Encounters Spring 2013
From the blue waters of the Maldives to the natural bounties of Mozambique, SCMP's regional travel magazine, Encounters, takes readers on rich journeys that are up-close and personal.
Seven wonders of the world
Elephants in Chiang Rai were the highlight of a fantasy journey from LA to London, write Tori Whitely and Kavita Daswani
At the crack of dawn on our first morning in Thailand, we caught just a glimmer of sunlight outside our tent, and ventured out to the deck to have a look. We were surrounded by lush trees, green grass, the air humid and still. My 13-year old daughter, Talon, turned to me and said: "Wouldn't it be cool if an elephant walked by"? Not a minute later, one did. That afternoon, we rode elephants, and fed them bananas and cucumbers by the bucket.
Elephant riding is the top attraction at the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai. We were more than halfway into a three-week, around-the-world trip. The resort is secluded, out in the middle of the jungle, but the tents are just exquisite.
Talon and I were among 78 passengers flying by private jet from Los Angeles to London, with seven stops in between, organised by TCS & Starquest Expeditions with the Four Seasons hotel group. My boss and his wife were supposed to go but couldn't make it, and generously gifted their tickets to us.
In Kona, Hawaii, a helicopter tour of the Volcanoes National Park allowed us to get a glimpse of the smouldering craters beneath us. In Bora Bora, French Polynesia, the waters are crystal clear. We swam with manta rays, which are gentle, curious creatures, and black-tipped reef sharks. During a behind-the-scenes tour at the Sydney Opera House, we stood where Ella Fitzgerald and Luciano Pavarotti once stood. We had a quiet morning making batik in Bali, and had the option to meet with the now-famous healer from Eat Pray Love.
After Chiang Rai, we stopped in Agra and Mumbai, where we loved the sense of history, the architecture, Gandhi's home and the ancient basalt rock carvings at the Elephant Caves. A Christmas market near our hotel in Budapest has wooden pavilions selling mulled wine from huge barrels, roasted chestnuts and Hungarian pastries.
Travel can be riddled with problems. But being part of a customised trip like this, everything felt seamless. We walked off the plane, on to a waiting bus, and our luggage had magically arrived in the hotel room. The attention to detail is mind-boggling. Now that I've travelled like this, it will be hard to go back to anything else.
The Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle resort is set in a secluded area. Photo: Krause, Johansen
Private jet travel companies
TCS & Starquest Expeditions
Tel: + 1 206 254 0228
Tel: + (800) 876 3131
Private Jet Services Group - New Hampshire
Tel: + (800) 245 9390
Tel +1 617 328 5387
Where to stay
Four Seasons Maui
Tel + 1 (800) 874 8000
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai
Tel: + 66 53 910 200
Singita Lebombo Lodge, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Tel: + 27 21 683 3424
Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa
Tel: + 27 21 430 3200,