March 2011
Myanmar is Hot Again
Hugh & Kanitful Loved Their Wedding
Fatal Boat Accident
10% to 24% off!
War with Cambodia?
Green Season Specials
Disease du Jour
New at Purple Dragon
Premium Membership?
The Immortal Miss Fu
Return of the Photo Contest

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Myanmar is Hot Again

Recent political changes in Myanmar (nee Burma) have had a significant impact on tourism there. The government's release of democracy activist and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, as well as a completely new political structure for the CLICK TO ENLARGEcountry have apparently made Myanmar more palatable for many visitors. Political problems, international pressure and a devastating typhoon in May of 2008 all caused serious damage to tourism.

Several of Purple Dragon's customers have already made plans to travel with us to Myanmar in October, December and January. Much to our surprise, many hotels there are already heavily booked and all of the October one- and two-night cruises between Mandalay and Bagan are fully booked.

If you have never visited Myanmar, you can now do so without feeling guilty. It's a diverse and beautiful country with a culture that is still very unspoiled.  Jeff & Mark loved Myanmar. We think you will, too. However, please do not wait until the last minute if you plant to travel during high season. We hate to disappoint guests when hotels are fully booked.

Hugh & Kanitful Loved Their Wedding

In January it was our great pleasure to help plan the Chiang Mai wedding of Hugh and Kanitgul. We have planned commitment ceremonies in Chiang Mai before, but never this large. This time we used a quiet resort hotel in the lush, hilly outskirts of Chiang Mai. Their expansive tropical gardens created the perfect setting for an outdoor ceremony, followed by an indoor reception complete with karaoke and a DJ for their 35 guests. The eight people who actually participated in the ceremony wore lavish Lanna-style silk costumes, and lead guests in a traditional procession to the site of the ceremony. "Yes it was an amazing day, " Hugh wrote us. "Thanks for arranging everything so that it was effortless." We wish them the best of luck. They look pretty terrific together.

Fatal Boat Accident in Halong Bay is a Lesson for Travelers

Photo: Agance France PresseA fatal boat "accident" last month made world headlines, causing concern among many planning to travel to Northern Vietnam. A tourist boat in Halong Bay sank during the night, causing 12 fatalities. Authorities say that the crew forgot to close a valve, causing the compartment beneath sleeping passengers to flood. Our insider thinks the boat was just too old to float. This is the boat operator's second fatal accident. The twenty-year-old captain has been in police custody since the incident.

All boats cruising Halong Bay are not the same. These tragic fatalities happened aboard a boat that catered primarily to backpackers, who paid $30 for transportation from Hanoi, an overnight cruise and meals. Needless to say, we do not use boats of this caliber. In fact, we recently upgrade the boats we use to give our guests an even more comfortable experience and higher safety standards. Unfortunately, most DIY travelers are unable to discern the difference between a risky boat and the kind we use. Like many other components of our programs, our boats cost more, but we think you are worth it. We want you to come back.

10% to 24% Off! Yes, Really

This is the eighth year in a row that we have offered discounts and special offers to Members who plan well in advance for the next high season. Last year we added something new that offers  much more flexibility and greater potential savings, and we are repeating it this year. You can read about it HERE along with other Member goodies for 2011/12. If your dates are set and you know where you want to go, we will give you a handsome price reduction for booking well in advance. And even if you are not sure of your dates or final itinerary, you can buy a "gift certificate" at a cost well below face value and give it to yourself! We all deserve a nice gift once in a while.

Border Squirmish Makes Headlines in Thailand

It's not officially a war yet, and probably will not be, but there has been shooting by both sides across the Thai/Cambodian border. At issue is Preah Vihear, an 11th century Khmer temple that has been a source of conflict between the two countries for quite a while. A UNESCO World Heritage site Prasat Preah Vihear is easily accessible only by helicopter from Cambodia. However, visitors have been able to cross the border on a short walking path from Thailand to visit the site. The World Court in the Hague decided in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia.

Military stationed on both sides of the border have been a state of high alert for almost two years, and shots have occasionally been fired when one side or the other is provoked. Last month both sides shelled each other, causing two deaths and damage to a school and homes on the Thai side. Needless to say, the temple is closed to visitors.

There has already been some damage to the temple. Apparently, the only way the conflict may be resolved is to reduce it to a pile of rubble. In any event, Siem Reap is quite a distance from the area, so visitors to Angkor Wat are in no danger.

Green Season Specials Save Money

Bob and Dan saved $507 on their March vacation in Thailand by taking advantage of Club Sanook discounts and special offers. You can, too! These are just the beginning. We expect more in April.

Members can take 10% off our Pattaya Plush package between now and the end of March. Some of our hotels have made permanent price reductions.

Take any of our Bangkok packages, stay at the Sukhothai Hotel and get one more night free.

Special Member-only prices at Lana Mantra Hotel in Chiang Mai

Special rates at the Caravelle in Ho Chi Minh City through September

Disease du Jour

Some think it is sexy. Others do everything they can to cover it up. If you saw the movie Duplicity, about corporate espionage involving two rival cosmetic companies, you know that finding a cure for male pattern baldness is like finding the Holy Grail. If you are covering up your thinning patches with spray paint, bandanas, hats or a toupé, you may not have to wait for a cure.

Things sometimes happen in Bangkok with amazing speed. If you are a good candidate for hair transplantation, you can have a your entire scalp transplanted in a single day. Stitches dissolve the following day and voilà, you have a new head of hair.

Since everyone in our employ has a full head of hair we are not sure if this is too good to be true or not. However, if you plan to be in Bangkok and want to take home a unique souvenir, we will be happy to refer you to the specialist physician who performs such miracles. We also know of excellent establishments for those who are more interested in hair removal.

New at Purple Dragon

We have long been great fans of Club One Seven in Phuket. Club One Seven Chiang Mai recently opened, and we are happy to add them to our collection of hotels. With only ten rooms, this is probably the smallest hotel we use. This sprawling teak home built a century ago is located on the breezy shores of the Ping River. Rooms are furnished in an antique Lanna style. Purple Dragon guests get a lifetime membership to the hotel's sauna and health club so they can enjoy the hotel's unusual pool.

Coming soon: new "Quickly" packages for those with little time and want to be on the go from the minute they land.

Pot Pouri

Little Siem Reap is about to join New York, Paris, London, Tokyo and Moscow as a two-airport town. Work will begin this month on a new airport 60 km away that will be able to handle 14 to 16 million passengers a year. The current airport has a capacity for about 1.5 million. We have to ask ourselves what kind of impact ten or twelve packed 747s and Airbus A380s will have on Angkor Wat. Most monuments are already in fragile condition due to the pollution caused by buses filled with tourists who cannot keep their hands to themselves.  

Gay India continues to evolve at a an amazing pace. Chennai (nee Madras) is planning its second pride celebration in June, proving that there is more to gay India than just Mumbai. Meanwhile in Hyderabad, a local TV station has recently "outed" a number of local gay men by contacting them on a social networking website, and recording telephone conversations. Those conversations were broadcast along with photos the individuals on the website. They also took a hidden camera inside a gay club. This has resulted in demonstrations and confrontations in Hyderabad and also at the station's office in Delhi. Could this be India's Stonewall?

We were happy to hear that most hotels in Pattaya are full this week. Things have been very quiet lately in this happy seaside getaway, so throngs rediscovering the pleasures of Pattaya are surely bringing smiles to the faces of those who live and work there.

Congratulations are in order for Hôtel de la Paix in Siem Reap. Travel & Leisure Magazine has named them as Cambodia's number one hotel for the fifth year in a row. You can stay with HDLP on any of our Angkor Wat programs.

The Blog

Our Douglas has been blogging for more than four years now, and has cultivated an enthusiastic fan club for his keen insights and dry wit. We have been keeping him so busy with program development and the new Miss Fu iPhone app (story below) that he has not found much time for blogging until quite recently. This time  he is the "oldest guy on Grindr," claims FaceBook brings people back from the dead, thanks friends for cheese and liquor, and welcomes Darika Watchalottaporn back to the Big Mango. You can find his blog at:

Premium Club Sanook Membership? Tell Us What You Think

One of our business gurus has suggested establishing a "Premium Membership" for Club Sanook.  We are debating whether or not this is a great idea, so we decided to ask you, our Members. Please take a short poll. It's completely anonymous, unless you wish to be contacted. Tell us what you think about offering a more exclusive membership that is not free.

Miss Fu to Become Immortal

If you have an iPhone, iPad, Blackberry or other "smart" hand-held device you may be wondering how you ever lived without it in the past. Amazing advancements in technology have given us gadgets that keep us organized, find useful information, entertain us, take great photos and even make a telephone call. Our Douglas and his iPhone are inseparable and this inspired us to begin creating a smart phone "app" that will tell you where to go and what to do in Asia. Although no official announcement has yet been made, we have decided to call it simply "Miss Fu" in honor of our esteemed, reclusive Membership Secretary. You will probably not be able to download it until March or April. However, if you or anyone you know owns or manages a business of any kind in Asia and would like to be included in the listings, please visit the app's website:

Return of the Photo Contest

Way back in 2010 we announced our 4th annual photo contest. Then came a litany of distractions that included civil unrest, a world economic crisis, loony political drama, and the development of an iPhone app. It seemed that practically everyone was distracted, so we put the contest on the shelf. We have dusted it off and are picking up where we left off. We will be updating entries received to date over the next two weeks. For more information view our Photo Contest page.

Seeing Double?

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.

Purple Dragon pioneered gay Asian travel

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No animals were harmed in the making of this newsletter.