The newsletter of PurpleDragon Ltd's private travel club.
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This is our final newsletter for 2015 and we want to dedicate it to our global community of friends who have stood by us into our 17th year.
We are really grateful to all of you for remembering us. A seemingly-endless events over the last decade have made some less-enlightened travelers draw a line through Thailand on their destination wish-list. Yet you return undaunted to enjoy Southeast Asia's many pleasures while others, quite foolishly, stay away.
Many old friends returned in 2015. While going through customer files to update individual records I was amazed by how many of you had traveled with before us over the years, including some who have put their plans in our hands for between 15 and 21 times. Many of you have become not just customers but old friends. (Douglas loves to see you when you visit, and it's easy to squeeze a dinner out of him.)
We also met many new friends in 2015. If you are reading this newsletter for the first time you may be one of them. Those who traveled with Purple Dragon for the first time in 2015 and who are not members of ClubSanook are receiving this issue with our compliments. If you want to receive it in the future we invite you to join our private travel club here: www.clubsanook.com/joinform.htm. Joining is free and we keep your details under lock and key.
We hope that the things you have wished for are/were under the tree this year!
Where You're Going and where You're Not
"How's business?" people ask us. For the last couple of years business has sucked, especially in Thailand. In general, tourism to The Kingdom has been fairly depressed due to about a dozen different things that come to mind. Fortunately, we have eight other countries to rely on. In the past more than half of our bookings were traveling from November through February and more than half were visiting Thailand. That's not true any longer, as many of you realize that crowds are smaller and prices lower when you travel during the "green season" (April through September). Myanmar continues to be a very strong destination for us, although less arduous for us to work with than the beginning of the great stampede. Hotels are better organized and tourism infrastructure is improving. Cambodia and Vietnam are always favorite destinations for our customers. The surprise this year has been India, where our bookings have tripled over previous years. And sleepy Bhutan is finally coming to life, especially for those who want a travel experience you may remember above all others.
Wow! A Better Bhutan
We think that Bhutan is going to be one of our hottest destinations over the next five years. China was soooo 20th Century. As we hinted in the last newsletter we have been building a Bhutan-only website that explains Bhutan's complicted tourism system in plain language, and allows you the freedom to choose your own hotels. Most other tour companies choose hotels that leave them with more profit. While we don't think profit is such a bad thing, we believe the experience is more important. This is a remarkable destination that is not as expensive as you think. The site includes sample itineraries, profiles of the hotels we have selected, and a calendar of festivals. Click/tap on the Himalayan cloud to see what we have been up to. Choose "Begin Here" on the main page to glide effortlessly through the site. Some of the photography (courtesy of Jamyang Dorji, Peter Davis, and Douglas) is quite delicious.
Douglas Blogs About Guns
We were not sure we would get even four blogs out of Douglas during 2015. However, may end up with six or seven by the end of the year. His December 4th blog has given us all things to think about, particularly if you are an American. He has lived here for 17 years and enjoys the luxury of seeing his home country objectively from a distance. He does not like what he sees, particularly the way easy ownership of weapons is metastisizing into endless mass slaughter. So far he has received quite a bit of fan mail about this one, perhaps because he was also unkind to The Donald. You can read it here: www.purpledrag.com/blog/4december15.htm. It you ask me It's worthy of being published as an OpEd in the New York Times. If you like it, please share the link on Facebook and Twitter. It's a wake-up call that many people will find refreshing.
Purple Dragon has recently added a new hotel that is pretty different from any of the others we have used in Thailand. It's classy. And it's jaw-dropping sexy.
Hotel Muse is located on Langsuan Road, near Lumpini Park, and just about five minutes to Silom, and about ten minutes to Central World, Siam Paragon and MBK. The minute you enter the building you realize that the hotel's creators threw out the rule book and reinvented both decor and service.
There is no front desk. To check in or out you sit comfortably at one of four writing desks staffed by someone attractive who is versed in the art of service. The lobby might remind you of a private club with vaulted ceilings, gentle lighting and wood paneled walls. Just downstairs is the hotel's cavernous Italian restaurant with nightly live operatic entertainment. (All young Thai singers who are quite good.)
On the 18th and 19th floors are two open-air bars. Roof-top bars are all the rage in Bangkok. It really is great to enjoy the urban landscape with a snack and your favorite libation in the balmy night air. Unlike some hotels with roof bars you will not need a second mortgage to pay your tab.
The rooms are what make Hotel Muse really sexy. Floors are black granite and bathrooms have white claw-footed bathtubs. The beds are gigantic and so are the flat-screen televisions. If you love to admire a city view you might opt for a corner room. No boxy chain hotel decor here. Even the ceilings are extravagant.
They have a pool and health club, of course, and a cozy restaurant that adheres to the private-club theme. That's where breakfast is served.
While the decor may be opulent and capricious, the service is relaxed and friendly. It only looks expensive. We are in love with Hotel Muse. We think you be will, too.
(You can click photos to enlarge.)
The Joys and Virtues of Gift Certificates
So you are planning to visit our part of the world in late 2016/early 2017 but are not sure when, where or how long, yet you want to save some money. Purple Dragon has a clever benefit for Club Sanook Members who want to save money but who have not yet made up their minds about future travel: Give yourself a Gift Certificate!
Our loyal customer and good friend Mark B. is enjoying Bangkok and Cambodia this month. He bought gift certificates early in the year and ended up saving about 15%, and also gets dinner with Douglas as a bonus. We have been doing this for six years and shrewd customers have used them to save up to 18%. To learn more see our Member Specials page.
The Mixed Bag: Nine Things You Should Know About
Bangkok has, in the last few weeks, joined the ranks of cities like London, Paris, Milan and Dubai with the opening of a Harrod's store. You'll find it just across Ploenchit Road from Central Chidlom department store. We guess the Big Mango has finally "made it."
Phare Cambodian Circus, of which Douglas has written about from time to time, is moving to a new location in Siem Reap. It will be bigger, better and it will be theirs alone. They have been using land owned by Angkor Museum, a curious establishment in which nothing authentic is on display. They plan to open for business under their new big top in mid-January. Travel with Purple Dragon to Angkor Wat and you get to see the circus on us. For several days prior to this there will be performances at the present location under the starry skies.
Homosexuals in Bhutan? Of course there are, although they have been hiding. That is slowly beginning to change. We found a "Gay in Bhutan" Facebook page you might want to check out. It has more than 1,600 followers. It is giving inspiration to those still in hiding. Meanwhile, in January, one of the country's most esteemed religious leaders spoke on the subject. You can find his sermon on YouTube.
Live in or near Bangkok and want to be an urban farmer? Mr. Tomato is nurturing the seedlings for the first heirloom tomato crop of 2016. If you are interested in growing some for your own pleasure, he will be happy to give you seedlings and instructions in mid-January. There are a few conditions however: First you have to grow them his way. Hanging tomato plants upside down is a no-no. (It's been tried.) You cannot grow plants for any commercial purpose. You need full sun at least nine hours a day. And you must agree to return some of your fruit to be used in the seed bank. If possible, take ten plants. If you want to receive a copy of his instruction booklet first, please shoot him an email. The first crop is timed to produce fruit in late March/early April, when it is ideal tomato weather. There will be a second crop of seedlings around the end of January.
Before the end of the decade you might actually stay in a 3D printed hotel room. A hotel in the Philippines, has 3D printed a 1,500 square foot suite with two bedrooms, a living room and a spa with a big 3D printed Jacuzzi tub. Watch how it was done HERE. We were just hoping for new 3D printed knees.
Vietnam's Ministry of Finance has announced that tourist visa fees will be cut as part of a continued effort to boost Vietnam&s lagging international arrivals. Effective from 23rd November 2015, single-entry visas will cost US$25 instead of the current $45, while the fee for three month multi-entry visas will be cut from $95 down to $50. Fees for visas with longer terms will range from $95 to $155 for validity of up to five years. The requirement for visas has been completely eliminated for citizens of France, Germany, UK, Spain and Italy for stays of up to 15 days.
If you have not found us on Facebook yet please stop by one or all of our growing number of pages. Chances are you do not know about all of these yet: Purple Dragon, Better Bhutan, Save Our Families, Darling Darika and Me!
Myanmar begins to turn pink! What did we tell you? Things in Myanmar are going to change rapidly following the most recent elections. We recently received notice of the opening of Paradise Spa, in the city of Mandalay. It's just for men. You can find it at 108 72nd Street (between 32nd and 33rd Street) in Chan Aye Thar Zan Township, Mandalay.
Why don't you hear about sightings of the Yeti (the "Abominable Snowman") any more? Maybe the BBC has the answer!
Your Thoughts on China, Please
Over the last year our major China bookings have all but vanished and we are reduced to last-minute Great Wall day tour requests. We are trying to get a sense of why our China business is spiraling downward.. So we invite you to participate in a poll about China travel. It is completely anonymous, although you are free to identify yourself in the "comments" box. Please do not complete the form more than once. This should take you no more than two minutes at most. The poll form will be online through January 2016 only. To begin click here. We will publish results and an analysis in the next newsletter.
New in Luang Prabang
Burasari Heritage. Overlooking the Nam Khan River, this former residence has one of the best locations in Luang Praban, on a quiet tree-lined street quite close to restarants shopping and places you will want to see. Rooms exude traditional, colonial charm. Some rooms have balconies overlooking the river. Burasari has a reading room/library, free WiFi throughout, a river-front restaurant and lounge. You can arrange for a cooking class and the hotel provides free use of bicycles.
Victoria Xieng Thong Palace is the former home of the royal family of Laos, so it truly is a palace. With just 26 rooms, it is one of Luang Prabang's smaller hotels and is decorated with local woods and fabrics. It overlooks Wat Xieng Thong and sits on banks of the Mekong River. Facilities include a pool, spa, restaurant and bar, and lush gardens. Victoria Xieng Thong's location is ideal--an easy walk or bike rice to the heart of this UNESCO World Heritage city.
Don't Plan to Get Naked at Angkor Wat
About two million people visited Angkor Wat this year. Five of them got naked and were fined and deported. The Apsara Authority (the quasi-governmental organization that controls Angkor Wat) has created a new "Visitor Code of Conduct" for tourists visiting Angkor Archaeological Park in response to a spate of recent incidents in which tourists have taken nude photographs at a temple, broken statues, or otherwise acted inappropriately.
The new code of informs tourists of the rules against smoking, touching monuments, entering restricted areas or wearing revealing clothing at the temples. "Any act of looting, breaking or damaging Angkor, or exposing sex organs and nudity in public area is a crime punishable by law," it says.
According to Apsara Authorithy Chau Sen Kerya, the code of conduct will be translated into multiple languages and posted at the entrance to the temples as well as distributed to hotels and guesthouses around Siem Reap City in July 2016. We have to wonder why they are waiting until then.
Share This Newsletter With a Friend
No "footprint" this month. But if you enjoy reading this newsletter and have friends who might enjoy it as well, please share. We have made it easy by semi-automating the process. Just click here to send an email. (We will not receive a copy.)
The Final Word
For all of you plane-spotters here are two videos of Drukair flights landing at Paro International Airport in Bhutan. Ex-pilot Douglas became so enraptured by this approach that he wants his ashes scattered beside the runway "so I can watch it forever." (Nope, I'm not kidding you.) You may have read about this amazing final approach in his Bhutan Blog.
For a view of the landing from the cockpit this is the best on Youtube. There are only about twenty pilots in the world who are certified to land at Paro. This one is best enjoyed at full screen. It's even better enjoyed in person. Purple Dragon/BetterBhutan would love to help you with that.
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Copyright © 2015 Purple Dragon Ltd. All rights reserved. No animals were harmed in the making of this newsletter.