I’m a big fan of the “latergram” theory of social media – it’s so easy to get wrapped up in documenting your travels that one can easily forget to be in the moment and enjoy them.
However, once in a while you have an experience that is so magical that if you don’t document it immediately the moments will slip through your fingers like grains of sand. And so I find myself in a bumpy van ride on the way to Chiang Mai, balancing my computer on my lap and trying to spill every incredible memory onto the page as fast as possible.
Our entire stay at Anantara Chiang Rai was exemplary – and that will be part of my overall trip report. But last night we indulged in their “Jungle Bubble” experience, and it was truthfully a top moment in our lives.
The Jungle Bubbles are geodesic domes perched on top of a teak deck in the middle of the jungle adjoining the river that separates Thailand from neighboring Laos and Myanmar. Our trip began with our reintroduction to our lunchtime companions, Bo and Kiku. These two female elephants are best friends, and spend all of their days together. It was truly incredible to watch them communicate, snuggle and nudge one another with their massive and majestic trunks!*
Our elephant hostesses led the way along a path to the Bubbles. Whatever these photos might look like, it can’t really do justice to the sight of these luxuriously appointed outposts rising up in the middle of the bush. Before our dinner, we spent some time hanging out with the majestic elephants, they munched on a pile of sugar cane while we enjoyed an impromptu cocktail party on our deck.
We couldn’t wait to explore the interior of these super-cool space igloos – we proceeded (with wineglasses in hand) through the double airlock doors (bugs stay out, air conditioning stays in) and into our living room. Every creature comfort you can imagine was stocked for us – from sodas and beer to board games and USB ports – we couldn’t believe how well appointed the common space was.
Being a family of three, we opted for the deluxe two bedroom bubble – so our son was in his own “wing,” each with an en suite bathroom. The entirety of the three room space is completely transparent on all sides (the two bathrooms were enclosed in canvas for privacy). The rooms were stocked completely – bathrobes, sleep shades, bottled water… even toothbrushes and paste – literally anything you might need was provided and at our disposal. And the comfort level itself was beyond my wildest expectations. Those of you that follow this blog know that I am a luxury traveler and NOT something who “roughs it.” Well this was without question the most spectacularly comfortable way to camp EVER. Although the outside evening air was still close to 90, our bubble was chilled to a perfect 68 degrees. The bathrooms, by the way, have beautiful sink/vanity combinations, toilets and showers all with full pressure running water. This is not your typical glamping experience.
We headed back out onto our deck for dinner and more wine. Our elephant companions were ready for their feast, too – what looked like about 200 lbs of sweet grass piled right in front of our table so we could all dine together. Our meal was served a formally set table, bedecked with twinkling lanterns. The “Bubble Butler” served our six course Italian tasting menu as the sun slowly set; he then turned on our jacuzzi, delivered a little extra sweet treat for dessert, and left us to enjoy our privacy.
Our elephants (yes, they’re ours now, we are family and they are definitely somehow coming home with us on the airplane) were down to hang – we sat on the deck and enjoyed the last of our wine while they continued to munch the last of their sweet grasses. We were ready to head inside and get ready for bed. My husband is our family tech guru, and he had brought a small projector which we shone onto one of the internal doors to watch a family film together before bed. After washing up, we turned out the lights and did a quick scan around us – yup, our sister elephants were still outside, guarding our bubble from anyone who might approach. We were honestly almost too excited to sleep but we had been up so early enjoying all the resort had to offer that we drifted off starting at the moon overhead. Our teenage son enjoyed a private soak in the jacuzzi before FaceTiming his friends at home from his bubble to (I can only assume) brag about having the coolest and best parents ever.
We were awakened the next morning by an “elephant alarm clock” – meaning they were up and trumpeting to let us know they were ready for another meal, lol! After a quick cup of coffee on the deck, it was time to head to the elephant education center for breakfast and a shower. Oh – did you think I meant WE were having breakfast and a shower? NOPE!
Elephant meatballs, in case you were curious, are made by mixing together mashed banana, nut flour, course salt flakes and sticky rice. We formed them into bite sized morsels (elephant bites, not human) and fed our new besties their breakfast, with a tamarin chaser for dessert. We then escorted the ladies to their outdoor shower where we had the true privilege of washing them each down from top to tail.
It was hard to say goodbye, and even sitting here typing this it’s hard to process that we actually were privileged enough to have this incredible experience.
Have questions about how to get into your own Jungle Bubble? Email me – firstname.lastname@example.org
*An essential note on ethical travel practices: Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp is a veterinary facility with (currently) 17 rescue elephants on site. Some of these (such as Bo) were found in deplorable conditions, begging on behalf of unscrupulous “owners” on the city streets of Bangkok where they were chained, underfed and forced to carry tourists on their backs all day long. Their feet burned on the hot city streets and their sensitive ears rang with noise too loud for comfort. They now live on 160 acres of open jungle land next to a river where they freely play and bathe one another. The camp has a very strict NO riding rule, and the elephants are rotated in and out of tourist interaction on a daily basis so they have plenty of time to rest. The Vet center is top rated, and in fact recently published a first of its kind study demonstrating that elephants are one of only 7 species in the world who can recognize themselves in a looking glass, and understand the concept of a mirror image. In short, it’s a top rated sanctuary and research center and we would never recommend visiting wildlife anyplace that engages in questionable treatment.
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