This Event Sure to Be Heavenly
If you have a chance to be in parts of Purple Dragon's world in mid-July you may
witness a rare and wonderful celestial event--a total eclipse of the sun. Not
only do total eclipses not happen very often, they can rarely be seen from
places that can be reached conveniently.
This one will be different.
22 July the event will first be visible in parts of Western India near dawn.
Totality, the moon completely obscuring the sun,
may be seen only within a narrow corridor that passes through Northern India,
across Southern Bhutan, then across China and the Sea of Japan before
dipping into the South Pacific.
A great place to view the
eclipse is Varanasi, India's holiest city, where it will surely be celebrated as
a major spiritual event. Bhutan may also be one of the
best places for viewing since altitude and the lack of industrial air pollution
mean a better chance of crystal clear skies.
Hangzhou, a few hours drive from Shanghai is almost directly in the center of
the path. Totality there will last about five minutes.
The single best place to see the eclipse is probably Enewetok Atol, in the
Marshall Islands, where totality will last nearly six minutes. Traveling
there is a bit more challenging than going to Shanghai, and there is far less to
see since the U.S. tested 43 nuclear bombs there in the 1950s.
We are already helping several customers plan unique adventures to witness this
event. You will have to
wait until 2132 to see another major eclipse like this. If you would rather not wait
that long please contact us if you would like help with your plans.
Free Nights, Shrinking Prices
It's no secret that visitor numbers are down and almost touching bottom in some
parts of Purple Dragon's world. Some of the hotels we work with have come back
to us with a second round of price reductions. We have also lowered our own
margins as much as we can to give Members the best possible value when they take
advantage of discounts. Currently we have great short-term prices from these
Bangkok: Regency Park, Tarntawan
Chiang Mai: Lana Mantra, The Chedi, The Rachamankha
Koh Samui: Le Paradis Resort
Phuket: Club One Seven, CC Bloom's, The Sea Patong
Pattaya: Rabbit Resort
Hua Hin: The Rock
Siem Reap: (Angkor Wat): Hotel de la Paix
Hanoi: Sofitel Metropole
Saigon: Caravelle Hotel
Sapa: Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa (see story below)
Hue: La Residence Hue
Luang Prabang: Sala Prabang
These special deals are either temporary discounts or free additional nights. They are all different and
have their own rules, so we can not explain each of them in detail in this newsletter. You can
also read more in the private Member Area on the Club Sanook website. However,
for the full story about any of these options, please contact us and we will give you complete details. Please keep in mind that we do not make hotel-only
reservations. However, we have incorporated all of these discounts into our existing packages and reduced the prices further. We will add new Member Specials as we receive them,
so check back from time to time.
Pride in Delhi?
India is slowly coming out of the closet. If India is like China, there will be
faint signs of a gay community evolving there, followed by an tsunami of social
change. One of those faint signs is Delhi's second annual Pride Parade,
scheduled for June 28. You can see all of the details on their
A More Civilized Songkran in Luang Prabang
Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar all celebrate their own New Year festivals at the height of the warmest, driest time of the year. Thais and Lao call their New Year "Songkran."
For centuries Songkran has been celebrated with a ceremonial sprinkling of water on Buddha images and by pouring a bit of water over the hands of
friends and family.
Over time, this gentle sprinkling and pouring has become transformed into a full-scale war of water in Bangkok. It is virtually impossible to avoid being soaked daily, which means wearing
old clothes and plastic sandals, and putting anything important in plastic bags before going out. Drunken hooligans in pickup trucks prowl the streets, shooting anyone who looks dry with high powered water guns. This might be fun once or twice, or until your expensive mobile phone is ruined. Many who can not flee the city over Songkran stay indoors at home.
Songkran in Luang Prabang remains more traditional. Those who want to stay soaking wet for a few days find ways to do that. Most people enjoy
colorful parades, special markets, beauty contests and the chance to sculpt chedis out of sand. The atmosphere is quite festive. People either dress up or stay shirtless. Ladyboys look more glamorous than ever, and the flow of beer and local whiskey seems to put folks in a very agreeable frame of mind.
If you are interested in experiencing Songkran in Luang Prabang in 2010, please consider joining the small group we are putting together. We depart Bangkok on 14 April 2010 and return on the 18th. (You can go earlier or stay longer if you like.) Although we have planned some fun activities, we are leaving plenty of time for everyone to enjoy LP on their own. If you are interested in receiving details when available, please
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
every edition of Bulletin from Bangkok we offer a few suggestions and
will eventually publish the compiled list on our website. This time we
suggest some nightlife alternatives.
Sanam Luang and Si Ayutthaya Road. Althoughthe Grand Palace is
closed at night the entire palace/Wat Po area is dramatically lit
after dusk. Most visitors never see this spectacle, except on a postcard, but you can do it
easily by taxi.
After you drive around and enjoy the pretty lights, continue along nearby Si Ayutthaya Road towards the Chao Praya River. This is the boulevard that passes in front of Chitralada Palace, the residence of the King and Queen. The canopy of trees above the street is filled with millions of twinkling lights and many nearby intersections are decorated with imposing regalia. Since you are in the neighborhood, continue to the end of Si Ayuttaya (make sure the driver does not make any turns) as it snakes past temples and homes, then ends abruptly at the
edge of the river. You have arrived at Kaloang Home Cooking, one of Bangkok's most picturesque and unusual culinary treasures. The seafood is out of this world, and the ageing ladyboys
who work there will take great care of
you. The warm banana flower salad with prawns and a tangy sauce is something you may dream about for years to come.
Pak Klong Talad. Bangkok's historic "vegetable market by the canal" was scheduled
for demolition in 2004. Lucky for us the land was never transformed into another
phony floating market and tourist park. One three-block stretch in this
sprawling neighborhood is Bangkok's wholesale flower market. The best time to go is late at night
(actually, you can add this to the trip suggested above), when the flowers are the freshest. If you love flowers, the sight of
massive bundles of roses, exotic gingers, orchids, anthurium and heliconia could be almost overwhelming. You will probably see hotel and restaurant people buying what will go into the next day's arrangements. Prices are so low you could be tempted to buy armloads of flowers for yourself. Unfortunately, they make impractical souvenirs. On the other hand, giving a rose to the first fifty handsome young men you see on Soi Four could create quite a sensation.
Gay Nightlife, Thai Style.
The same people who tell us they have already seen everything in Bangkok probably also believe that Sois 2 and 4 are the center of gay nightlife in the Big Mango. In truth, Bangkok's real gay scene is somewhere else and
is completely different. While we are not suggesting that visitors skip Silom/Surawong nightlife, return visitors might enjoy a look at the places where
most Thai gays go to party. The greatest concentration of venues is in the Ramkamhaeng area, which is somewhat distant from the center of the city. There are several universities
nearby, so patrons are mostly students. Patrons do not often go to Silom because they cannot afford it--not necessarily because they do not like foreigners. There are also a couple of bars near Chatuchak Weekend Market.
The handful of bars on Sarasin near the corner of Rachadamri, facing Lumpini Park are walking distance from Silom. Apparently local gays have taken control of several
venues in this block.
Why not use one of our guides to take you to some of these places? They will help you avoid transportation and language hassles, so you can spend your time enjoying your adventure.
Disease du Jour
In this issue we take a brief detour from stories about the unique, low-priced health care available in Thailand so that we can consider
Last month one of our customers collapsed of a heart attack while sightseeing in Hanoi. Our quick thinking guide had seen enough on television to know he had to do something immediately and was able to get our friend to the emergency room of a nearby hospital in a matter of minutes. "Twenty minutes later and it would have been too late," the doctor told him.
Although several of our guests have had injuries and even broken bones we count our blessings that no guest has ever died while in our care over the past twelve years. While the unexpected is unpleasant to think about, you are probably as likely to have a medical emergency on holiday as you are at home.
Not wanting to tempt fate, Purple Dragon has made the decision to insure that
every one of our guides in our entire eight-country system has CPR and other
emergency first aid training. Even our Bangkok office staff will take the
necessary classes to provide immediate treatment until professionals are able to
take over. We want you to stay healthy and return soon.
Blog Achieves Cult Status
Imagine our surprise when our website's visitor statistics revealed that
Douglas' blog gets twice as much traffic as any other page. This is
not to say that nobody pays any attention to our other pages.
However, it is fascinating that thousands of people are curious enough to read
his ongoing commentary on things. Since the blog began in November 2006, the irregular
installments have become essays about politics, life in Asia, food, wine,
technology, plastic surgery and boyfriends. Douglas reminds readers often that God hates TV and
that Jerry Falwell is still dead. If you are brave enough, pour yourself a stiff
cocktail (or a glass of sparkling water) and visit
Grade Purple Dragon
We normally email a questionnaire to our customers not long after their trips
are completed. Feedback from guests helps us to identify problems and to
improve service. Unfortunately, our elaborate computerized system for doing this
and compiling statistics from responses met an untimely death in June 2008 when
it was accidentally erased. Oops! So if you have traveled with us since then,
we have not really forgotten about you. We now have a new system in place that
is faster and easier to use. We would still love to hear from you if you
traveled with us during the last nine months. You can tell us about your
experience and rate our performance by
New in Purple Dragon's World
Sapa! This picturesque mountain town North of Hanoi is home to a French
colonial resort andis surrounded by many colorful villages populated by different tribes of ethnic
minority people. Traveling to Sapa is not terribly convenient, so it is off
Vietnam's well-trampled tourist circuit. The few who take the time to include Sapa in their plans are rewarded with one of Asia's
unspoiled places, with vivid green rolling hills, terraced fields, rustic homes and waterfalls.
During your stay you will visit several local villages (on their market days, if
possible). From the top of one of the local peaks you can peer into China's
Hunan province. You can read details on the Purple Dragon website:
Ayuttaya and the River of Dreams. We have offered a luxury overnight boat
trip to Ayutthaya for the past several years. However, the cost has been so
prohibitive that few of our guests have been interested. We still like the idea,
however, of a leisurely trip up the Chao Praya River on a lovely converted rice
barge, and have found a new option for our guests to enjoy. Depart Bangkok after
lunch, sail upriver all afternoon and dock at a rural village temple for dinner.
After breakfast the following day our guide meets you when the boat ends its
journey, and you enjoy Bang Pa-In and Ayuttaya by private car. For details see:
Our Singapore, Bali and Bhutan pages are still being designed. Yes, we admit we are slow. However, if you want to be alerted when we put them online, please
let us know.
Thanks for the Photos
Some of our Members have plenty of time
on their hands. We receive several photos a week from our friends around the
world. We love to
publish them here from time to time when space permits, just to remind ourselves and our Members
how special Asia really is. Allan M. sent us these snapshots from National Penis
Day in Japan. (Yes, really.)
If you received two or more emails regarding this issue of
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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Copyright Â© 2009 Purple Dragon Ltd. All rights reserved. No animals were harmed in the making of this newsletter.