With Thailand on one side of the river, Myanmar [formerly Burma] on the other and the mountains of Laos looming in the distance, I feel a sense of excitement that I haven’t felt in some time knowing I'm experiencing one of the world’s truly unique locations.
We arrive at a jetty and climb a set of narrow stairs where we are each encouraged to hit a gong three times for health, wealth and luck.
Ebullient camp manager Tobias Emmer, formerly of Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, warmly greets us and we sit down in the camp’s main restaurant, Nong Yao, for a sumptuous Thai lunch.
The décor features a 19th century safari-adventure theme with its open-air, thatched-roof pavilion, rustic floorboards and customised handcrafted touches.
The lunch dishes are created with seasonal, fresh ingredients sourced locally where possible and we share vegetable spring rolls, grilled tiger prawns and a pomelo Thai salad. For a main, I opt for steamed fish with chili and lime sauce and a signature lemongrass martini, which, Emmer informs me, you can’t leave the premises without trying. It doesn’t disappoint.
The camp is all-inclusive, so all meals and beverages, including house wines and spirits, are included in the tariff so if you fancy a martini at lunch, the staff will whip one up.
After lunch, the camp’s vintage Land Rover is on hand to transport fellow guests to their tents, while I am told mine is only a five-minute walk away.
There are a total of 15 luxury tents – superior and deluxe - at the resort positioned throughout the 200-acre property, each with a different theme and colour scheme.
There’s also a secluded two-bedroom Explorer’s Lodge, which has a private swimming pool.
I follow a paved path through the lush jungle setting and over a suspension bridge.
There’s no denying, the idea of staying in a luxurious safari-style tent in an exotic location under the stars is a romantic one but my deluxe Birdwatcher tent truly exceeds expectations.
Designed by prolific Bangkok-based architect and landscape designer Bill Bensley - renowned for designing resorts with minimal impact on the environment – my elevated jungle abode was inspired by top-tier safari lodges in Africa and Thailand’s hill-tribe villages.
There are hardwood timber floorboards, lanterns for pendant lights, brass basins, a king-sized bed, my dream writing desk and handcrafted furniture.
The piece de resistance, though, is the freestanding copper bathtub in the centre of the room.
On the right, there’s a separate toilet and an outside dual-head rain shower looking out over the grasslands.
I pour a glass of Champagne, walk out onto my private balcony and slip into the timber hot tub, taking a moment to admire the view of the grasslands and native wildlife.
The camp works closely with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which rescues overworked elephants from city streets and rehabilitates them, and I spy one of the four-legged residents taking a stroll through the trees below.
Sundowners are enjoyed at the Burma Bar, where fellow guests are also enjoying the hospitality and view. When the sun disappears behind the mountains, we enjoy a three-course private dinner and classical Thai music under a plethora of lanterns and baskets woven with fairy lights.
We end our perfect evening by releasing khom loy lanterns into the night sky and making a wish, although, in this moment, I already feel exceptionally lucky.
The following day after a leisurely breakfast, we spend time with the rescue elephants learning how to ethically interact with these magnificent creatures including Yuki, who spent years performing in Thailand’s crowded tourist strips like Pattaya before being rescued and brought to the camp.
Returning to my luxurious tent after each activity, meal or dip in the main pool is always a highlight as is a visit to the spa, which comprises of two isolated open-air salas looking out over the bamboo forest.
There’s no music during the treatment to allow you to really reconnect with nature and listen to the sweet songs provided by the native birds.
My therapist Yommi gives me the best treatment I’ve had in Thailand, the 90-minute Ruak Bamboo, a full-body massage using a combination of local herbal oils of lemongrass, ginger and natural bamboo sticks to alleviate muscle tension.
Walking back to my tent to pack, I think about the experiences I’ve had and how this property is so much more about creating memories than just being a luxurious place to sleep – a must for today’s discerning travellers who are seeking out imaginative hotel concepts.
“Today’s luxury traveller wants to experience hidden gems,” Emmer tells me.
“We cater to foodies, glampers, adventurers, hikers and bikers, animal lovers, culture seekers...all topped up with the Four Seasons’ world-famous service.”
I have to say, the connected, intuitive and committed service Emmer and his team provide is impressive and I leave feeling unreservedly pampered.
In this fast-paced, digitally connected world, this natural oasis is an idyllic place to slow down, relax, enjoy some truly unique immersive experiences and an obligatory lemongrass martini – or two.
We flew from Sydney to Bangkok with Thai Airways business class, which offered flawless service and comfort. From there, we flew to Koh Samui for a few days of rest and relaxation and then to Chiang Mai with Bangkok Airways.