The newsletter of PurpleDragon Ltd's private travel club.
August 2018 - Our 20th Anniversary Issue!
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Twenty, and Counting
Who would have thought two decades ago that we would still be here doing what we love to do? On past anniversaries we have told you bits and pieces of our history. If you have been with us long enough you know about the joyous/perilous journey we have taken so far, and we thank you for remaining by our side. You are our greater family.
Rather than reahash history on this anniversary we have asked some of our customers to share their experiences with Purple Dragon (and Utopia Tours), and how we have impacted their lives. Here are a few samples:
Traveling with Purple Dragon has encouraged me to explore places I likely never would have gone to on my own. Having your guides and drivers to help me get around and communicate has allowed me to relax and enjoy the experiences since you take care of almost everything. And I've been able to get to some rather rural places that would have been much more challenging to do myself. Southeast Asia is now one of my favorite parts of the world.
-- Glenn A., Arlington, Virginia (Ruby Member, eight trips since 2007, and one planned in 2018)
We have done three extensive trips with Purple Dragon and each one was spectacular! From booking and the knowledge of the staff, to listening about your individual likes and dislikes, to wonderful hand-selected hotels, to fabulous and knowledgeable tour guides in each and every city, this operation is first class without breaking your pocketbook! We have consistently received great service before departure and upon our destinations. Tour guides are almost always true professionals who know their stuff about their cities, friendly and accommodating to your needs. They are there to do their jobs, not be your personal "escort", while being your personal guide throughout. We would HIGHLY recommend any Purple Dragon travel to ANY of our friends, gay or straight! The best!
--Drew S., West Palm Beach (five trips since 2012)
I loved the opportunities to visit several countries with Purple Dragon. Each was a unique and tailored experience: candle-lit Buddhist caves in Laos, early morning views from stupas in Bagan, fantastic food in Saigon, the Hindu temples of Khajuraho, India. And so much more. What made each and every trip rich in culture were the incredible guides. Purple Dragon is a precious purple jewel.
-- Barry W., Richmond BC (six trips since 2002)
If you would like to read more of these, we invite you to look here. You can share your own story with us on the same page as well. We would love to hear from you!
Matthew Loved Isaan
Our frequent traveler Matthew D. recently took a tour of Isaan with us. It's not one of our most popular destinations, but Matthew really fell in love with this unique "upcountry" part of Thailand. Here's what he had to say:
Finally, I had a good reason to tour Isaan. I have lived in Bangkok for five years, so travel within The Kingdom gets scheduled as circumstances arise. In this case, I was giving guest lectures on International Food Law at Suranaree University of Technology (Korat, Nakhon Ratchasima), but had a day-day gap in the schedule. Rather than return to Bangkok, I decided to explore Southern Isaan. Now I know five days were not long enough, and I should not have waited.
Purple Dragon created a private tour that took into account my personal interests. Wats, prasats, ruins, history, and museums; forests, waterfalls, gardens, countryside vistas; and lots of local food . . . but no shopping.
Thailand Gets Tough on Airbnb
Thailand's Supreme Court has handed down a rebuke to owners of houses and condo units offered to Airbnb customers. We know of condominium buildings where several apartments are owned by people who rent them out like hotel rooms. This has become so pervasive that rents have been driven up and some permanent tenants have been forced out of their homes. It has also created some security issues. In Douglas' building, for example short term visitors from another Asian country knocked off a very expensive jewelry store in nearby Gaysorn plaza before heading to the airport, never to be punished. And over a period of a couple weeks, someone urinated on his front door four times.
The courts gave determined that this practice is illegal under the Hotel Act of 2014. Under the law, only registered hotels can rent accommodation for periods of under 30 days, which effectively forces entire condominium buildings to become licensed as hotels for short rentals to be legal. They do not want to do that, of course, because hotels are subject to many other regulations, including taxes, health and safety issues, and more expensive insurance. Some condo buildings are posting signs warning that renting out units like a hotel is against the law. Yet, you can see the security staff ushering Chinese, Burmese, Khmer (Cambodian) and Filippino tourists upstairs in freight elevators.
The moral of the story: Visit Thailand but stay in a hotel. You'll get a nice breakfast, maid service, and a competitive price. Crack-downs after a period of time allowed for compliance are around the corner, and you probably do not want to be caught up in a police raid. We know that from painful experience.
Read more: https://bit.ly/2O0HIg8
Purple Dragon Wins an Award
Luxury Travel Magazine is one of the most impressive travel publications we have ever seen. Each issue makes a perfect "coffee table book," filled with top quality content and extraordinary photography. The magazine includes awards for quality in each issue. They recently added a LGBTQ category that recognizes the unique appetite for quality and extraordinary buying power of our market. We are elated and humbled to have been awarded their first "Asia's Best LGBT Luxury Tour Operator" award. We're blushing.
Paul & Herman Loved Sri Lanka
Paul and Herman, residents of Pittsfield, New York have traveled with us eight times beginning in 2003. They were our first official Sri Lanka guests. We named the tour they took after them!Sri Lanka was also the first country on our website to get a face lift. We hope you enjy our fresh new look, with new graphics, colors and fonts. It's faster and new pages should look much better on your mobile device.
We've traveled to most major destinations in Asia, but Sri Lanka had remained one of our blind spots. Ours was a familiarization tour, covering many of the highlights of this charming island nation.
Our guide/driver, Steven was very knowledgeable, proud of his country and fluent in English. He was eager to please, on time and happy to modify trip details based upon our interests. Our eleven days were filled with many rich experiences. We wondered why it had taken us so long to discover this place.
We toured several religious sites and temples in this predominately Buddhist nation. We visited a tea plantation and learned about sapphires, the national stone. We went on safari twice in all terrain vehicles, where we were able to see hundreds of elephants in a savannah-like setting and a myriad of other exotic wildlife. We were extremely fortunate to be able to observe a black bear and leopard on one afternoon journey.
Our guide set up visits to a spa and a night barbeque with several of his friends. Those experiences, against the historical and cultural backdrop allowed us to get much closer to the locals. Having the opportunity to eat, drink and dance there, away from city lights and in the moonlight, was one of our fondest memories.
We hope to return to Sri Lanka again in the not-too-distant future. Even though the trip was packed full of great experiences, we feel as if we've barely scratched the surface.
Our New Sri Lanka Pages and Our New Look
We recently launched the first Sri Lanka pages on the Purple Dragon website. In fact, they were the first pages on the site featuring our fresh, new design, colors and fonts. Douglas is still tinkering with some of the aesthetic elements and adding photos. If you have outstanding Sri Lanka photos that you are willing to share with us,please let me know! In the mean time, please check out Sri Lanka and our fresh new look. Just click/tap on the banner above and you can have a look for yourself. We're still doing some decorating.
Colombo celebrated its annual Pride festival in June. (Oops! We missed it, but that won't happen again!) They have had regular Pride events since 2005. Sri Lanka also has an anNual LGBT film festival.
The website "face lift" is the (hopefully) final phase of all the work that has been done to prove to Google that Purple Dragon is worthy of top ten search engine rankings. Pages are being converted one at a time. You will still some of the old pages with the yellow sidebar for a while.
20th Anniversary Offers to Members
⋆ Travel with Purple Dragon for 20+ consecutive days between September 2018 and July 2019 and you will get a voucher for 20% off your next trip.
⋆ Enjoy an extended Bhutan tour (14+ nights) and take 12% off Bhutan, or 15% off the total if you also add 5+ nights in India and/or Sri Lanka.
⋆ Test drive our new Sri Lanka tours. Travel for nine or more days and take a 10% discount.
⋆ Combine three of our packages in Vietnam and get 10% off the total.
⋆ Travel 14+ nights in Myanmar and get 10% off the total.
⋆ Travel 12+ nights in Thailand or Vietnam and get 10% off the total.
⋆ Take $500 off a Ruby Membership or $300 off a Sapphire Membership if you upgrade before 30 September 2018.
Rules: You must be a Club Sanook Member and travel from between November 2018 through August 2019. Make a 25% deposit by 30 September 2018. You can guess about your travel dates if necessary--you can change dates later up to 45 days in advance, although new dates will be subject to availability. Deposits are not refundable. Final balance is due 45 days before travel begins. Airfares are not subject to discounts. These offers cannot be combined with other discounts or gift certificates and do not apply to anything that flies. All of our other standard Terms & Conditions apply. Vouchers for future travel cannot be applied to Bhutan travel, but we'll you 10% off instead, or 12% for 14+ nights.
Oh Dear. Douglas Has Blogged Again.
Now there's a headline you do not see very often. He has been pretty tied up with work and the never-ending website face lift. Believe me, not blogging does not mean he is not opinionated. This time around he rails about big companies cashing in on the LGBTQ dollar/pound/euro/, the "Hillbilly Nurenburg Ralies," and dumps Bhutan Boy. Golly! Pour a tall one and visit douglas-thompson.com/blog/.
One Tough Tomato
Nineteenth century French colonists brought with them to Cambodia their architecture, laws, baguettes and.... tomatoes. There were probably several different tomato cultivars (distinct varieties) available in Cambodia in the mid 20th century, although we have not been able to find anyone who remembers. Tomatoes disappeared almost completely when the Khmer Rouge came to power and removed people from their land. It took decades for normal farming to recover in Cambodia after the Vietnamese drove the Khmer Rouge to the Thai border. Most commercial crops except for rice disappeared completely.
Rath, Purple Dragon's Cambodia country manager and also the Chief Farmer on one of our farms happened across a plot of land deep in the country where the elderly farmer was growing tomatoes. He claimed that he was one of only two or three people in the entire world who still grew them. We were given the gift of a few seeds.
We have been growing this tough little tomato for the past year. We attribute its strength to its ongoing evolution since the 1970s. It's a compact plant that produces abundant fruit that are large (averaging 1kg each) and not particularly beautiful. Douglas sliced off a small piece for his first taste and ended up eating the whole tomato like an apple. It's sweet and flavorful. He and Rath named it "Cambodia Rose," which might seem like bon mot for "Khmer Rouge" until you consider that "rose" can also be a verb.
Tomato lovers in North America will eventually be able to buy seeds from Tomatofest.com, a seed company that specializes in heirloom tomatoes, many of which were otherwise saved from completely disappearing.
Also visit our tomato website: https://www.hot-tomato.com/index.htm
Saigon's Sexiest Hotel
We have recently changed our top hotels in Ho Chi Minh City. Hotel des Arts, our new deluxe and luxury class offering, must be one of the sexiest hotels we have found. In addition to a terrific location, the hotel offers unique luxury decor, a roof-top restaurant and bar, outdoor swimming pool, fitness center, and everything else you would expect of a world-class hotel. We really love the big windows and the bath tubs. Prices will be on our website soon. If you can't wait, shoot us an email.
The Mövenpick group began in 1948 with a restaurant in Zurich that soon became a group of restaurants and wine cellars as well as a line of ground coffee and ice cream. They now operate a chain of hotels around the world, including a magnificent new hotel in Bangkok. Purple Dragon was with them since the beginning and they have given us a rate contract that is about what you would pay for a good three star hotel.
Mövenpick Bangkok is located in Sukhumvit soi 15, with free shuttle bus service to The fabulous Terminal 21 shopping mall and the Asok Skytrain station. Everything in this property looks and feels oversized, from its gimungous lobby to restaurants and rooms. The outdoor spaces are also airy and attractive. There is plenty of greenery in the gardens, the rooftop pool and rooftop restaurant and bar. We love the chocolate buffet and the house-brand ice cream that made the original brand world famous.
All of Purple Dragon's Bangkok packages include the Mövenpick at very attractive prices.
Please Welcome our Newest Family Members
We want to thank Julian L., James F., Barry S., Kevin H., Matt D., Peter H., and Tom R. for believing in Purple Dragon. They are our newest shareholders, and we welcome them to our family. They are helping us in multiple ways to grow. If you would like receive a prospectus and learn how investors also get great travel benefits, just go here.
Sharing is Good Karma
We get between 10 and 15 new Members a month. That's not bad, but we think we deserve 50 to 75. You can help us by sharing this newsletter on socal media. (You can use the handy buttons we have provided on the right.) We also hope you will invite your friends to join, whoever they might be. Not all of our Members are gay or lesbian. They joined because they like what we offer and find our newsletter entertaining, informative and of value. Our sign-up form includes a question about how new Members heard about us, and to give us a name if it's a friend. We love that! When it happens often it results in real good karma and a very special thank-you from us.
During August and September 2018 every Member who refers 10+ new Club Sanook Members will get a $50 Club Sanook Gift Certificate. New Members must enter your name below "Did another Club Sanook Member suggest that you join? If so please tell us who so that say thanks!"
♥ Swim AYOR in Phuket. The absence of life guards on many Phuket beaches make swimming risky. There have been a spate aquatic of accidents in Phuket recently, including a boat crash in high seas that killed more than 40 tourists. A tour boat was destroyed in a fire on 14 August. Add to these occasional drownings and boats colliding with swimmers. Enjoy Phuket for the beach and the nightlife, but swimming is probably safer in your hotel's pool.
♥ Vietnam Booms while Myanmar Swoons. So far in 2018, Vietnam tourism is growing more than any of our other nine countries. Meanwhile in Myanmar, things have dropped of for tour operators and hotes. Of the country's ten domestic airlines, three have recently closed up shop, leaving small fleets of ATR aircraft grounded.
♥ Glow Goes Smoke Free. Bangkok's Gl0w Hotel is now 100% smoke free, following the trend of most Thai hotels.
♥ Juthamas Siriwan Sentenced to 50 years. We like this story so much we think we might keep repeating it until Juthamas gets out of jail. The former director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand has been sentenced to fifty years in prison for her part in a corrupt contract-awarding deal for a film festival. Juthamas presided over Tourism Authority of Thailand when it participated in raids of our offices and the phony prosecution and deportation of two directors of what was then Utopia Tours. (Story Here*) Hope you enjoy the food and the ambiance, Juthamas. We would love to send John Howard to keep you company.
* Yes, you can find practically every page that was ever published on the internet on the "Wayback Machine," the Internet Archive. If you don't remember the "Wayback Machine" on TV, that's pretty sad.
♥ Cambodia Wears Pink. Bungalows near Rishikesh, India have been reclamed by locals from the jungle for visitors to enjoy a piece of history. Fifty years ago The Beatles (along with Yoko Ono) spent months there at what was then the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, practicing transcendental meditation and writing music while abstaining psychoacive substances. The site is now open for visitors and now includes a small museum in addition to the original buildings, some of which have murals.
♥ Phu Quoc Packs In the Hotels. This small Vietnamese island off the southern coast of Cambodia added 800 hotel rooms in August. The island has splendid beaches is home to sea turtle sanctuaries. The island is currently visa free. If you are interested, let us know. We're not sure whether we should add this destination or not.
♥ Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. This year's HKLGFF runs from September 8th through 25th. It's Hong Kong's biggest LGBT event of the year. For info and tickets: http://www.hklgff.hk
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