Our New Old Website
Websites are never finished and Purple Dragon's is no exception. For the last several months our team has been hard at work on completely re-writing the code that makes the pages appear as they do in order to bring our site up to the current inter-galactic standard. Believe it or not, a committee decides from time to time what is currently acceptable and what is to be "depreciated." The current standard is HTML version 5 and CSS version 3. Our team's project involves going through every line in each of 300+ pages. We are doing this so that you can continue to see our site on the newest generation of web browsers. We are telling you this to apologize in advance if you happen to come across a page that appears to be deformed. If you happen to see a page that appears to be completely messed up please contact Douglas and tell him what you found. You shall be rewarded.
Our Weird Window Has Fans
Purple Dragon's Bangkok staff are really enjoying their new office in Charn Issara Tower. One architectural oddity is a glass cubicle adjacent to the front door. What do you do with a space one meter wide and 1.5 meters deep with glass on two sides? We decided to do something creative to attract attention. Douglas and Ton draped the entire little "room" in black satin except for a very small window facing the corridor in front of the office. Inside is a small table, also draped in black, and lit from above with a spotlight. The table has been decorated with all kinds of things since March, from empty Champagne bottles and opened condom packages to a teddy bear wearing hand cuffs. The bouquet of roses with all of the flowers cut off and strewn atop the table was also pretty unusual in an amusing way. The current window features our take on the "Ruby Slippers" along with some little paper umbrellas to celebrate our "Green Season," and a discarded Durex package. Buster, our bear mascot, is relaxing in the corner. We enjoy watching people outside trying to figure out what it's all about. It is usually not about anything except to get people to stop and look at it. We hope you will stop by some time to say hello and have a look for yourself.
About China (Part One of Two Parts)
This is the perfect time of year to begin planning a Spring trip to China. Weather in most of China tends to be extreme in Summer and Winter, so Spring and Autumn are the ideal times to visit.
Last October (oh, how time flies) we asked our Members to participate in a poll about China. To be honest, Purple Dragon has been selling more trips to Bhutan than to China and we have been trying to figure out why. At one point the prospect was raised about dropping China completely, although is not going to happen. Here is what our poll revealed: A few of those who participated did not like the Chinese government or its policies. A similar number did not like the climate. But the majority were divided between those who have not gotten around to visiting China (maybe because they enjoy Southeast Asia so much and continue to return here), and those who do not think we have enough to offer there.
We are not quite sure what to do about those who have not yet made time for China other than to offer 50% bonus points on trips from February through June 2014 if they are reserved before the end of November 2013.
For those of you who want to visit China but do not see enough on Purple Dragon's website, we are in the process of creating a "Custom China" page that will offer plenty of other options. We have regularly offered custom programs that are not on ourwebsite for those who want longer trips. We have not added them permanently to our website because we have not been able to find gay tour guides guides in these places who we can use regularly. That will change in time. Since we have more to suggest than anyone will want to read all at once, the second part will be published in December.
Between Beijing and Xi'anTaiyun and Pingyao. Take a morning bullet train from Beijing to Taiyun where you visit the world heritage Chang Family Mansion. Later, continue to Pingyao, where you spend the night. If you want to take the time you can drive to Datong, about 60 km away, to see the and the "Hanging Temple," a monastery built into the side of a cliff. Also near Datong are the Yungang Grottoes, three very large cave systems into which very large Buddha images were carved about 1,500 years ago. From Taiyun you drive to Pingyao, a Han dynasty fortified city with beautifully-preserved walls, old mansions and formal gardens. You will visit the "Old Town within the ancient city walls as well as Shuangin Temple in the nearby village of Qiatou. There are flights from there to Beijing and to Xi'An.
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province, best known for spectacular landscapes, spicy food and Pandas. The town itself is worth a day of sightseeing. Using Chengdu as a base you can see the Sanxindui Museum and the Chengdu Panda Center. Sanxindui Museum, 40km from Chengdu, showcases archaeological relics from the ancient Kingdom of Shu, probably in the late Neolithic age about 5000+ BC. The pieces on display in this massive 12,000 square meter exhibition hall reveal astounding craftsmanship in gold, bronze and jade and are in near-flawless condition considering their age. The archaeological nearby site was discovered in 1929. It is considered one of the most important museums in China and one of the 50 most important things for visitors to see in the country.
The Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center is only about 10km from Chengdu. Pandas are endemic to the bamboo forests of Sichuan, and this center is not only a captive breeding project but also a rescue center that is helping to insure the future of this endangered species. The facility also houses a Giant Panda Museum and research laboratories.
Yunnan Province, which borders Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, has quite a bit to offer visitors. It joined the Han dynasty in the second century B.C. It was later conquered by Kublai Khan and became a part of the Mongol Empire in the thirteen century.
Kunming is the capital of Yunan Province. It has been large commercial center dating to the Silk Road days. Today there are high-rise buildings, modern residential complexes, luxury hotels, shopping malls, and universities. There is a large Thai commercial presence here since many Thais can trace their origins back to Kunming. Because of its proximity to Burma, an air base here was used by the American "Flying Tigers" to fight the Japanese in World War II. It also has historic quarter that was once a walled city. Mostly Kunming is a good jumping-off place for the rest of Yunan. Nevertheless there are some things to see. A brief visit should include the City Museum, several very old temples, and the four hundred year old Nancheng Mosque.
Lijiang is just a short hop from Kunming. It's a beautifully-preserved 800 year old Song Dynasty city that is full of canals, cobblestone streets, and ancient wooden buildings. "Old Town," the oldest part of town is a great place to go for meals and shopping. Since vehicles are not allowed in the center of the city you will have to hire porters to carry your luggage if you decide to stay there. Rambling Mu Palace is worth a couple of hours. The former rulers of the region lived there for four hundred years. The interior is predictable regal. There are many courtyards and lovely formal gardens. A Taoist temple is attached to the complex, and is considered a good place to have your fortune told. Black Dragon Pond Park is another must-see for its lake and picturesque stone bridge which has a commanding view of Snow Dragon Jade Mountain about 25 km away. The lake at the foot of the mountain is a great place for an overnight trip if you like rugged and unspoiled nature. You can get to Lijiang from Kunming, Chengdu, Shanghai, and Beijing.
"Shangri La" did not "borrow" its name from James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon, until the late 20th century. Hilton's story is about a hidden paradise surrounded by snowy peaks where people are happy and never grow old. The Chinese government decided that a county north of Lijiang once called Zhongdian came close enough to Hilton's Shangri La that they renamed the place, just as a famous hotel chain grabbed the name for themselves (which seems ironic considering the book was written by a Hilton).
The new Shangri-La is a region with a long history and is heavily influenced by nearby Tibet. As in Hilton's book the town of Shangri La is dominated by lamasery on a hillside. Six hundred monks live in the 17th century Songzanlin lamasery that was founded by the fifth Dalai Lama. The region is also home to Potatso National Park, the first such park established in China, and a wilderness of forests and lakes.
Dali, a very short flight from Kunming, is another historic town that is often included in Yunan Province tours. About three hundred years older than Lijiang, Dali also has an "Old Town." The real attraction here is the surrounding area, which is full of trails for hiking, bird-watching, wildlife, views of lakes and the surrounding mountains, and visits to historic rural temples.
In the next installment: The Pearl River Delta, The Silk Road, Yangtze River and Three Gorges, and more.
Been There, Done That
This is a regular feature in Bulletin from Bangkok for people who have "already visited Bangkok three times and there is noting left to see." Believe it or not there is more to the Big Mango than the Grand Palace, the Weekend Market and Babylon.
Talad Rot Fai ("Railroad Market") is where many of Bangkok's Beautiful People hang out on Saturday and Sunday nights. It's an indoor/outdoor retro-lovers paradise in a graveyard for retired railway carriages behind Chatuchak (the Weekend Market). It is brimming with kitsch, antique shops, and great food and drink. If you are looking for a vintage Lambretta, a '62 VW Beetle, well-worn steamer trunks, or a great meal in rail car that once hauled people to Chiang Mai and back, you will find it here. You will also find plenty of vintage clothing, furniture, funky decorative items, and even things like surf boards. The market is located on Srinakarin soi 51. It is a great option for our nightlife tours for those who are not interested in dancing boys wearing numbers. We'll have a photo next time it does not rain on a Saturday night.
Disease du Jour: Redefining "Party Drugs"
One innovative clinic in Bangkok is offering a new kind of "party drug"--the kind that will help you recover quickly from excessive partying, jetlag, the onset of a cold, or chronic stress. If you are feeling crappy their IV "cocktail" will leave you feeling revitalized. You can combine this with mega-doses of vitamins C or B12, or even an ozone treatment that will neutralize bacteria, viruses and free radicals in your bloodstream.
This clinic offers a dazzling menu of other award-winning Swiss-made anti-ageing therapies, Botox, facial fillers, and the lowest price for threat lifts we have found in Bangkok. We will be writing more about them in the future. Douglas is currently undergoing a series of five "nanopeptide meso-therapy" treatments that bring immediate and long-term results for ageing skin and other issues like some kinds of age spots and acne scars. It stimulates the growth of new collagen and elastin , which help to tighten, firm, and heal skin, and erase fine lines. He's looking great.
Many of the clinic's treatments use the cutting-edge "peptide" technology. The best-known peptides are probably silk, insulin and human growth hormone. Some peptides can be used to treat specific organs or conditions. This clinic uses peptides as advanced anti-ageing therapies, particularly for the skin, whether it be just the face or the entire body. They also use peptides to treat conditions like obesity, inflammation caused by arthritis, infections as an adjunct to antibiotics, enhancing muscle mass, treatment of HIV, erectile disfunction, hepatitis-B, and certain other liver conditions.
Douglas is not ageing very gracefully so he is especially interested in thread lifts, which come as close to a face lift as you can get without surgery, a hospital stay and a month of bandages, bruises and swelling. The cost of a full face and neck lift (up to 50 threads) will cost you under $1,000. They lift sagging tissue and help create a new supporting architecture for the face and neck.
We will be adding quite a few treatment packages to the medical wing of Purple Dragon's website. Until we do, please contact us for information and appointments. Many of the treatments require multiple visits that do not usually require a lot of time, so we will help guests to work these into their other program activities.
If you want to know more or make an appointment for a consultation, consult Nurse Darika.
Our Resident Hero: Angkor's One-Man Relief Project
If you have traveled with us to Angkor Wat you may have met Rath, our local manager and senior guide there. Douglas first met him when he owned Figo, a restaurant and bar in Siem Reap where he sometimes appeared as Darika. Rath was Figo's charming bartender and later studied for his hard-to-get guide license. He is not only a valuable member of the Purple Dragon family, but also a one-man NGO. He has adopted a number of needy families and supplies them with food and other necessities that they cannot survive without. Purple Dragon and some of our guests have helped subsidize his selfless projects. (See the story in our April 2012 newsletter.)
Rath has recently created a Facebook Page to share news about the things he is doing. We hope you will visit it, like it, and send him messages of support. We are very, very proud of him.
One of Rath's most important projects is to become a surrogate parent for about 73 rural children. He tutors them to supplement the minimal education they receive from public schools, looks after their health and nutrition, and plans sporting activities. A few months ago he put them all into vans and gave them a day in Siem Reap. None of them had seen an escalator before, so they all took several rides.
Purple Dragon is assuming the basic monthly cost of Rath's "rural kids' project" by earmarking a portion of the proceeds from every Angkor Wat trip we organize f or this important work. If you would like to donate money for special needs, like digging a village well, school books/supplies, essential childhood vaccinations, clothing, food for families who have nothing, or medical care, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Two of our favorite guests/friends, Jeffrey Wood and Mark Abate, donated tooth brushes and tooth paste for all of the children, who had never used either before. As we are writing this newsletter, long-time customer John Glines made a generous donation after seeing Rath's Facebook page, for which we thank him.
In the Incubator: New and Soon-To-Be New on Purple Dragon's Website
Leave Your Footprint, Earn 100 Points!
Let's be Frank (or Dennis or Sally if you like), some people join Club Sanook and forget about us completely. Or do not add our address to their email address book so announcements of new newsletters end up in their junk folder. So why should I go to a lot of trouble to write tantalizing newsletters they never read. We do not think it is asking too much to expect Members to read at least one newsletter a year in order to retain their Membership and any Purple Bonus Points they have earned. We know that you have read a newsletter when you "Leave Your Footprint" and we will add 100 Purple Bonus Points to your account
Happy Ending: It's a Blog!
Douglas has not updated his blog for a very, very long time. Much has happened since he wrote about "Sandbag City" nearly two years ago. His latest installment is predictably witty, opinionated and informative as he gives a lot of excuses for not blogging, teases us with cross-dressing photos, discusses losing weight, flies around the world, complains about Thai architecture, and brags about the expensive cheese he eats. You will find it on Purple Dragon's website, of course: www.purpledrag.com/blog.htm