Club Sanook Newsletter - November 2007


November 2007

More about Myanmar
Where to Sanook for the Holidays
Yahoo, Schmaoo
See Andy Run

Disease du Jour
This Month's Contest
China Relaxes HIV Rules
December/January Events
Regency Park Returns
Thailand Faces Fashion Catastrophe

More about Myanmar

Recent events in Myanmar (Burma) have been dramatic, to say the least. It appears that the public confrontations have ended and that changes will come as a result of pressure on the government from the international community. A number of our customers have expressed concern about the safety or practicality of visiting Myanmar, and we want to address those concerns. Aside from the brief closure of Schwedagon Pagoda during one of the protests, places where visitors go and stay have been completely unaffected. There are no unusual safety risks. Airlines are flying. Hotels have not closed. Schools and public offices never closed. The only visible change over the next few months will be the conspicuous absence of buses packed with tour groups, and the crowds that always result.

All but one of our customers chose not to change their plans to visit Myanmar. In fact, several  went to Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay as planned immediately after the first protests and reported feeling comfortable and safe.

We continue to encourage people to visit Myanmar, and we believe that there may be no better time to do so. Tourism has very powerful effect on local people. Some hotels have made many staff members redundant (laid them off) because of a sudden drop in tourism, and that means they can not feed their families. Just as important, having "foreign eyes" around reminds people that they are not isolated and alone and also reminds the junta that the world is watching.

The state of affairs in Myanmar is a complicated issue and there are many strong opinions about what can and should be done. What must be remembered is that opinions are neither right nor wrong, and that we are really all on the same side. We want the best for the Burmese people. Douglas shares his own opinion in his blog. To read more about what we do in Myanmar go here.

Where to Sanook for the Holidays

Year-end holidays are not far away and we continue to receive hopeful requests for late December reservations that we hoped we would receive in April or May. If you are a last-minute planner, the information below might be helpful if you still want to visit our part of the world between 18 December and mid January 2008:

Thailand. There is still time to book space in many Bangkok hotels. Chiang Mai will be a bit more difficult, but not completely impossible. Beach resort destinations (Pattaya, Phuket, Samui, Hua Hin, Krabi, etc.) are next to impossible at this point and we regret that we can not put much time into finding hotels in these places.

Laos. Vientiane is still a possibility. However, Luang Prabang hotels have been sold out for months and most hotels are keeping waiting lists.

Cambodia. A glut of hotels in Siem Reap means we may be able to find something for you if you are flexible about cost. Phnom Penh is less difficult.

Vietnam. We have never seen anything like what is happening in Vietnam this year. Hotel prices in Hanoi and Saigon have doubled and tripled and we are finding it difficult to accommodate anyone anywhere in either of these cities before March 2008 unless you do not mind sleeping in Lenin Park. Hue, Hoi An, Dalat and Phan Thiet are still possible if we can find flights.

India. Forget it. Think about December and January 2008/2009 before next April or consider visiting during March through September 2008.

Myanmar. As you might guess, Myanmar hotels and flights are wide open for the most part. If you want a beach holiday, this is the place to go in 2007.

China. If you do not mind chilly weather, December is off season in most of China and we can find plenty to keep you busy there. Hong Kong will be somewhat more difficult, although not impossible. Some people actually prefer to visit China this time of year. Somehow the steamy dumplings are more delicious when it is cold outside.

Yahoo, Schmahoo

We have grown weary of the antics of Yahoo email. While Purple Dragon receives email from customers who use Yahoo without any apparent problems, most of our guests with Yahoo addresses never receive our replies. Recently one customer came to our office after he did not receive any of the five replies we sent him and told us "I thought you were out of business." Some of our customers have been far less restrained, and we can understand why.

We have contacted Yahoo they have no comment and do not seem to care. Since we do not send spam or anything inappropriate to anyone, we think this is a pretty lousy attitude. But what do you expect for free?

If you use Yahoo and think we have been ignoring you, please forgive us. In the future, we may not be able to serve you properly unless you give us an alternate non-Yahoo email address. If you are receiving this email at a Yahoo address but want us to change our records to another email service provider, all it takes is an email.

See Andy Run

Andy, one of our favorite customers, is making a bid to carry the Olympic Torch on its way to Beijing. Andy has lived in China for the past five years and we think it would be pretty cool for One Of Us to take a turn running with the big flame. You do not have to know Andy to help him achieve his dream. All you have to do is vote for him here

Do you have a personal website that our Members might be interested in visiting? Please let us know. We can not promote anything naughty, of course, and your website must somehow involve travel in our part of the world.

Disease du Jour

The Bit "C". One tragic thing about cancer is that many people do not learn they have it until it is more advanced and more difficult to treat. Many different kinds of cancers can actually be detected with blood tests and other simple outpatient procedures. Men over 50, for example, should have a "PSA" test for prostate cancer at least every two years or so. Practically all of the economical yet comprehensive physical exams offered by major hospitals in Thailand include tests that identify the early signs of liver, pancreas, stomach, intestinal and other kinds of cancers. Spending just half a day of your holiday to get a thorough exam and evaluation of your health could literally save your life. You can see several plans from different hospitals compared side-by-side here.

Next time: Dental Care Without Painful Wallet Extractions

This Month's Contest

Answer all of the questions below correctly and we will enter you in a drawing to win one of this month's prizes, an amazing ThaiLex travel DVD, which combines Thai language learning with information about destinations, events, and culture in Thailand. You can find answers to all of these questions on the Purple Dragon website. If your name is drawn and you also answered one of the bonus question correctly, we will throw in one of our lovely Purple Dragon polo shirts. If you can also answer BOTH of the bonus questions you will win the DVD, the shirt and a $50 Purple Dragon voucher if your name is drawn.

1. Name the city where you will visit the "Administrator's Garden."

2. Name two animals you might see at Ranthamabore National Park.

3. Name one of Myanmar's two major beach resorts.

4. Where does the boat stop on the way to Kamu Lodge?

5. Name one Purple Dragon package that includes massage.

6. Name one country you most want Purple Dragon to add to the countries we already offer. (The answer is not on our website, so every answer is correct.)

Bonus Questions:

B1. Please identify the event shown in the photo on the right.

B2. This year is the twentieth anniversary of publication of the first edition of Eric Allyn's landmark guidebook The Men of Thailand. The fist two editions of the book were co-authored by someone else. What was his name?

To enter this month's contest, go here!

China "Relaxes" HIV Rules

We regularly receive email from Members who want to visit China but are concerned about the country's 1994 law that denies entry to HIV positive visitors.

First of all, we have never seen nor heard of anyone being screened for HIV at a border or airport. Most visitors nowadays have no visible symptoms so there is no reason for Chinese authorities to wonder about anyone's status in the first place. If that is not enough to put you at ease, however, we note that China is in the process of revising this antiquated and draconian law, which also includes individuals infected with TB. We have been told by two of our Members that they disclosed their positive HIV status on their visa applications and were issued visas anyway.

The Chinese government has also directed that all hotels in and around Beijing supply each each room with condoms during the coming Olympic Games.

December & January Events

Bangkok seems an unlikely city to enjoy Christmas decorations. However, we have some of the world's most spectacular displays of lights in the world from mid-December through mid-January. Already, beautiful trees tower above Central World Plaza and The Emporium shopping malls. Rachadamri and Ploenchit Roads near the Erawan Shrine are dazzling every year. This year's decorations and decorations promise to be more exciting than normal as Thailand celebrates the 80th birthday of His Majesty the King on 05 December.

 Flowers galore:
Bangkok's famed Rose Garden will host a major orchid show from 30 November through 5 December
A tulip fair in Chiang Mai from 05 December through March 08
An orchid fair in Samutsongkarm from 14 through 17 December
Winter Rose Fair in Chiang Mai 21 through 23 December.

It's a Bird, it's a Plane...

Nightly fireworks over the Chao Praya River, Bangkok 4 through 8 December
hot air balloon contest, Pattaya, 8 through 12 December
Lantern Festival, Khorat, 8 through 14 December
Fireworks competition, Chiang Rai, 28 December through 31 March

Fun Afloat (and on Wheels)
King's Cup sail boat racing in Phuket from 1 through 8 December
Vintage Car Parade and Art Festival, Hua Hin, 1 through 16 December

Pattaya Gay Festival, 29 November through 2 December
River Kway Festival, Kanchanaburi, 01 through 09 December. Shows every night. You can also see the spectacular fields of sunflowers in bloom in the surrounding area through January
Ayuttaya World Heritage Site Celebration, 7 through 16 December

Art and Music
96 artists celebrate the King's birthday, Imperial Queen's Park Hotel in Bangkok, 3 December through 31 January 

Dame Kiri te Kanawa's recital--part of her "Farewell Tour"--on 17 December could be the hit event of the season
International Dragon & Lion dance Competition, Khon Kaen, 14 through 17 December
Bangkok Jazz Festival, 14 through 16 December: Blood Sweat & Tears, Kitaro, Nils Landgren, Dave Samuels & the Caribbean Jazz Project and many more

Jim Thompson's famous silk shop will have their annual sale 14 through 16 December
Thai people go to the polls on 23 December to elect a new government to replace the junta that has been running things since the last Prime Minister was thrown out. December 24th has been declared a legal holiday, giving us all yet one more day to shop.

Vietnam: TET Holiday 2008
Vietnamese New Year, 02 through 07 February. Since it is considered unlucky to work during this period, practically everything closes and some prices double, we do not recommend visiting during this time because there are no public festivities and visitors are left with almost nothing to do.  We do not accept reservations during Tet because our local staff deserve time off, too.

Darika is always decorative during the Holidays (click for more)

Of the many musical events during December, we are especially looking forward to Dame Kiri Te Kanawa's recital in Bangkok on 17 December (clickfor more)


Spectacular fields of sunflowers in bloom in Kanchanaburi in December and January


Regency Park Returns 

Regency Park is Back! After a long year of redecoration and construction noise, we are very happy to welcome the Regency Park Hotel back to Purple Dragon's collection of hotels. You can enjoy a stay there using any of our Bangkok packages. We have also created a special "long stay" Bangkok package using the Regency Park exclusively for Club Sanook Members. You can see it here

Thailand Faces Fashion Catastrophe! 

There is very little to look forward to when commuting in Thailand. The traffic jams are legendary and taxi drivers who spit, take the longest possible route to any destination and tweeze their whiskers with two one-baht coins turn trips around any Thai city into a memorable cultural experience. However, nothing probably brings more joy to people on the street than the sight of a lanky police offer in a skin-tight uniform. A uniform fetish is not required to get a little turned on by the sight of a cop in his legendary dark green livery exacting fines from unlucky traffic scofflaws.

It is with the utmost sadness that we must report that these fabled, crack-hugging, nipple-teasing uniforms will soon disappear from Thailand's streets. They are destined to be replaced by something new, brown, baggy and far more modest. While it is a sad fact that Thailand's gendarmerie have put on a few kilos in recent years, we will all miss the sight of fresh new recruits in drab olive that is still unstretched by time, wear and laundry. The good news is that a lot of used uniforms are about to go on the market for those who might like to play traffic cop at home.

A New Way to Get our Newsletter

Some Club Sanook Members have told us that they prefer to receive our newsletters and postcards attached to email in pdf (Adobe Acrobat) format so they can save these pages and enjoy them off-line and send our newsletter to friends. If you want to receive your newsletter in this format please tell us.

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 redundant email.

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