A short ride on a jeep brought us along the dirt road. It was just after 5pm in Chiang Rai. The weather was cool, with sunlight seeping between the haze and clouds. We arrived at our destination soon enough. Hiding behind walls of bamboo was lush greenery of the paddy field. We walked through, stepping on stones that led further inside to the big bubblelike structure perched on a raised platform. Right next to it is an enclosure where three elephants roamed.
A walkway leading to the Jungle Bubble. (Photos by Jetjaras Na Ranong)
Spending a night next to these gentle giants and gazing at stars sounds like something straight out of a novel for an urban dweller. Having the chance to experience this recently at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort was very exciting. The sophisticated Jungle Bubble is one of the latest additions to the strong line-up of experiences available at the resort. It promises a dusk-to-dawn stay next to the resort's rescued elephants where we can observe them playing, eating, socialising, or taking a dip in a small pond. Just elephants being elephants.
The elephants enjoyed themselves in and around the pond.
Dah, Pumpui and Pluem were the three elephants that kept us company that evening. Laddawan Yonthantham, the resort's elephant camp manager, explained how the elephants were paired together. Some of the elephants have experienced trauma in the past, and some are afraid to be alone. The staff eventually brought in those that are friendly with one another and had several test runs with their mahouts present, making sure the elephants will be fine together unsupervised within the enclosure for an entire night. This is for the safety of both guests and elephants.
Two bubbles are available.
The 450m² enclosure is lined with low-voltage electric fences. A walkway separates the elephants' space and the human's bubbles. Walking onto the raised platform, the bubble's spacious deck offered a nice view of the enclosure. There was a dinner basket waiting for us too, which was included in the experience.
Low-voltage electric fences line the enclosure. It is safe for elephants.
Standing outside the cozy bubble, it felt like I was looking at a supersized snow globe. There were two lounge chairs and a bed inside, so we could ideally look at the elephants as we have coffee or just before and after we go to sleep.
The bubble itself was strange to touch as I initially expected a harder surface. Being constructed with high-tech polyester fabric, I felt as though I was touching an inflatable castle which, in a sense, this place is sort of a habitable version.
The staff began showing me inside my bubble, which is named Pumpui after one of the elephants. Going inside, you pass through double doors. The interior is pressurised so the bubble stays erect and clear. I was warned not to open both doors at the same time or the bubble could potentially collapse.
Inside, the staff introduced me to different features inside the room, which came equipped with basic amenities one would expect from a nice hotel room. There was even a space heater for cold evenings in the North, though I wondered if we'd really need it.
And, there was also one little addition.
Cold cuts with Chiang Rai goat cheese.
"This is our emergency exit," said the staff, showing us a big zipper hidden near the lounge chair. In case of emergency, we can escape through the zipper. This will also alert the resort's staff who will then come to the rescue.
There is an en suite bathroom in the non-transparent section of the bubble. I found the shower space to be pretty tight, even for someone considerably slim like me. It's probably better and more convenient to just go back to the room and have a good soak in that spacious bath tub.
Jetjaras Na Ranong
We later went outside to enjoy that dinner hamper. It was a surprise to see all the biodegradable containers and cutlery inside as the resort is trying to forego plastics as much as they could. Our basket came with a scrumptious meal, with cold cuts and Chiang Rai goat cheese that we enjoyed immensely. The desserts were great as well.
As we nibbled on our food, the elephants were enjoying themselves too. They were walking around the enclosure and eating. One scratched its butt by rubbing against another elephant's back. Another came right next to the fence and extended its trunk to pull out a decorative plant near the raised platform. It looked proud and playful doing so, and we couldn't help but laugh. Getting to see these elephants in their natural element and habitat for an extended period of time is pretty rare.
The Jungle Bubble's entrance is on the left, while the en suite bathroom is in the non-transparent section to the right.
Afterward, the staff cleared off our table. And then we were left alone with Dah, Pumpui and Pluem. The mahouts left plenty of food for them and returned to their nearby village.
Going inside the bubble as night fell, the clear dome became quite reflective with all the lights inside turned on, resulting in the view outside becoming hazy. It worked better to turn off all the lights. The acoustics inside the bubble felt a little strange at first, but we quickly adjusted.
Staying in the bubble, one concern I had was privacy, but it did feel secluded, safe and peaceful out there.
The experience comes with a dinner basket, with a choice of Italian or Thai menu.
That night, there weren't many stars. Instead, I got a nice view of floating lanterns like balls of bright orange that flew up from afar. It was a gorgeous sight. Let's hope they didn't fall inside the forest or on someone's roof afterward.
By that time, the three elephants were huddling together under the tree and slept in a group. One was lying down on its side, while the other two stood with their eyes closed. Once in a while, they got up to get some food and went to sleep.
At 11.30pm, the temperature dropped to 19 degrees Celsius. The space heater I initially scoffed at in the afternoon suddenly became very useful inside the cold bubble. Sleeping on that tall bed was comfortable.
The morning came almost too soon. I woke up to a slightly fogged up bubble, perhaps due to the heater. The sky — a shade of lilac and blue — began to brighten after 6am. Having a cup of coffee there was certainly a great start to the day. I appreciate the choice of Thai arabica coffee grown in the North inside biodegradable capsules that were provided inside the bubble. Having a local flavour in an eco-friendly package was a nice touch.
The staff came by to pick us up in the same jeep, culminating our Jungle Bubble experience. We bid Dah, Pumpui and Pluem farewell, hoping they too had an enjoyable evening just as we did.
- Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort is about one hour from Mae Fah Luang — Chiang Rai International Airport. It is located in the Golden Triangle area near the borders of Laos and Myanmar.
- The Jungle Bubble is an add-on experience and doesn't replace hotel accommodations. It has to be purchased as an overnight activity and is available for resort guests only.
- The experience starts from 17,700 baht per couple. The Jungle Bubble comes with a fully-stocked mini bar, 24-hour in-room dining service, plus tea and coffee-making facilities. One dinner basket is included, with a choice of either Italian or Thai set menu. Vegetarian options are also available.
- In addition to the Jungle Bubble, Anantara Golden Triangle also offers many other experiences, such as dining within the mahout village and rice paddy, outdoor spa, elephant sunset trekking, and more.
- For package deals and offers, visit anantara.com.