We have received some amazing email lately. "Was SkyTrain burned down?" asked one guest. "Is the Night Market still there?" ... "Is it still dangerous?"
We were shocked until we reminded ourselves that CNN is often the world's window on events of all kinds. Although the Red Shirt protests in May and June were indeed historic, they were confined to only about four square kilometers of a sprawling city of eleven million people, so TV news was blown far out of proportion. Some major network TV news coverage was truly irresponsible.
As you might imagine, hotels here are suffering. (Well, we are too for that matter.) Many have occupancy levels as low as 10%, which is well below low-season norms. We are all pitching in to make Thailand attractive and affordable for visitors during this period. Don't expect give-away prices, but there are some real bargains among Club Sanook's current special deals for Members. More about that below.
One full year has passed since the High Court in Delhi overturned India's antiquated British anti-gay laws, and we have been almost inundated with journalists asking mostly the same questions: Will this bring a stampede of gay visitors? Will the Commonwealth Games be very, very gay? Do you expect a huge rise in gay sex tourism?
Our answers are always the same. Changes in the law may make some of our customers more comfortable about traveling to India, but it has not signaled the opening of the gay tourism floodgates. Most of our customers do not travel with us primarily to have sex, although meeting people for cultural exchanges is often high on their lists. Delhi will never be Bangkok. There are no real gay entertainment venues in India, although that is sure to change. Ultimately gay bars will not make much difference to our guests anyway. Our customers go to India because they really want to see (and shop and and hear and smell and taste and photograph) India.
A high-profile gay tour company in India has announced that it will soon publish a list of the ten most gay-friendly hotels in India. We have been watching these folks for a while and they regularly amuse us with their pink email promotions that look like invitations to Prince Charming's ball.
Despite their announcement, no such list has materialized and we doubt that it will. Why? First of all, hotels do not care, however few will want to appear openly on a list. Two guys in one bed? No problem. Unless you skinny dip in the hotel's pool and behave inappropriately there with your companion, or rape the room service waiter, nobody will think twice about about you, even if you appear to have a lot of fun local friends. As long as you are spending money, nobody in India cares who you sleep with, there or anywhere else.
Speaking of interviews the previous edition of Bulletin from Bangkok carried a story about an idiotic Cambodia travel feature in the New York Times for which the writer had wasted quite a bit of our time. Well, it has happened again, this time for a business-page puff piece by Mridu Kullar about the economic prospects for pink tourism in India. She liberally quoted a sex tour company without bothering to into what they are selling. It was an unsubstantial, pointless story. She wasted not only our time but the readers' time as well.
What has happened to the New York Times, one of the world's most respected newspapers? Why is it that their editors assign stories on gay-related topics to straight writers? The result is cheap, sensational "news" that ultimately reflects badly the gay people who live and do business in the places they write about. Thus, we repeat our challenge. We think we can write far better gay tourism-related stories than those published before. If you work for The Times, know someone who does, or you are an opinionated subscriber, suggest that they contact Douglas: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although India is conservative and is slowly trying to shed its legacy of Victorian British laws and social concepts, Indians are probably not as harsh about homosexuals as you might think. One of our friends who traveled with us extensively in India recently wrote us about one of his favorite experiences:
"On my last night in Delhi I went to a big market (it was probably Chandni Chawk) to buy a sari. I found a lovely shop that sold 'sets' of luscious, highly-embroidered silk fabric that could be transformed into what I wanted. However, it took a few minutes for the staff to understand that I wanted the sari for myself. When the idea finally came across to them they were very good-humored about it, with smiles all around. I was the only male customer in a very busy shop and all of the other customers somehow got involved in helping me choose the right color and recommending jewelry and accessories to go with it. It was very funny and quite a bit of fun for all. Although I ended up choosing the most extravagant stuff, the experience was priceless.
"It is common for many people to form negative opinions about others who are different in one way or another. I have found, however, that when most strangers find themselves in the company of a good-humored gay man who is not ashamed of himself their thinking changes and they accept me on my own terms readily. After all, we are much the same, despite our languages, religions and cultural traditions--most of which do not really teach homophobia (unless you are a fundamentalist Christian). In the end, the shopkeepers and their customers ended up with a fun story of their own, plus a big attitude change. Spread the joy!" (Thanks for the photos, Perfidia)
Our last three photo contests received a huge number of entries. This year, for some reason, the great photographers among our Members seem to be very slow to enter. In the past we have given 200 Purple Bonus Points to everyone who entered photos. this year we are sweetening the pot. We will award 100 points for each photo you enter, up to a maximum of 2,000 points, so everyone who enters is a big winner. To read instructions for entering, please GO HERE.
10% to 24% Off! Yes, Really
We have been ramping up the "green season" savings over the last month. This is also the seventh year in a row that we have offered discounts and special offers to Members who plan well in advance for high season. This year we have added something new that offers much more flexibility and greater potential savings. You can read about it HERE along with other Member goodies for 2010.
Mark your calendar if you have not done so already. Our planet and all of humanity are scheduled for demolition on 21 December 2012. Is it a hoax? Mass hysteria? Another media plot to keep us from turning off the Idiot Box? A PR stunt for a sequel to a third-rate sci-fli flick? According to The History Channel, Nostradamus, The Mayans, dead astrologer Jean Dixon, and Sony Pictures, we are all doomed to become extinct in a simultaneous combination of nuclear holocaust when Osama vaporizes the Vatican, the triumph of Satan, Earth shifting on its axis, and the invasion of malevolent space creatures. Does this mean we can all stop paying our bills and taxes and tell the boss where to stuff it?
Our question is, where do you want to be when it all happens? We like the idea of going out with a bang, enjoying our last moments in style, with maybe even a bit of debauchery. So just for fun, take this month's quiz. Tell us where you would most like to be and why. We will tabulate the results and print selected comments in the next Bulletin from Bangkok. If you are witty enough you might win a place on our 2012 Farewell Tour! Just GO HERE to tell us your Armageddon fantasy.
There is no easy way to transliterate Thai words into Roman text so they can be easily read by most Westerners. "Or Tor Cor" is a great example that we have seen spelled in a dozen different ways. But simply say "Otto Core" and your taxi will whisk you off to Bangkok's biggest, most modern and most spectacular farmers market. (Or you could just as easily take the subway to Chatuchak, Bangkok's sprawling "weekend market," and walk across the street.) This amazing place is full of picked-this-morning-fresh produce from Thailand's farms. You will probably see fruits and vegetables that are already familiar, although they probably look and taste better than what you are used to back home. You will also come face to face with durian, rambutan, mangosteen, juicy mangoes and scores of other unusual edibles that are unique to Asia.
The market is not a traditional tourist attraction, but a place where local folk, restaurateurs and hotel chefs shop daily. In addition to produce you will find fresh seafood, meats, cooked foods, seasonings and unusual Thai sweets that are enough to keep a foodie entertained for hours. The original market site, which was surrounded by an open sewer trench, was replaced recently with a massive concrete slab, a modern roof and electric lights. The walls are still open to let the breeze carry the wonderful aromas throughout the market. Compared to most of the city's other fresh markets, "Otto Core" is spotless.
A small building next door houses the Royal Project Market, affectionately called "the King's store" by many residents. The shop sells what is grown on organic farms in the far north of Thailand that are part of a major sustainable agriculture project sponsored by His Majesty. Regional ethnic minority people used to burn parts of ancient northern forests for a single year of farming before they moved on. The "King's Farms" have provided an alternative that marries both new and old fashioned crops with contemporary organic farming techniques that reward both the farmers for remaining on the land, and the savvy shoppers who enjoy produce that is fresh and delicious.
Both markets are open daily. Skip breakfast before you go since you will find plenty to snack on.
So you spend more time at the gym than your friends do, and you are relatively slim, but you cannot manage to produce the kind of "washboard stomach" or "six pack abs" that you have been dreaming about and swearing for. Believe it or not, you can buy them in Thailand. A new procedure called VASER is the latest in high definition liposculpturing. A trained surgeon uses a device that liquefies fat with with ultrasonic waves with such precision that the existing abdominal muscles are made far more visually pronounced. The procedure is minimally invasive and can usually be done with local anesthetic without a hospital stay. There is minimal bleeding, bruising or pain and most patients recover quickly. In case you are wondering, you cannot have a happy face or your boyfriend's initials sculpted into your abdomen. Yet. If you are planning to visit Thailand and are tired of your flat stomach, we are happy to help.
The April/May quiz was really easy. The winner was Glenn Smith, who will receive a $100 Purple Dragon Gift Certificate. Thanks to everyone who entered! You can see the answers to April/May's quiz HERE.
All of the answers can easily be found on Purple Dragon's Website. The optional bonus question takes a bit more effort but you do not have to answer that one unless you want to. All entries with all questions answered correctly will be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift card you can use for any Purple Dragon package. Give it to a friend if you like. Or enter every time and you might collect them all! If you also answer the bonus question correctly you will be entered into a drawing for a grand prize. We have not figured out what that is going to be yet, but you will probably like it. You must be a Club Sanook Member to enter. Only one entry per person, please. You must enter before 31 July 2010. We will give all of the correct answers and name the winner in the next newsletter.
Do you use Gay Romeo, one of the largest global gay social networking websites? If you do, please help Purple dragon by adding us as a "Guide." It takes only a moment and if enough Members add us, we will get free advertising. Here's how: Click on the "guide" tab in the top row. Next, under "Detailed Guide Search" choose Asia>Thailand>Bangkok and look for our logo. When you open our page there will be a row of links along the top. Click on "Save" and save us as "Known Personally" That's all there is to it! If you send us an email to tell us you have helped us this way we will add 100 Purple Bonus Points to your account.
If you received two or more emails announcing 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.