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Go Local with Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle

Recommendations of must-visit cultural, culinary and special venues for a memorable holiday

Golden Triangle, Thailand

Located at the confluence of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, the Golden Triangle has for long been one of the most mysterious destinations in Northern Thailand. Populated with ethnic hill-tribes from all three regions, the landscape is highlighted by lush tropical jungles, scenic hillsides, waterfalls and cottage-industry plantations including tea and seasonal produce.

“You never feel the urge to rush anywhere,” smiles Tobias Emmer, Camp Manager, Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle. One of the best ways to experience the beauty of the countryside is by road – a trip that is often recommended by Four Seasons. “The road trip from Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai to the Camp is delightful,” shares Tobias, who often takes this route, “The scenic ghat roads offer relaxing pit-stops along the way where you can enjoy a cup of tea with a snack overlooking the lush countryside.”

Local to the region, the Camp Guides are experts on the trails and treasures of Northern Thailand – especially around Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle. They list some of their favourite destinations to earmark for the next getaway here.

Dine Like a Local

Although khao soi can be found in Bangkok and other places in Thailand, it is a Northern staple and especially famous in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and Nan. But where is the original flavour of khao soi? “I would recommend Por Jai Restaurant – an old restaurant in Chiang Rai city, which has been around for more than 30 years,” shares Camp Chef Pisan Torphet who has tried to re-create the authentic "soup which is not greasy" at Nong Yao restaurant.

Another authentic dining experience, Pisan recommends Aom Kitchen. “The food is amazing and every dish is a delight to the palate. If you want to dine like a local, make sure to save some rooms for their delicious fried calamari,” he adds.

Crafts, Coffee and More

Meaning “red clay hill,” the forest studio of Doi Din Daeng Studio houses some of the region’s most skilled potters as they work the native red clay into some impressive works of art. “Look for some original ceramic designs and perhaps a souvenir or two,” shares Tobias. The studio also has a quaint open-air cafe that serves up delightful coffees and cakes hidden behind the showroom. “Coffee is not the highlight here, but you still won’t believe how good it is,” he adds.

Doi Tung Cottage Industries Centre makes it possible for local communities to thrive independently. Here, guests can artisans make pottery, weave cotton carpets and bags, create paper out of mulberry tree bark and roast locally-grown coffee beans. “Proceed to Doi Tung Royal Villa, an enduring symbol of the Princess Mother’s commitment to Chiang Rai,” shares Naipaporn Panlamoke, Assistant Camp Manager. She recommends to stroll through the adjacent Mae Fah Luang Garden, a horticultural masterpiece with more than 70 species of cool-climate flowers flourishing alongside native plants and trees. “Don’t forget to stroll along a 30-metre (90-foot) high Tree Top Walk, bordered by lush treetops and exceptional views!” she smiles.

A Golden Clocktower

Take a walk from the night market to be rewarded with a spectacularly-lit focal point. On Banphaprakarn Road, there is a magnificent golden clocktower that stands in the middle of a roundabout, flanked either side by impressive gilded street lights that line the street. Designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Khositpipat, Hoh Nalika Chalerm Prakiat – as it is called – was unveiled in 2008 in honour of the late King Bhumibol and is a tourist attraction in its own right. “This beautiful clock is worth seeing by day and by night as it lights up. What’s more, there are some great cafes nearby for a pit-stop,” shares Naipaporn.

Pay Respect to the Buddha at Wat Phra Kaew, Chiang Rai

Originally called Wat Pa Yia (bamboo forest monastery) in the local dialect, this is the city’s most revered Buddhist temple. The octagonal chedi (or stupa) behind the main prayer hall dates back to late 14th century and is in typical Lanna style. The adjacent two-story teak building is a museum housing various Lanna artefacts. “The complex is quite compact with some lovely Buddhas in temples and in a small museum. It's not just the serenity of the main shrine, but the area around it,” shares Tobias.

Of Forests and Hilltribes

Although Phu Chi Fa refers to the mountainous region in this area, the name has become synonymous with a massive, 1,628 metre (5,341 feet) tall cliff that overlooks the surrounding mountains and hills. “Experience breath-taking cliff-top vista. The view is perhaps most famous for its stunning sunrises across Laos,” recommends Tobias.

On another route, witness the unique way of life in a traditional Chinese village, whose residents have lived here for generations in the mountains of Northern Thailand. “This Mandarin-speaking community has preserved its customs over centuries, and their special high-mountain oolong tea is perfectly suited to this high altitude and especially famous,” shares Napiaporn, “Your guide will reveal the fascinating political history of the region as you drive through the gorgeous mountain scenery that gives this area its other name – Little Switzerland.”

With a fascinating landscape and rich cultural heritage, Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle await to be discovered by adventurers who would like to go off the beaten track and explore new vistas.