Club Sanook Newsletter - February 08

 

February 2008

Get Free Money
Holiday Travel 2008
More Free Money
Been There, Done That
Disease du Jour
Last Month's Contest
Three Dot Journalism
... and more

Get Money Free!

You have probably known for years that your credit card company has screwed you every time you traveled overseas. For as long as we can remember, those guys have been tacking on anywhere from one to three percent on every overseas charge or cash advance their customers make. Although we have pointed this out to our guests for almost a decade, there was nothing anyone could do about it except to pay in cash instead.

If you have/had a Visa, Master Card or Diners Club credit card issued in the U.S. and used it internationally during the past twelve years, we have some very good news for you. Major credit card companies have recently lost a huge class-action lawsuit and they have to give quite a bit of that money back to their cardholders! Our guess is that our own customers alone have been charged around $85,000 in "illegal fees" while our company and its predecessor has been in operation.

If you traveled abroad between February 1996 and 8 November 2006 or paid in advance to a hotel or tour company outside of the U.S. during this period, or even ordered something on the Internet from a foreign company, paid with a Visa, Master Card of Diners Club card and meet the other criteria to qualify, you may be entitled to participate in the substantial cash settlement. Whoopie! For more details please visit: www.ccfsettlement.com.

If you used one of the U.S. credit cards covered by the judgment to Purple Dragon or Purple Dragon for travel arrangements between 1996 and 2006 and can provide a copy of your credit card statement showing the charge(s), we will give you a credit towards future travel equal to the amount of the illegal fees you were charged if you promise to spend your settlement on one of our trips. (We have not been ordered to do this, of course, but we want to help you make the best of a good thing.) You have to use this credit during 2008 for one or more of our packages. Credits are not transferable, have no cash value, and may not be folded, torn or spindled. Sorry, but we are not able to offer any research services.

It Happens Every Year...

Year after year we are astonished when people wander into our office in December or January and ask us to do the impossible. We try our best, but end up just as disappointed as the customers when we can not give them what they ask for. This season's favorite example was the two gentlemen from Mexico who visited us on 20 December and wanted a "nice Thai beach resort for Christmas." What could they be thinking?

As early as last July we were finding hotels in beach resorts completely sold out between 1 December and 15 January. In some cases (notably India, Luang Prabang , Hanoi and Saigon) we have had huge problems finding rooms anywhere before April. If you are thinking of traveling to our part of the world around this time next year, here is our advice:

Thailand. If you are planning a beach holiday in Thailand in December or January we advise you to begin making firm decisions by June and finalize reservations no later than July. We were already having problems finding rooms anywhere in Pattaya, Phuket, Krabi or Samui as early as August 07. Please keep in mind that many hotels in beach resort destinations have minimum stays of seven nights durng peak season. We have already confirmed reservations for some of our customers for next November and December. We adore people who think ahead and they adore us because they did not have to compromise or modify their plans.  Reserve Chiang Mai and Bangkok no later than September.

Laos is one of Southeast Asia's hottest destinations. If you are thinking of visiting Luang Prabang, please remember that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nothing new can be built there. Although LP has become an incredibly popular destination during the past three or four years, the number of hotel rooms available barely increases. This means rooms begin to begin to book up in May and June for the period November through March. During the first week of February we are unable to find rooms for any stays in March and April. Of course you could always try the $5 guesthouses.

Vietnam. This page is being written during the first week in February and it is snowing in Hanoi. Somehow folks have the idea that Vietnam is a tropical paradise between November and March. Fortunately, Hanoi is a good place to buy an inexpensive down jacket. But you may be thinking "Thailand is tropical this time of year and it is just over the hill." True. However, Thailand does not have the chilly South China Sea and Gulf of Tonkin, or icy winds whipping south from China. March through October, Thailand's traditional low season, has the loveliest weather, particularly if you are looking for a beach holiday. August is the warmest month.

India has a few good hotels, many bad ones, and not much in between. The good hotels seem to be constantly full. Best weather is in Spring and Autumn, and Northern India can be quite cold in December and January even though some assume this is the best time to visit. It is best to make plans as far in advance as you possibly can or you will have fewer (and more expensive) hotels to choose from. If you do not mind traveling during off-season, prices will be lower. Oberoi Hotels offer special packages off season that make prices more palatable.

Cambodia is fantastic any time of year. We have great hotel relationships, so we can usually find something for our guest. If you want to travel during the last two weeks of December or the first two weeks of January, however, you need to do something about it by July.

Myanmar has had a disastrous high season because of unexpected political turmoil. We hope all of that will never be repeated. Those who did not cancel their trips were thrilled that they went. We hope you consider including it in your plans next year.

Nepal, Bhutan, Singapore and Seoul are on our drawing board. You will be among the first to know when we unveil these new destinations.

Plan Ahead and Earn 10% Tax Free

We have a happy solution for people who plan in advance. If you plan to travel during next high season (October 2008 through March 2009), we have a great offer for you. As in years past, we have rewarded Members with discounts when they reserved and paid for high season travel before April 30th. While many customers have taken advantage of these annual offes and saved quite a bit of money, the plan (discounts on multiple packages of 5% for the most expensive, 10% for the second most expensive, and 15% for the least expensive) was just too complicated. So we are going to make it a much easier in 2008 by taking a discount of up to 10% on everything. You can read more on our Member Specials page.

Another alternative is to reserve as far in advance as you can and simply give us a deposit.

Been There, Done That

Every few weeks or so someone stops by our office tells us that they have "been here five or six times" and have "already seen everything there is to see." While we admit that the Grand Palace is not exciting on the third visit, there is still plenty to do in and around Bangkok and Chiang Mai to keep you busy for weeks. In the last newsletter we told you about our day trip to Heaven and Hell. This time we have a few more ideas. Read on....

Siamese Spectacular. Let us be the first to admit how wring we were about Siam Niramit when it first opened last year. We thought it would be just another junky tourist show. However, our staff saw the show last month and we were dazzled. Arrive around six and you have time to explore the authentic rural village that has been constructed in the huge compound surrounding the theatre. You will swear you are in rustic rice-belt hamlet. Wooden houses on stilts have been brought here from every corner of Thailand. You can see different craftspeople at each of  them. Instead, you may also opt to take an elephant ride or get a soothing food massage.

The show itself defies description. The world's largest stage (according to Guinness) will take you on a journey through Siam's history, folklore and festivals in an epic performance that includes 150 performers, more than 500 costumes, sailing ships, angels flying through space, live animals, a visits to mystical places in Thai folklore.

A very nice buffet dinner is available before the show, and can be included with the ticket. We are happy to make reservations for you (with our without one of our guides), and provide transportation to and from the show. You will find more information on the Purple Dragon website.

Become a Peddler in Thailand. You can become an "adventure traveler" if you can stay on top of a bicycle for a few minutes without falling off.  We are in the process of adding two new excursions to our regular day trips in Thailand that explore some fascinating places we did not even dream existed. The Chiang Mai trip takes you along country roads, past ancient temples to see hilltribe villages. The new Bangkok Bike Ride passes through a forest of bananas and some lovely slice-of-life hamlets, orchid farms and even a golden temple. You will be treated to some spectacular views of the City of Angels from a lush, undeveloped bit of countryside that is amazingly close to Bangkok. Most of all, it's fun! You do not have to be athletic to enjoy a day riding these rugged American-made bikes. Read more at on the Purple Dragon website.

Chiang Mai's Free Song & Dance. Next time you are in Chiang Mai make it a point to be in the lobby of the D2 Hotel for a cool drink and a surprise. At two in the afternoon the morning staff finish their shift and the afternoon staff begins work. While you will hear nothing more than a time clock being punched in most hotels when shifts change, you will hear a drum roll and a sparkling song as the  two shifts meet in D2's lobby to perform the "shift change dance" routine. Cute young people in their regulation jeans and Converse All Stars shake and spin like veterans of a Las Vegas review to Cole Porter tunes. Have your camera handy! By the way, we have just added the Hip (with a capital H) new hotel in the center of the Night Market to our line-up of hotels in Chiang Mai.

Disease du Jour: Dental Care Without Painful Wallet Extractions

Nobody really loves to visit the dentist unless he's your boyfriend and you do not have to sit in the chair. Unfortunately, dentist visits are practically impossible to avoid unless you have Willie Wonka's perfect teeth. The most painful part of the visit may be paying for it.

Recently we have taken our teeth on a research expedition to see first hand what Thai dentistry is like. Our first stop was  the gleaming new dental clinic at Bangkok Medical Center. They have around 80 dentists there, all with their own specialty. The advantage is that the craftsmanship is likely to be above average. The disadvantage is that if you several different kinds of work to be done, you will probably have to make appointments to see different dentists for each individual problem. On our four visits to replace an old crown, our time in the waiting room  was no more than five minutes. The work was excellent and the cost was about 20,000 baht (around US$600, or 300 pounds), which was less than half the cost of a comparable work in North America.

We could have saved even more money at Vejthani Hospital, which has a smaller but quite luxurious dental center with twelve treatment rooms and a separate surgical suite. Vejthani offers several economical fixed-price packages that combine a check-up, cleaning and minor fillings as well as a full range of cosmetic and reconstructive dental services. Vejthani's only disadvantage is that it is located a bit farther from the center of the city than BMC. But in Bangkok traffic another 15 or 20 minutes does not seem to matter much.

Both clinics are open daily, including Sundays. You can read more on our website. Much of our Medical Tourism information is not yet complete, but we are working on it steadily. But you are obviously intelligent and will understand what we are doing.

Last Month's Contest

Absolutely nobody answered all of the quiz questions in the November/December newsletter correctly. Think you have the answers? The questions appear below once again. You can read all of the answers (including the place where this yummy photo was taken) on our contest page. You can probably find all of the answers in ten minutes or less on our website.

1. Name the city where you will visit the "Administrator's Garden."
2. Name two animals you might see in Ranthamabore National Park.
3. Name one of Myanmar's two major beach resorts.
4. Where does the boat stop on the way to Kamu Lodge?
5. Name one Purple Dragon package that includes a massage.

Bonus Questions:
B1. Please identify the event shown in the photo on the right.
B2. This year is the twentieth anniversary of publication of the first edition of Eric Allyn's landmark guidebook The Men of Thailand. The fist two editions of the book were co-authored by someone else. What was his name?

Three Dot Journalism

Our current blog shares some sad news, looks back fondly at people who are no longer among us, complains about politics and politicians, looks at membership in the Mile High Club, and offers a practical solution to Japanese whaling. Read it if you have nothing better to do.

A New Way to Get our Newsletter

Some Club Sanook Members have told us that they prefer to receive our newsletters and postcards attached to email in pdf (Adobe Acrobat) format so they can save these pages and enjoy them off-line and send our newsletter to friends. If you want to receive your newsletter in this format please tell us.

Next Time...

The next Bulletin form Bangkok will feature news about our 2008 Photo Contest, a look at Samui, Sapa and more "Been There, Done That" tips for Bangkok and Chiang Mai as well as a story about how to squeeze a tummy tuck into your holiday.

Seeing Double?

If you received two or more emails regarding 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.
 

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Purple Dragon pioneered gay Asian travel 

 
Copyright 2008 Purple Dragon Ltd. All rights reserved.
"Siamese Specatacular" photo courtesy of Siam Niramit.

 

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