Purple Dragon Club Sanook
Bulletin from Bangkok
The newsletter of PurpleDragon Ltd's private travel club.

May 2014

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On the Edge: Preah Vihear

Preah Vihear is the farthest temple complex from Angkor Wat that is still within Cambodia. It sits on the rocky edge of a steep cliff that seems to preside over the vast Cambodian plain below. Work began in the 9th century on the first of the temples dedicated to Shiva. It took three hundred years for all of the structures to be completed. Many generations of Khmer god-kings made their contribution to what was intended to be the empire's ultimate Hindu place of worship. Consequently practically every style of Khmer architectural is represented there.

Preah Vihear sits almost exactly on the Thai border, a somewhat imaginary line that is not marked with posts, fences or walls. There has been frequent contention about which side of the border the temples occupies. But in the 1960s the United Nations decided it sat on the map of Cambodia, although the only passable road was from Thailand. In 2008 some nationalistic Thais decided it still belonged to Thailand, prompting a brief shooting war between countries. Even today, troops sit on each side of the border and stare at each other. Since the UN again ruled that it still belongs on Cambodia's map. The road from Thailand is closed, and there is a new road, courtesy of China, that offers up cheap thrills as it zigg-zags up the side of the steep mountain.

Preah Vihear is not only a cultural treasure but a Unesco World Heritage Site. Very large parts of the "ruins" remain intact. You can walk through the only vaulted colonnade that has ever been found in a Khmer structure, and explore temples that are still considered sanctuaries today. You will probably see no more than a dozen other foreign visitors. Buses cannot make the trip the mountain, and it is so far away that visitors have to go to considerable effort to see what many have described as the most impressive of all of the temples they have seen in Angkor Wat.

Purple Dragon is on the verge (make that "on the edge") of adding Preah Vihear to its Angkor Wat programs as an overnight side trip, and as part of a newly refurbished Ultimate Angkor program. From Siem Reap visitors will drive west with stops at Beng Melea and Ko Kher temples, then spend the night in a beautiful new boutique hotel (with a great restaurant and a sparkling swimming pool) near the entrance to the Preah Vihear complex. You will spend most of the second day visiting Preah Vihear itself. The trip up the mountain is by a 4WD SUV driven by someone who makes the trip daily and knows every meter of the road. If time permits your guide may add one or two other nearby stops before returning to Siem Reap late afternoon.

These two trips will be on Purple Dragon's website within about one week. If you want to receive a notice once this happens, please shoot me (Delphine Fu) an email. The first five people to reserve either the overnight side trip or the new Ultimate Angkor program will get double bonus points.



Thailand's Messy Politics

Last February's newsletter began with a story about anti-government protests in Bangkok. We are not sure what is seeping into the news outside of Thailand, but here in the happy Kingdom the great political divide has become a national obsession with two opposing sides, both with passion and team loyalty that rivals even soccer. While annoying at times, the current impasse has given us all something to talk about instead of the hot weather, and occasionally things to laugh about as well.

What we most want you to know is that there is no public turmoil and nothing dangerous or even uncomfortable for visitors. There are no tanks in the streets, although plenty of pretty young soldiers are around to keep us all safe. Aside from newspaper stories you might not even notice that there is a movement to bring about political reforms, end corruption, and oust the current "caretaker government" from their jobs. On some days it seems that there may actually be a light at the end of the tunnel, and most of us are hopeful that both sides will reconcile.

If you are really interested in the nitty-gritty of what has been happening here for nearly four months and have an hour or two to amuse and enlighten yourself, you might want to read Douglas' Blog: Tomatoes & Democracy, which reflects his personal observations and does not represent the opinions of Purple Dragon Ltd. He also discusses growing 100 tomato plants in a 10th floor condominium, the hazards of vitamin C, emergency room photography,  and the real location of Flight 370.

Spring Clearance Sale...15% Off Sale

We will be the first to admit that Thai politics have been ruining business for our industry. For better or for worse the Chinese, Taiwanese and Koreans are staying at home. While Purple Dragon is better off than most, we are feeling the squeeze, so Purple Dragon is offering a special promotion for people who want to travel to almost everywhere we offer during June and July. If you reserve and pay during May for travel in June or July, you can take a 15% discount on any of our packages except for Bhutan, Myanmar or overnight cruises (except Halong Bay). This offer applies to new bookings only and cannot be used in conjunction other promotions except for Club Sanook's Members' Specials. If you plan to use VIP, Superlative or Ultimate hotels, the discount is 10%. Please mention this offer when you reserve.

...And a 50% Off Sale on Bling

BlingDiamond Membership half price? As you may know, we added a "Diamond" membership option around this time last year. Diamond Members get 10% off the first Purple Dragon package they reserve and 5% off any others as long as they are Members. Diamond Members earn an extra 50% bonus points on the trips the book, and get back any points that might have expired. Points never expire as long as you are a Diamond Member. The cost to become a Diamond Member is $400 for three years. During May, however, you can upgrade to Diamond for just $200 for three years or $300 for five years. To upgrade to Diamond just go to www.clubsanook.com/upgrade.htm. In the "promotion code" field enter either 3YEARS or 5YEARS. You will hear from me soon thereafter.

Disease du Jour: Thread Lifts

Blame it on gravity. As we age, the elastic material in our skin begins to break down and things begin to sag. While this happens with the skin over all of your body it is often most visible on the cheeks, jaw line and neck. If you are not yet ready for the pain, bruising, recovery time and the slicing and dicing that goes with a full face lift but still want to pull the skin back to the place it was five or ten years ago, a before and aftergood alternative (until you decide to go for the whole enchilada) may be a "thread lift," which works under the skin the way a good brassier does.

Threading is a minimally-invasive procedure that requires no anesthesia or hospitalization and leaves no scars. The  threads used have tiny exterior fibers, something like barbs,  that that all lay in one direction. Under local anesthetic the threads are inserted under the skin, then gently pulled back. The barbs catch the sagging tissue and the thread is anchored to underlying bone.  There is no pain, results are immediately apparent, and any swelling is gone within three or four days.

Even though the threads slowly dissolve after about a year, they help to create a new underlying architecture for your the. They cause your body to produce hyaluronic acid, which will helps to make skin more supple, and also stimulate the rapid growth of both collagen and elastin fibers, the building blocks of healthy skin.

This procedure usually costs around $300/ 215 euros / 180 pounds per thread in North America and Europe. You can have this done in Bangkok by an MD in a private clinic for a set cost of only 30,000 baht (around $1,000) for up to 50 threads. It should take no more than two hours, plus a short post-procedure observation time. You can have Botox injections and/or fillers at the same time if necessary. Threading can also be used on sagging skin under the arms, on the hips and other parts of the body. You should have a consultation with a physician to find out whether thread lifts are for you. Ideal candidates are from 40 through 6o years old. If you are interested in a consultation, please ask Purple Dragon. They can help you with a full face and neck lift, too--and their service is at no cost to you!

New Balloons Above BaganBagan Balloon

One of the most memorable experiences you can enjoy in Myanmar is a hot air balloon trip over the temples of Bagan when they are bathed in the warm early-morning light. Until recently we have not had many options when it comes to balloon trips, which are often fully booked. However, a new company in Bagan is taking its balloons to a higher level. The original balloon operator uses up to three balloons, with gondolas (the basket under the balloon where passengers stand) that accommodate up to 40 passengers! (We wonder how they choose who gets the front row spots to stand.) The company we have switched to uses gondolas that accommodate just eight passengers, which makes for a first class experience. The cost is only about $15 higher than the other balloon operator. The company observes the highest international safety standards and balloons are operated by licensed European pilots.  >Visit Bagan

High Season Prices

It's that time of year again. It's only May but we are looking forward to 2015 already, and are working on enquiries for as far in the future as November 2015. Purple Dragon uses nearly 400 different hotels in nine countries, and most contracts expire between the end of September and the end of December. This year we got an early start, so we expect that most of our 2015 prices will be published by the end of the first week of May. This is a tedious process, so please bear with us. If you do not yet see prices for the destination you have in mind, don't be afraid to ask. We expect to be able to publish Myanmar prices for the first time in nearly three years. Yeah!

footprintLeave Your Footprint: Pick The Winner In the Race towards Gay Marriage

We are all on the edge of our seats waiting to see which country in our part of the world will be the first to legalize same sex unions. Cambodia's late King Norodom Sihanouk wrote in his personal blog that it was about time for same sex couples to be welcomed legally. The Vietnamese government is set to discuss amendments to the country's marriage law soon with the next few months. A recent English language newspaper carried a story about changing attitudes in that country, and shared results of a recent poll that determined that more than a third of the population supported marriage rights. Saigon has a very open and vocal gay community that has staged a number of public "weddings" in the past. So where does that leave Thailand, which is considered the most tolerant and open? Some here are skeptical, citing that those in power in Thailand are far too conservative. Others are optimistic in the long term. In the short term, Thailand has not had a functioning government for three months, no legislative branch, and the reasonable prospects for elections in the next three or four months are small.

So tell us what you think at the same time when  you leave your "footprint."  You will earn 100 Purple Bonus Points automatically and it takes just a minute or two. We ask Members to read this newsletter and leave their digital "footprint" at least once a year or we bid them farewell. We will publish the results of this fanciful poll in the next edition of the newsletter.

Purple Dragon pioneered gay Asian travel

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No animals were harmed in the making of this newsletter.