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Purple Dragon Club Sanook
Bulletin from Bangkok
The newsletter of PurpleDragon Ltd 's private travel club.

March 2017

Editor: missfu@clubsanook.com

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Hotels That Are Doing Something Different

We think Purple Dragon uses some pretty wonderful hotels and some of them have won or should win awards. The number of websites, news media, and other organizations giving hotel awards is staggering. While we have no plans to give hotel awards of our own, we want to recognize hotels we use that are doing things that we think are fresh, new, and important. Here are five great places we hope you will add to your bucket list:

Jaya House's disabled-friendly tuktuk Jaya House River Park, Siem Reap

Open only since January, Jaya House is already destined to become the best hotel in Siem Reap and one of the best in Asia. Aside from the obvious comforts of a luxury hotel with two swimming pools and a roof-top bar, there are several things that make Jaya House great. The first is Christian De Boer, the hotel's General Manager. During the years he managed Shinta Mani Hotel in Siem Reap, his leadership and vision earned the hotel accolades from Tripadvisor,  Conde Nast Traveler and Travel+Leisure, including "best hotel in Asia," and "third best hotel in the world." Before that he managed Hotel de la Paix, another five star hotel in Siem Reap that later became a Hyatt Regency. Christian is tireless, gets to know each guest, and inspires an impressive hand-picked staff. Hotel guests get use of Jaya House's fleet of tuktuks, including the first and only vehicle custom-built to accommodate passengers in a wheel chair. Portable ramps for disabled guests make steps easy to navigate. Jaya  House is also as founding member of Cambodia's growing plastic-free movement (see story below) and one of the world's only plastic-free hotels. Jaya House also supports a free art school for underprivileged children and a project that is in the midst of planting 10,000 trees in Siem Reap Province. Douglas and Bhutan Boy stayed there in January and they were dazzled. You can read Douglas' Tripadvisor review HERE . (If you would like to pat him on the head please give him a "helpful" vote, which is also good for the hotel.) Jamyang's comment was that it was "a lot nicer than Aman Hotels. "

Jaya House, Siem Reap   Jaya House, Siem Reap   Jaya House, Siem Reap

Wangdue Eco-Lodge, Wangduephodrang

One of the most interesting hotels we use in Bhutan is on the first overnight stop we make eastward from Thimpu. Located on a hillside near Punakha, the hotel has breathtaking views of Wanduephodrang Dzong across the valley. Decor is attractive and distinctly rustic Bhutanese. What we like most about the hotel is that survives off the grid, relying on its own wind turbine for electricity. Most of the ingredients used in the hotel's outstanding kitchen are organic and grown by the hotel or purchased from neighboring farms. Sadly, Wangdue and Punakha are usually just a one-night stay, but you might not want to leave. You can see the hotel's profile on our Better Bhutan website .

Wangdue Ecolodge   Wangdue Ecolodge   Wangdue Ecolodge

Well Hotel, Bangkok

Well Hotel is a brand new lifestyle hotel in Bangkok that focuses on maintaining a healthy lifestyle while traveling. They do this with a well-balanced combination of comfort, style, facilities, food and attitude. Why do we like it? It's incredibly under-priced, contemporary, and has a terrific location just inside Sukhumvit soi 20. Skytrain is just a few minutes walk away. They have an "eat well" restaurant and health club in addition to Wifi and big flat screen TVs that you expect to see in a much more expensive hotel. The sign at their main entrance says: "Warm Welcome--Well Worth the Vaue." It will soon appear on the Purple Dragon website as our "low cost" hotel in Bangkok (we're working on changing our website). The concept, location and value make it a winner.

Well Hotel, Bangkok   Well Hotel, Bangkok   Well Hotel, Bangkok

Rambutan Hotel & Resort, Siem Reap

The two adjacent Rambutan properties are our best selling hotels in Cambodia, and for good reasons: the location is great, the price is right, standards are high, it offers a welcoming ambiance that feels homey, and they make something fabulous called the "Khmer Martini." Part of the same group as Rambutan Resort in Phnom Penh, the hotel is gay owned and very popular with LGBT visitors to Angkor Wat.  In addition to their townhouse-style rooms (some with a TV room and balcony with a hanging chair upstairs, and others have a roof-top terrace with giant stone tub) their latest addition is five apartments for guests who want a lot more room. Two have loft bedrooms. All have an ample and fully-stocked kitchen, plenty of room to entertain, and daily maid service. Douglas saw them in January and said "I'm ready to move in." Please contact Purple Dragon for rates. If you plan to spend a month or more in Siem Reap, we negotiate a long-stay rate for you.

Rambutan Apartments Siem Reap  Rambutan Apartments Siem Reap  Rambutan Apartments Siem Reap

Khwan Beach Resort, Koh Samui

This lovely young hotel is new to Purple Dragon and not even on our website yet. This five-star beach resort is half hotel, half art gallery and already attracts a good many LGBT guests. They have rooms and suites with and without private pools. The owner, who designed the hotel, was in the French fashion industry for years, so he has great aesthetic skills and has included extra touches like outdoor showers in some rooms. Besides luxury, location and what promises to be a great dining experience, what do we like about this hotel? In a word, "glamping." We have only seen a couple of hotels in this part of the world with safari tent accommodation. Khwan Beach Resort's are permanent structures with air conditioning and attached bathrooms and are surrounded by private gardens that close them off from their neighbors for complete privacy. Through 15 April You can go Glamping for 15% off!

We also like Gaelle St-Etienne, the hotels' marketing person. Gaelle is catching onto the no-plastic movement fast and has already had spirited meetings with local authorities about plastic trash washing up on local beaches. The hotel keeps its own beach spotless, and everything collected is taken off to be recycled. We are crossing our fingers to see a "Plastic Free Samui" group forming up soon.

Khuan Beach Resort   Khuan Beach Resort   Khuan Beach Resort

The Travel Industry's War On Plastic

In his August 2016 blog Douglas declared war on plastic. For years he was the only person recycling trash in his condo building until neighbors caught on and started separating their own trash. When he went to Bhutan last July he saved all of his plastic trash and brought it home, rather than leaving a negative footprint by adding it to a landfill in which had once been a pretty forest valley. That was only the beginning. Since then he has come to learn that there are plastic-free movements fueled by players in the tourism and hospitality industry in several places in our part of the world, and he is working on a magazine story.

Refill, Not Landfill Douglas' story took him to Cambodia last month (time away from work with "Bhutan Boy" was an added bonus), where he interviewed some of the players in the Plastic-Free Cambodia movement in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Jaya House River Park was one of the founders of the " Refill, Not Landfill " campaign that not includes almost fifty hotels, bars, and restaurants among its participants. All of these businesses give away attractive refillable bottles. There are more than forty "refilling stations" around Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. It has been a big success in reducing the nearly half million plastic bottles that are go into the trash in Cambodia every month. There have apparently been expressions of interest in forming similar groups in Myanmar, Bali, and Koh Samui.

" Rehash Trash " is a Siam Reap NGO that employs more than 30 disadvantaged women to turn discarded plastic bags into colorful and useful household products, like rugs and baskets of many sizes, and even a gown. Recently they created a huge awning to cover the terrace of a local hotel. All rooms at Jaya House have Rehashed baskets in their rooms. Another NGO, Plastic-Free-Cambodia , is educating people and businesses about how to live without plastic. (Yes, it's possible.)

Jamyang (aka "Bhutan Boy"" took a bottle home with him at the end of January, and a new group was born. Plastic Free Bhutan now has a Facebook page and is planning a website. Better Bhutan's team in Thimpu are recruiting other members of Bhutan's tourism and hospitality industries to encourage visitors to bring their own refillable bottles and to "invite" their customers to take their plastic trash home with them, rather than leave it in Earth's only carbon-negative country. We're very proud of them.

Club Sanook "Jewel Member" Categories = Wholesale Prices

As our holiday gift to Purple Dragon's most loyal customers we are offering an attractive discount on our new Member categories based on your previous travels through December 2016.

* If you are basic or Diamond Member you can apply expired Purple Bonus Points toward your Membership at US$ .05 per point of you have a minimum of 1,500 expired points. If you are a senior or a nearly-senior a substantial holiday price reduction is available to anyone, regardless of past travels with us in the past.

sapphire The Sapphire Membership is good for three consecutive years.

As a Sapphire or Ruby Member you can travel as often as you like during the period of your Membership, whether it be our standard packages, custom tours, or hotel-only bookings. If you are a Diamond Member you can take a $250 discount on the Sapphire or Ruby Membership cost.  Cost for Sapphire Membership is US$2,900. If you travel just once a year you will probably recover the cost of the Sapphire Membership about half way through the three-year period if you travel once a year and spend an average of $7,000 each year.

ruby The Ruby Membership is good for the Member's lifetime. Cost for Ruby Membership is $4,900.  Ruby Members traveling just once a year and spending $7,000+ per trip should recover the cost of their Membership in the third year.

Why are we doing this? We want to reward our best customers with with the opportunity to continue to enjoy our corner of the world and save money in the process. We will be celebrating our 19th year in 2017--we could not have done it without you. More than one third of our customers have traveled with us at least twice. That ratio of repeat guests may not sound so big if you are a corner store selling things in bottles or cans. But most of our customers live a world away and travel here to spend both their time and our money with us, so we think you are all pretty special.

A few important rules: Memberships are not transferrable. Prices for travel purchases at the Sapphire and Ruby level are good for the Member and one companion. If others join you and are following the same itinerary, we will offer a discount of 10% off published rates, based on four people traveling together (which is less than the published rate for two people). Since our pricing and our supplier agreements are pretty confidential, Members at this level will be required to sign an agreement not to disclose any of the details of the prices you pay.Bhutan Boy Visits Angkor Wat

Douglas' Latest Blog

Darn, Douglas Has Blogged Again. At lest it does not happen on a regular basis.

In this episode, Douglas falls on his face,  breaks his glasses and gets a black eye, leading to replacement frames being impounded by Thai customs because.... Well, you'll have to read the blog to get the whole story. Also, the Return of Bhutan Boy, a Spanish class taught in Thai (oops!), and a magical trip to Cambodia, where they watched some tomatoes growing. Did you know that Buddha is not merchandise or that Buddha tattoos could get you arrested and/or deported in our part of the world?  Douglas has commentary on that topic as well. He also has things to say about Donald Trump (doesn't he always?) and how some Californians want a divorce from the United States. Count me in!  You can read it all here: www.douglas-thompson.com/blog/28february2017.htm

Last Call for Gift Certificates

Plan to travel during late 2017 and/or early 2018? Not sure about dates or your final itinerary? You can still save money by giving yourself a gift certificate. The deadline is 15 April for high season 2017/18. Read about it here .

Plan Now for Cambodia and Myanmar during October through January, Bhutan beyond June 2017, India for November, December 2017 and March through June 2018.

Why We Give Away Shirts

If you travel with Purple Dragon in Bangkok you will get a packet of things from us when you check into your hotel. Along with other things you will get a "free shirt coupon" for each person traveling. People usually think this is some kind of scam. Actually, it's not. Most tailor shops in Bangkok are rip-offs. If you believe you can get a suit, a sport coat, two pants and a shirt for $200, you deserve what you get. It's usually garbage. Our guess is that about 99% of visitors who buy clothes at these places never come back, so they never really have a chance to annoy the tailor about the garbage they ended up with. Sometimes they try to involve Purple Dragon even though we have nothing to do with their shopping. For several years we have been giving away coupons for shirts from the tailor shop Douglas has used for years. Sometimes he even goes there with our guests. (The shop provides transportation round trip from your hotel.) Only one salesman is allowed to take care of our customers. The quality surpasses most of their competitors.  Unlike other tailor shops they have their own in-house workshop and the actual tailor does or supervises fittings. They have two floors of shirt fabric. Most people who go there with a coupon in hand buy other things. That's up to you. We only want our customers to be happy and stay out of trouble. Click on the coupon above to print one for yourself or for your friends.  You don't even have to print it if you can display it in your cell phone or tablet. Enjoy! And be sure to ask for your initials embroidered on your cuff free.

The Leftovers

♥  Myanmar (Burma) Recovers. The 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Bagan on August 24 last year damaged almost 400 stupas and temples built between the 10th and 11th centuries as well as some historic mural paintings in several temples. Several monuments have been for repair and the rest of the major temples remain open. In the long term, due to the attention the earthquake brought to this historical site, it is considered that it may enable better and more accurate restorations than has previously been the case. See article by BBC News http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-37293499

♥  Mourning Period in Thailand. The official mourning period for the public following the death of our beloved King Bhumibol last 13 October was thirty days. For government officials and institutions the mourning period lasts a year. It is not surprising that most Thais are still wearing black more than four months following His Majesty's passing. If you plan to travel to Cambodia before the anniversary of His Majesty's death, be prepared with several pieces of black clothing to show respect. The cremation is tentatively scheduled between 25 and 29 December. Before that the massive crematorium that will be built near the Grand Palace should be something worth seeing.

♥  More Sihanoukville Flights. Expect to see more flights to and from Sihanoukville, in southern Cambodia, over the next year. Many of these will be direct flights from China.

♥  Direct to Danang. Bangkok Airways has added daily direct service between Bangkok and Danang, in Central Vietnam. This make it even easier to enjoy Hue and Hoi An without wasting most of a day getting there. Danang is just 45 minutes from Hoi An.

♥  Thai Airports Now Uber-Free. AOT, Thailand's airport authority has banned Uber vehicles from all of its airports. Transportation services at airports are limited to registered commercial vehicles that meet safety and licensing standards.

♥  Free Wifi in Vietnam. Vietnam is adding more and more free wifi to major tourist areas. You can now use free public wifi in free Wi-Fi in public places are Hoi An, Hue, Danang, Hai Phong, Halong, Dalat, Can Tho, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

♥  New Airport Gets Green Light. Construction is expected to begin in 2018 on second airport for Siem Reap (Angkor Wat). Capacity is expected to be five million passengers per year, about double the capacity of the existing airport, and will accommodate wide-body aircraft. In other words, see Angkor Wat while you can. The entire country is expected to receive 4.5 million visitors in 2017.

♥  Suvarnabhumi Airport Delays. Expect delays at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport. Maintenance on one taxiway and one of the airport's two runways has just begun and is expected to continue through late April or early May. The airport can currently handle a maximum of 68 departures and arrivals per hour and capacity is expected to be reduced to 60 or fewer.

Purple Dragon pioneered gay Asian travel

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