Club Sanook Newsletter - April 08

 

April/May 2008

Myanmar Redux Again

Myanmar seems to get a lot of space in this newsletter. This time a terrible typhoon has caused death and destruction on a massive scale and the junta there is doing its best to keep relief and relief workers away. We finally heard from our people in Yangon and fortunately they are OK. They report that the mess in Yangon is still being cleaned up but that there is no damage at all in Bagan, Mandlay or Inle Lake since most of the destruction was confined to an area where foreigners seldom (or may not be allowed to) visit. Flights are operating normally and hotels are largely unaffected.

One concern is that the government will use relief supplies and gifts for their own purposes. We are told that the Rotary Club of Germany is coordinating financial gifts and will control the way the money is put to work in Myanmar. Surely there will be others organizations that take the same approach. Todd, our new office staff (see below), is accepting donations of clothing and money until the end of May. You may drop either at our office if you happen to be in Bangkok. These will be transported by his former employer there, a company which we trust to do so honestly.

We had guests in the country during the storm and look forward to hearing their tales.  Regardless of this latest disaster we hope you will still consider visiting Myanmar. It is a wonderful place full of wonderful people who need tourism more now than ever.

Ninety-Three New Temples Discovered Near Angkor Wat

OK.  So our headline editor got carried away. There are no "new" temples in Angkor Wat, of course. But we recently "discovered" an unbelievable group of temples that could be reached only by helicopter or four-wheel-drive vehicles until recently. A new road has made it possible to visit Koh Ker, and the 92 other temple sites that surround it and we wanted to see it for ourselves, so we journeyed there over the long Songkran (the wet and wild Thai New Year festival) weekend.

Koh Ker is the only pyramid-shaped temple yet to be discovered in the Khmer Empire. It bears a striking resemblance to Borobudur in Indonesia and the Mayan Pyramid of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza, Mexico, which prompts some to speculate that all of these were actually constructed by visitors from another planet who operated a control tower for space vehicles at Machu Pichu. But that is another story.

Once hidden in the forest, Koh Ker was capital of the Khmer Empire for a time, so there was building on a massive scale. Smaller temples are scattered throughout the area and we stopped to see quite a few, including two that enclosed massive lingas and friezes with Sanskrit text that looked like they had been carved only yesterday. But Koh Ker itself was the most breathtaking of all. Its seven tiers are taller than Angkor Wat. We were told that there is a massive garuda carving and many Sanskrit inscriptions near the top, although we were not brave enough to climb the rickety wooden steps. Equally impressive is a compound of smaller libraries and sanctuaries connected by a causeway built with immense undulating nagas on either side.  Perhaps the best part was that we saw only one other foreign visitor the entire day. 

We enjoyed visiting this impressive site so much that our new Ultimate Angkor program is already available on our website. In addition to the traditionally-visited monuments such Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and the Bayon, you will be able to visit Banteay Srei, and magnificent Phnom Kulen, with its amazing carved stone stream-beds as well as Koh Ker and Beng Melea Temple, which we think is the most fabulous of them all. It was the year-old road to Beng Melea that was extended to Koh Ker, which now makes it possible to visit both on the same day.

If you have been to Angkor with Purple Dragon in the past and want to return using our basic Essential Angkor program, we will gladly make special arrangements to substitute one day of Angkor sightseeing with a trip to Koh Ker and Beng Melea. Ask us for details.

Green Season Member Goodies

Save Money on High Season Travel, But Hurry! Plan to come our way between October and March? Our annual Plan Ahead Discount makes it possible to save 5% to 10%. More information is available on the Club Sanook website, or contact us for details. Time is running out, but you do not have to make all of your travel decisions immediately.

We have always thought that April through September is one of the best times to visit our part of the world. Crowds have disappeared, prices are lower, and the weather is nicer than you think. This year we have a new crop of discounts and special offers for Green Season visitors in addition to our all-year offers. Here is a sampling:

The Chedi, Chiang Mai: Members who book any of our Chiang Mai packages and stay at the Chedi Chiang Mai from April through September 2008 get one free night for every two paid nights. Breakfast is compulsory and not included.

D2, Chiang Mai: This trendy new hotel in in Chiang Mai's Night Market offers Club Sanook Members one free night when you stay two nights using either of our Chiang Mai packages from March through October. Breakfast is compulsory and not included.

Hôtel de la Paix, Siem Reap: Only ten minutes from Angkor Wat and three minutes walk from Siem Reap's Old Market nightlife is the glittering Hôtel de la Paix, where you will find lush comfort, a spa and the most remarkable tree you have ever seen. Take Purple Dragon's Essential Angkor or Angkor Adventure during April through September 2008 and get one extra night free.

Lana Mantra, Chiang Mai: Enjoy any Purple Dragon Chiang Mai package, stay for three or more nights and the 4th night is free! Lana Mantra combines traditional Northern ambiance with modern luxuries well away from the city's traffic jams.

Le Paradis, Koh Samui: You will love this delicious new boutique hotel and spa located right on Chaweng Beach. Members who stay four nights using Purple Dragon's Samui package get one extra night free, including breakfast. Other goodies include a fruit basket, daily afternoon tea, complimentary WiFi, free early check-in and late check-out (subject to availability) and discounts in the restaurant and spa. This special offer for Members is available now through 14 July as well as September and October 2008 and applies to all room types. Members will also get a 2,000 baht voucher to use at Emerald Men's Spa, a gay-owned day spa for men only.

Siam Heritage Hotel and Siam@Siam Hotels in Bangkok: Special discounts for Club Sanook Members who book Purple Dragon packages and stay at either before the end of September 2008. Discounts range from $60 to $124. We can not publish these special prices so please ask us for details.

The Sukhothai, Bangkok: Club Sanook Members who book any of Purple Dragon's Bangkok packages and stay three or more nights at the Sukhothai Hotel between 1 April and 30 September 2008 get a free upgrade to an Executive Suite (subject to availability, of course) and complimentary use of fitness center.

You can save a lot of money on luxury hotels in India this time of year. Oberoi Hotels, owners of some of the best hotels in the world, offer us a series of special deals during low season. Contact us for details.

You can read more on our Member Specials page. We are adding new specials regularly.

Disease du Jour: A Quick Fix for Operatic Slumber

One of the biggest causes of domestic discontent is snoring. A partner who sounds like a chainsaw all night is something you never quite get used to. Sleep apnea, which is associated with snoring, is also a potentially dangerous health condition.

Snoring is caused when soft tissue in the palate and throat "flap in the breeze" during sleep. Older and overweight people are more likely to snore than younger, leaner people. Traditionally, the only solution to snoring has been surgery. While surgery may be the best option for some people, new non-surgical solutions make it fast, inexpensive and painless to turn off that midnight buzz-saw.

While "radio frequency surgery" might sound like something from a fifties sci-fi movie, it is a reality today and the success rate for treating snoring disorders is between 75% and 85%.  The instruments used for this "surgery" produce highly focused heat impulses that shrink the excess tissue that is obstructing airways.  No incisions are involved and only a local anesthetic is required. Appointments take less than an hour, with the procedure itself lasting only a few minutes. Best of all, the cost of this procedure in Thailand is a fraction of what you would expect to pay in the UK, Europe or North America.  And it only takes a few hours away from your wonderful holiday time.

If you are someone who snores, one of the greatest gifts you can give your sleep-deprived boo is not a pair of ear plugs, but a final end to your all-night concerts. If you or a friend are a candidate for this solution, please contact us and we will give you more details. Eventually this information will also appear on the Purple Dragon website.

Moments of Fame in Out Traveler

Purple Dragon is enjoying its three minutes of fame two months in a row in Out Traveler, one of the best gay travel magazines you will find anywhere. First, the magazine asked us to plan a Cambodia adventure for gay actor Alex Mapa. Alex was quite a character and his delightful story about experiencing a journey through Cambodia was a one of the best travel stories we have read in quite a while.

In the Fall issue, Out Traveler includes our Beijing trip to the "Wild Wall" as one of their Ten Adventures of a Lifetime. Our copy is still on the slow boat but several of our Members have congratulated us by email.  You can read more on the magazine's website: www.outtraveler.com. Why not subscribe while you are at it?

We also understand Purple Dragon will appear in upcoming stories about Thailand and Laos in the Toronto Star written by lesbian travel journalist Julia Steinecke.

Phuket Pride Takes a Year Off

About this time last year we were telling you all about Phuket Pride 2007, which was bigger and more fabulous than ever before. Success often spells disaster for events produced by volunteers, however. Thai people have a very long word for those who slow a boat by dangling their legs over the side while others are rowing, and there appear to be leg-danglers in Phuket. Those who contribute the least often expect the most and complain the loudest. So the good people who have put their hearts and souls into making Phuket Pride such a great success are (temporarily, we hope) taking a break from their positions as moving targets. While it seems that the complainers have been justly deprived of something to bitch about, all of us share the loss of a fun, community-building series of annual events.

New on Purple Dragon's Website

Todd is the latest addition to our office staff. Not only is Todd a licensed tour guide, but he has an unusually impressive travel background that includes personal trips throughout Southeast Asia as well as Europe and South Africa. Todd lived and worked for two years in Myanmar so he is our new in-house Burma expert.  

Laos. We think Laos is one of the best places to go for anyone who loves natural beauty, spicy food, spicy people, and travel that is just a little bit off the beaten path. We just added a series of new day trips to our Luang Prabang packages. We are working on the web pages for a new "Live Like a Mahout" overnight eco-lodge trip for people who just can't get enough of elephant riding, as well as an overnight driving trip between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. By summer we plan to add Pakse, in Southern Laos. Here you will be able to cruise the "Four Thousand Islands" of the Mekong River, visit an obscure but splendid Khmer temple that was built before Angkor Wat,  and see the tea and coffee plantations of the Boloven Plateau.

Also On Our Drawing Board.  We have plenty of fun new things planned for our guests. In various stages of development are "anytime" programs with private guides in Singapore and Bhutan, as well as additional destinations in India.

News for Shutter Bugs

Think you take great photos? We are happy to announce Purple Dragon's third annual photo contest. The reason for the contest is very simple. We think our customers are pretty talented, and rather than fill our website with images that capture our seven (and soon nine!) countries with the work of professional photographers, we prefer to show our destinations as our talented customers see and experience them.

We received more than 125 entries for each of the first two photo contests. You can click on either of the photos on the right to see all them all. If you think your photos are just as good, you could be a winner! Even if you have never considered entering a photo contest and have only two or three pictures you think are outstanding, we hope you will enter.  What have you got to lose? If you want contest details including rules, prizes and how to enter, all you have to do is ask! If you would like to receive information about this year's contest and how you can enter, please write us.

Photo of the Month

Speaking of photos, people send us some amazing mementos of their experiences while traveling with Purple Dragon. They are usually fun, often cute, and sometimes even breathtaking. Few, however, defy explanation, but here is one. All we can say is "only in Thailand."

A Velveeta Confession

In his current blog Douglas talks about a long distance eating disorder that includes cheesecake, corn tortillas and dill pickles. He also has some unpleasant things to say about sports competitions, the Burma Campaign (again?), tells you where to get the best Thai food in San Francisco and where to find the gayest haircut in Bangkok. [READ IT]

A New Way to Get our Newsletter

Some Club Sanook Members have told us that they prefer to receive our newsletters and postcards attached to email in pdf (Adobe Acrobat) format so they can save these pages and enjoy them off-line and send our newsletter to friends. If you want to receive your newsletter in this format please tell us.

Seeing Double?

If you received two or more emails regarding this issue of Bulletin from Bangkok, that means we have duplicate records in our Membership list. Please let Miss Fu know so that we do not clutter your In box with redundant email.
 

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