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A letter to Trek Thailand - 12 July 2007 Back to stories index

Seven years ago this time I was running an air ticketing shop with my previous local girlfriend in a Bangkok tourist area crowded with foreign tourists and international back packers as well as small and not so small groups of English speaking, or practicing, Thai youth mostly girls.

My then girlfriend's younger brother had a friend - a Burma man who was at that time working on a start up on nature trekking operation. He wanted to test whether he could get attention from the tourists in our area. So he talked to my girlfriend's brother about this a couple of times. At first we did not realise what they were planning.

On one night my girlfriend heard them talking about possibility of working together. Suddenly my girlfriend shouted at her brother and him, announcing her disagreement. She used strong and impolite words - kinds of insults. I remembered for a month the face of the young man trying to collect himself in one piece without showing a bit of emotional change. One minute later he said rather calmly good bye to his friend and quietly disappeared into the noisy crowd in the brightly lit night.

In the same year when I went to Europe for a home visit I talked about this to my wife. My wife said it was an over reacting. "Your friend should just say no thanks," she said. But as a person who had spent many years in Thailand and around I knew the problems.

Later I forgot about this and was busy improving my own business. I expanded my business to cover hotel booking, tours booking and kinds of import and export too.

Then a couple of years later my girlfriend’s brother told me he saw his friend's website doing nature treks and other trips to national parks, countryside and mountain tribes areas. I took a look and liked what he was doing.

Few more years passed and I was now with another local girlfriend, managing a larger business located in a good office room at the same area, but in different and much better building.

Once I recommended a couple from Europe looking for an adventure trek on an out of the beaten track to contact trekthailand.net. They did, and they came back with a very high satisfaction. According to them the trip was a complete difference from what they used to do in the north. "It was amazing. This trip made me understand that Thailand offers a real jungle trek that you just need to know where to find," my friend said. The communication for the trek started with discussion, questions and answers and discussion, and only after some back and forth emailing and phone calls they came to an agreed plan. It was a three days and two nights in Khao Yai national park - but not that part of the park where you see hundreds of visitors. They were alone for two nights in the deep jungle with sounds of wild animals. Only on the last day when they neared the road that passes the park in the center they met with other people. "It was a survival, knowing how people survive in the forest, intimate communication with the local people and ranger who walked with us, and knowing yourself too," the friend of the couple who went together told me. They declared it was safe and well organized trip too.

After that event I was deeply buried with my ever increasing works. I traveled a lot, to every corner of Thailand with road access to expand my network, and to get to know things more because competition was getting tougher.

On one night I met him unexpectedly, and quite a similar thing to what happened 7 years ago happened again. It was on the last day of Thai new-year festival and I was talking with a security officer at a road intersection in Mae Sot - a border town with Myanmar or Burma. That man wearing a hilltribe bag walked to the officer and asked for the direction to the Seven Eleven Mini store. He looked tired and worn out. He must have just come back from a trekking in Umphang or somewhere nearby. Instead of showing the direction the officer demanded in a loud voice with high confidence his travel document. The man politely produced his red colour passport and blue colour work permit. He did not remember me.

The last time I saw him was in a bus two months ago. I was coming back from my visa run trip to Aranya Prathep bordering Poi Pet in Cambodia. Nowadays I drive, but at that time my girlfriend was using my car so I went for the overnight trip with one of my other female friends. We were sitting in the back of the bus and they, the man and his 2 western tourists, came onboard the bus apparently coming back from a trek, maybe to the south-eastern part of Khao Yai. They sat two rows in front of us. According to their conversation that was yet another successful trek.

Now I have able peoples doing much of the management in my business. I am having more time for leisure and thinking. I know the style and way of Trekthailand.net and like it very much. Their operation is indeed ecological, environmentally friendly, sustainable, and very supportive of the communities they visit. But I also see that at the end of 6 years they are still small. From the information I receive from my network of friends I know their success can not transform into the amount of profit value that they deserve. I strongly believe they should be profitable because this kind of business actually help sustainable development of places and countries like Thailand.

Therefore when closing the letter I will tell the manager and tour leader of Trek Thailand team what I see they should do. I must at first admit that there are double or multiple standards in doing business and that your team (or you) are at disadvantage compared to people such as me coming from the West. Since you may know more than me on this matter I will not go more about this. Also you must remember that you don't have "European qualification" because you were not born and brought up and educated in Europe. So you have a lot more works to do to win the trust.

First, declare effectively all the good things your organization is dong. Many large companies who have done damages to the culture and environment and reaping a lot of profits are now declaring that they are responsible corporations. They do donations and make sure that the public know they help communities. If you are quiet about all your efforts useful for the people then who will know?

Second, you already have a systematic research and management as well as safety plans, and all the communication facilities that is available here. Why don't you tell in your website all those things that are signs of high quality that people want to see before making decision to buy?

Thirdly regarding marketing I have so far never see you advertise in local newspapers. I believe there are thousands and thousands of foreign people working and living in Thailand. Many of them may be looking for your kinds of trips. Of course I would recommend you do the first two things first, and advertise your website in newspapers so people will come and see your site and will discover about you.

A Farang of 20 years experience in Siam


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