Nestled in the lush jungle, just 50 meters across a suspended bridge from the road, you will find an oasis like no other. Only one hour out of Chiang Mai, you will find the affordable family friendly Eco Resort, Chia Lai Orchid. But this is far more than just a resort, there is a story that needs to be told as well. After the review, we will share the story. We can all help make a difference.
The Chai Lai Orchid Nature Bungalows
Chai Lai Orchid is best described by combining, nature, animals, service, responsible tourism, with adventure and luxury. This is an ideal place to unwind, unplug and just enjoy yourself.
The Chai Lai Orchid is more than an eco resort, they are a social business that works to serve the local community by providing educational and employment opportunities. They provide educational and paid vocational training opportunities to at-risk girls and young mothers. When you stay here, you are not only part of a nature and eco resort, you are also an active part in helping women better their lives. You are part of the training program and directly influence the welfare and livelihood of many people.
When you arrive you can feel the genuine care and it’s like you are part of a family. A couple of the girls have been part of the program for more than a year and speak English very well. It was so special to speak with them and learn how this training program has impacted their lives. We just loved the top-notch service we received and the lush surroundings really iced the cake.
The rooms are a splash of luxury with the most comfortable beds we have found in Thailand. Our room came with a king bed and 2 twin beds, all with their own mosquito nets.
We also had an attached bathroom, complete with toiletries and handmade soap, as well as a beautiful natural stone shower.
While our room came with Air Conditioning, we found we enjoyed having all of the screened windows open to hear the sounds of the jungle.
It was like we were in our own private tree house in the jungle, but all wrapped up in luxury linens with a soft pillow. As we would tuck into the crispy clean sheets, we could hear the sounds of the Mae Wang River flowing over the rocky bed just 30 feet below. The wind would make the many trees slightly sing and dance, while the frogs and crickets provided a hypnotic rhythm. It was wonderful to be so in touch with nature. On occasion, we could even hear the elephants saying good night to each other.
We also had an enormous deck off of our bungalow, which over looked the river as well as the elephant trekking path. It was really an additional living space. We found it was a perfect spot to hang out, play cards and enjoy our surroundings. Every once in a while the elephants would walk by and it was tough for us to see that. After visiting the Elephant Nature Park, we have a different perspective on their treatment. More on how Alexa is trying to help below.
The Chai Lai Orchid Nature Bungalows are surrounded by the lush bamboo forest, but it is also surrounded by an elephant trekking camp. At any time during the day, you will see the elephants working or at times bathing in the river.
Alexa does her best to help the elephants get a break from their job and often hires the elephants to just come play in the river. She has a goal to raise enough money to buy the elephant camp for 1 full year and show the owner how responsible tourism may be better for his business as well as the elephants. With the goal in mind to stop the Elephant Trekking in his camp. This is a great time for them to play and for you to bathe them. Nothing but pure joy comes from this activity and you can feed the elephants as well.
It is so peaceful and calm all around the resort. Each bungalow is uniquely designed and blends in well with the surroundings.
There are lighted walk ways built for you to find your way around the resort. This is very handy and saves you from having to walk up and down hills or in the mud. The bungalows also have a front porch and a back deck. The decks overlook the river and also provide you access down to the path below.
The Amenities & Activities
The Chai Lai Orchid has a wonderful restaurant overlooking the river and they provide outstanding service. Really, I have many years of hotel management experience under my belt and I always find something that can be fixed. I have nothing but compliments about the food, service or surroundings.
This resort does offer Wi-Fi, but it is limited to the restaurant area. Their food is very fresh and made to order, but is a bit pricey for Thailand (about $3-$6 for an entree). This is understandable as you are a bit remote and it is much less than it would be in the US. I absolutely loved the Asian Chicken Salad and Alan and Anya loved the Cashew Chicken.
As soon as you arrive, you are greeted with fresh coconut juice and the tour book offerings. They allow you time to get settled and figure out your plans for your stay. I highly recommend booking one of their many tours. You can have a full day of trekking to waterfalls, hill tribes, elephants, rafting and more. We took advantage of the bamboo rafting excursion as well as the free inner tubing on the river. We highly recommend them both. We even had a chance to take out some kayaks.
In their reception area, they display hand weaved scarves made by two different local hill tribes, each with a distinctive pattern. They can arrange for you to learn how to weave with the hill tribes. It really is amazing to see all of the nature and culture, not only surrounding the resort, but infused with the training staff members.
We were thrilled to be part of the English lessons for some of the staff members and that really touched our hearts. These ladies are so eager to learn English, that they kept asking for more. I even taught them the “head and shoulders, knees and toes” song. They laughed and learned.
I would say this this eco resort is a must do for at least 2 nights, when you are in Chiang Mai. I would recommend longer, but of course that depends on your travel plans. We originally booked one night, but after just 2 hours, we knew we needed more time there. We extended another night and really wished would could have stayed a third. Unfortunately, it was time for us to renew our visa, so we couldn’t stay a third night. That said, we are in Chiang Mai for 2 more months, so we hope to return for another visit.
This is what real rural Northern Thailand is all about. Amy, the local 10 year old braided Anya’s hair. It was adorable.
Human trafficking does still exist today and Alexa is doing her best to educate and do as much as she can to change that situation. Alexa is the co-founder of the NPO Daughters Rising. She and her organization have already done so much to raise awareness and continue to help educate and spread the word.
A few years ago, she witnessed first hand the failed sale of a young girl, as the family needed money. She is truly amazing and is an advocate for these at risk people. She believes that through education and training, they will have alternative solutions to their problems. She hasn’t had a day off in over a year and a half, ensuring she is available for her program.
You can visit Daughters Rising to learn more, Donate Now or see how you can help. Please do mention that Wagoners Abroad sent you.
The Chai Lai Orchid is completely staffed by girls and young mothers at risk for human trafficking and she is providing them a full training program to enrich their lives. All of the staff come from the local underprivileged hill tribe/refugee community and receive paid on-the-job hospitality training through their social programs.
Video – Chai Lai Orchid Nature Bungalows and Eco Resort
Feel free to also check out our Family Friendly Guide to Chiang Mai