May/June 2009

Back Issues

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.

On 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 once-in-a-lifetime 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 hotels:

Bangkok: Regency Park, Tarntawan Place, The Metropolitan, Sukhothai

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 FaceBook page.

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. Jason in Luang Praban took this great photo. Thanks Jason!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 click here.

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 The Unexpected.

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 www.purpledrag.com/blog.htm. You can now become a "subscriber," which means you will receive an emailed notice every time the blog changes. (Cocktails not included.)

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 clicking here.

New in Purple Dragon's World 

CLICK TO SEE LARGER VERSIONSapa! 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: www.purpledrag.com/vietnam/sapa.htm

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: www.purpledrag.com/thailand/rivofdreams.htm

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.)

National Penis Day in Japan  National Penis Day in Japan National Penis Day in Japan

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.
Purple Dragon pioneered gay Asian travel  

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