Club Sanook Newsletter - January 2009 Newsletter

March 2009

...But the Good News Is...

Turn the TV on at any hour of the day and you will be reminded that the world economy is a train wreck waiting to happen. The tourism industry in our part of the world is in deep trouble, yet the hotels most gay visitors prefer are consistently full. Thankfully, we are about as busy as we normally are this time of year. Most of our guests travel here because they understand how inexpensive it is compared to many other destinations that are attractive to them. The great news is that prices are lower than ever before. The cost of oil is low, which is motivating some airlines to reduce fares. Many of the hotels we work with are doing almost whatever it takes to fill rooms. Consequently, we have renegotiated rates to the lowest point we have seen in a long, long time.

To date we have special prices for all of these hotels:

  Bangkok. Siri Sathorn, Siam Heritage, The Metropolitan
   Chiang Mai. Lanna Mantra, The Chedi
   Koh Samui. Baan Haad Ngam, Le Paradis
   Pattaya. Rabbit Resort
   PhuketClub One Seven. Club One Seven, CC Bloom's, Salathai Resort, The Sea Patong
   Hua Hin. The Rock Hua Hin
   Siem Reap (Angkor Wat). Borei Angkor, Hotel de la Paix
   Hanoi. Sofitel Metropole
   Saigon. The Caravelle
   Sapa. Victoria Train & Victoria Sapa
   Dalat. Novotel Dalat, Sofitel Dalat Palace
   Hue/Hoi An. La Residence Hotel & Spa

Kill Your TVThese are in addition to the all-year specials we offer Members to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and China.

Mainstream tourists are staying at home for the time being, eyes glued to their TV sets, waiting for the trains to collide. So an added bonus for our guests is that they will not have to share their holiday with bus loads of people they would rather not rub shoulders with at home. There is something wonderful about entering a temple, monument or museum and having the place practically to yourself.

You can see the latest goodies on our Member Specials page. We have even added some coupons--you can get a free shirt or a discount at Cutey & Beauty Salon or Up2 Salon in Bangkok. You can see all of them in the Members-only section of the Club Sanook website: Not yet a Member? Join here.

The Newsletter You Missed

In January we sent all of our Members a postcard. Unfortunately, the link to our January newsletter was a little too obscure for most to notice, so you may have completely missed it. It is worth reading if you did. We announced the 2008 Photo Contest winners and offered an easy quiz. We have decided to extend the deadline for entering until the end of March. Questions are based on the January postcard (which you can still find online). You will find clues to the bonus question in the photo contest rules posted on the Purple Dragon website. To see the January newsletter and enter the contest click here. Another clue: "Indonesia" and "New Jersey" are incorrect answers to all questions.

Been There, Done That

With increasing regularity people come into our office and announce that they 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. Sure, there are places like Jim Thompson's House, Vimarnmek Mansion and Wat Po that are well-trampled by tourists. However, there is plenty more if you scratch below the surface. In future editions of Bulletin from Bangkok we will give you a few suggestions and publish the compiled list on our website.

The Anantasamakhom Throne Hall, near Government House and Vimarnmek Mansion, is one of Bangkok's most specacular pieces of architecture. This Renaissance building of Italian design was constructed of marble from Italy under the instruction of King Rama V, with an intention to be used as a royal reception hall. Frescos decorating the dome show scenes of royal pagentry during the reigns of the earliest Kings. The building serves as a venue for royal and state ceremonies. Recently the Throne Hall has become a museum displaying some of the priceless treasures owned by the Royal Family.

Bangkok's Hindu Temple. If you have visited here even once you know how easy it is to become blurry-eyed after visiting one too many of Bangkok's magnificent Buddhist temples. If you are interested in divine architecture, an interesting alternative is Bangkok's largest Hindu temple. Although it is on Silom Road, only a few blocks from the center of nightlife and hotels, it is a world away. The serenity inside will make you want to linger for a while, just to watch the parade of people and enjoy the rhythm of the gentle music. Before you leave, have a look behind the long wall about two blocks away in the direction of the nightlife area and you will see what is probably one of the largest non-military cemeteries in the world. Although the land is worth billions of dollars/euros/pounds and surrounding office towers are reaching ever closer to the heavens, this big plot of land is strictly off limits, much to the dismay of developers.

Panthip Plaza was a department store in its previous life, but is now home to hundreds of small shops selling anything and everything electronic. You will find everything from mobile telephones to computers, computer parts and peripherals at bargain prices. If you are an early adapter and crave the latest gadgets you may find them here before they are on the market back home. Panthip (the "h" is silent) is also one of the favorite places for Thais to shop for cheap software and the latest movies on DVD (sometimes before they even appear in theatres). Panthip is on Petchaburi Road near Central World Plaza about 20 minutes by taxi from the Silom/Surawong area.  Every taxi driver knows how to get there.

An Island to Yourself . Not far up the Chao Praya River from Central Bangkok is tiny Koh Kret, home to ethnic Mon people and the best place to find fabulous terra cotta treasures in Thailand. You can walk or bicycle around the island in less than an hour, without a single car in sight (they are not allowed). The place is almost completely deserted on weekdays except for the monks who care for a few sleepy temples, and the artisans in the pottery workshops, so you may find that you are the only visitor. On weekends, however, this is a favorite place for local people to visit because the narrow lanes become lined with people selling all kinds of unusual food, particularly many traditional Thai sweets that have all but disappeared here since 7-Elevens started selling candy bars.

Kudos in Delhi 

Around the same time Slumdog Millionaire was winning all those Oscars in Hollywood, our team in New Delhi were winning an award of their own. The amazingly resourceful people who take care of our guests in India have been awarded second place in the National Tourism Awards of Excellence. We think that is pretty fabulous and we are as proud of them as we can possibly be. If you have traveled in India before you know how important excellence really is. The difference between a cheap tour and a truly wonderful experience is usually the result of high standards, a commitment to excellence, decades of experience and, perhaps, a touch of gold lamé. None of us are content with second place, but next year is only a year away.

Singapore Swing

Close your eyes and think of Singapore, Dorothy. What do you see in this land of Oz? A sterile, boring city run by an autocratic and conservative government that seems to hate fun? We thought so, too. But we could not have been more wrong. Singapore is almost electrifying in its great diversity. This tiny island nation with a population about the size of Bangkok is a cultural crossroads with some of Asia's most unique architecture, dining, hotels, shopping and even (believe it or not) nocturnal diversions. Unlike Hong Kong, Singapore is mostly open space and has hundreds of public parks and wilderness areas. Its zoo and botanical gardens are among the best in the world. This major transportation hub is a great place to stop over on your way to somewhere else. Our Singapore package will probably be on our website by the time you see this but you will not be able to find it unless you ask us where it is. We are going through a website face lift (the only kind Douglas can afford these days) so Singapore will make its public debut in a month or so.

Back to Bali 

We took a sabbatical from Bali about three years ago. But many of our guests have been asking for the perfect holiday that includes both beaches and sleepy hillside villages, so we are in the process of launching two new low-frills Bali packages. If you have not yet been there you are missing something special. We will plan to offer a great selection of gay and gay-friendly hotels in both South Bali and Ubud. While this is still a work in progress, please let us know if you are interested and you we will send you email to tell you where to find Bali on our website.

New in Purple Dragon's World 

We recently added The Cosmo Hotel in Hong Kong to our collection of unique hotels. The Cosmo is sleek, contemporary, comfortable and beautifully located in colorful Wanchai on Hong Kong island, surrounded by great shopping and restaurants. As Hong Kong hotels go, The Cosmo is a bargain.
When we saw The Scarlet in Singapore it was love at first sight. Transformed from a group of  century-old shophouses, The Scarlet makes a powerful design statement that is both luxurious and fun. How can you describe it? Whimsical? Eccentric? Or simply a designer gone mad? Maybe all of those things. But we think it is really standout as extraordinary. Rooms come with DVD players and giant TV screens, ample bathrooms, and goose down comforters. Coffee is delivered within minutes of your wake-up call. The Scarlet is a class act and we are proud to offer it as the cornerstone of our new Singapore Swing package.

Sihanoukville has been called "Pattaya fifty years ago." Half a day by scenic highway from Phnom Penh, three attractive beaches lure visitors for long weekends. While the nightlife has not yet developed there, it is still a great place for a relaxing holiday. Unfortunately we have not had much success with hotels there until recently. The "best" hotel there is a sprawling Malaysian-designed eyesore and the other options available are mostly guesthouses. So we were really excited when DevaRaja Villa and Bungalows introduced themselves to us. This new gay-owned, gay-managed boutique hotel is intimate, stylish and intent on providing attentive service. We like it so much that it is the only hotel we plan to use in Sihanoukville for the time being.

We have had the pleasure of working with Golden Banana in Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) for some time now. As far as we know, Purple Dragon is the only tour operator they cooperate with, which makes us feel pretty special. We have watched Golden Banana grow from an adorable guesthouse to a full-blown resort. They have just opened their third phase, which they call their Boutique Resort. (We suggested they name it the Purple Dragon wing, and they are still considering it.) This newest addition to the property is made up of villas and suites surrounding a delightful pool. Many of the villas have rooftop terraces with shower facilities and gigantic tubs. Aside from their tasty breakfasts, what we like most about Golden Banana are the wonderful people who work there and make guests feel so much at home. We feature Golden Banana in our Angkor Leisurely package. However you can stay there if you take any of our packages. Just ask.

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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