, of course, a happy one: the elephants themselves. While there’s much to recommend at this exotic-yet-affectionate resort other than elephants, these outrageously adorable creatures remain at its centre of gravity.
A luxurious all-inclusive format ensures that guests enjoy an assortment of customizable adventures. And while these activities are uniformly exceptional—from Thai cooking courses to fascinating day trips to nearby Myanmar—most visitors opt to spend as much time as they can in the presence of elephants.
Various means of getting “elequainted” are presented, from dining in their company to learning how to speak their language. A mahout training course teaches visitors how to control an ellie from the perch of its massive neck (don’t worry—they can barely feel you). And the Anantara’s newest adventure may be even more endearing, due no doubt to the presence of planet Earth’s cutest creature: the baby elephant. “Walking with Giants” invites you to tag along as 18-month-old Suki and his mother meander through the jungle on their daily constitutional. Visitors are provided with sugarcane to ply them with as they stretch their legs and snack on dense foliage. All the while, a member of the veterinarian team gives a crash course in all things elephant. The sight of Suki rolling around in the red earth, mischievously darting to and fro as his mother tries to keep him on task, is one you’re bound to remember, even if your memory isn’t quite at elephant-level.
Of course, while opportunities to interact with the noble beasts abound in Thailand, the Anantara is without peer when it comes to promoting elephant welfare—not only are their animals among the best-treated in Thailand, the resort also runs its own charity (helpingelephants.org), regularly plays host to visiting scientific research teams, and has established pragmatic programmes to rescue elephants from a life of street begging by “adopting” mahouts and their families into the resort community. S participation in elephant events here feels less like safari tourism and much more like taking part in a long tradition of elephant husbandry stretching back to the beginnings of Thai civilization.
Transforming a stay from a typical tourist transaction to one conveying the sense that you are very much a treasured guest is the all-inclusive format. Instead of feeling forced to “opt in” to add-ons, it’s as if you were invited to take part in a mutual pastime by a genuinely welcoming community. This also enhances the level and quality of service, since the staff aren’t compelled up-sell or deal with money in any way, and can therefore concentrate on earnest interaction and attending to the needs of guests.
Perhaps it’s testament to the Anantara Golden Triangle’s winning formula that the resort sees a high percentage of repeat visitors, an effect equally influenced by the continual addition of features and the adaptable nature of their service. It seems anything is possible. Want to explore the jade-green scenery of the Golden Triangle by bicycle? Care to get married on an elephant, or do yoga with one? A picnic in the rice paddies? They can make it happen. It’s a bit like “Fantasy Island,” that old TV show from the 70s in which visitors’ dreams were made to come true, although without the bittersweet plot twists.
Newer developments include a “Dining by Design” activity, in which guests work with chefs to design the ultimate fantasy dinner, and a “Family Suite” room—the triple-sized suites feature a separate bedroom the size of a standard room and a double-sized living area that boasts a walk-in closet, a king-sized bed, a second bathroom with a nearly-elephant sized tub, and a proper espresso machine to help you get up and out and into the green space beyond the door.
It’s not easy finding a truly unique experience these days, but with Anantara Golden Triangle’s unusually open and flexible approach toward engineering experience, the resort seems to have cultivated a new kind of tourism—one in which you feel at home, even as you find yourself suddenly transported to a faraway fantasy district deep in the tropical hinterlands of Planet Elephant.