By Colleen Isherwood
I have been glamping before and I was not impressed, mainly because the washroom facilities were a fair hike from the tent.
But glamping in the Thai rainforest at Elephant Hills camp in Southern Thailand was easy to take since there was a shower, western-style toilet and sink and in-room coffee and tea. There was even a hair dryer and — sometimes temperamental — Wi-Fi. King-size beds with triple sheeting, mirrors and a fan helped make this luxury camping, indeed.
The camp is an hour-long drive down Highway 401, Thailand’s jungle highway leading westward from Surat Thani airport.
The camp was remote and moderately rustic, but one of the first things I learned is that the rainforest is not quiet. The cicadas that provide a gentle hum that is the background of our Canadian summer, are amplified in the Thai jungle. One reason is that they’re bigger. Joining the symphony are birds and monkeys calling to each other.
Our first activity was the elephant camp, where we washed the elephants — think of a car wash but with tall, living, moving mammals. The elephants were placid and seemed to enjoy being scrubbed and hosed down.
Back at camp that night, we watched six local girls aged seven to 11 dressed in traditional costumes perform Thai dances, laughing and smiling as the youngest dropped her coconut shell during the final number. We also learned how to make pad Thai.
Rain was inevitable — it is a rainforest and we were there at the start of the rainy season. That night, the skies opened. We lay snug in our bed as the monsoon poured down, listening to the pounding on the corrugated tin roof overtop of our tent. It seemed to quiet the insects, birds and animals who resumed their serenade once the rain had stopped.
We changed location the next morning, taking an open-air school bus to the Ratchaprapha Dam in Khao Sok national park, then travelled by Thai long tail boat to a floating tent camp.
Once again, we glamped. This time, the tent didn’t have a hair dryer, in-room coffee and tea or Wi-Fi and the camp was on a floating platform and powered by solar, but otherwise the setup was similar to the jungle camp.
We kept hearing gibbons calling to each other in a strange whooping noise, and the next day on a kayaking trip we actually saw the no-tailed monkeys, dangling from trees.
Not terribly hard to take.