Gazing out at the lush tropical scenery of Northern Thailand—first during a car ride to the Golden Triangle, then from a wooden boat that ferries guests to the hotel—it doesn't take long for "civilization" to feel very far away. Though undoubtedly luxurious, and only as active as you want it to be, a stay here still manages to feel exotic and adventurous. The on-site mahout (elephant-training) school, finds many guests adding "unique" and "unforgettable" to their list of superlatives following a stay here. Many hotels offer instructive classes or up-close cultural experiences, but how many allow you to interact with elephants using vocal and hand commands, climb aboard them bareback, ride through the jungle, and then bathe them in a natural pool? The friendly pachyderms also come around the restaurant during breakfast, and visits to a nearby sanctuary can be arranged. Open-air Thai massages, sundowner drinks overlooking the river, lazy boat rides, and trips to the museums, temples, and hill tribes of the region round out the worth-the-splurge experience.
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