Friday, June 8, 2007

First Entry

Greetings to all travelers to Thailand. I am probably not your typical travel blogger as I have been living in my holiday destination for many years and seems I am on a more permanent vacation now. So probably I can’t share all those new fascinating experiences with you like newcomers to Thailand can, as many of the culturally interesting things I saw when I first came here have sort of all vanished. What I am thinking I can do though is offer some insight and guidance to people new to Thailand and help them to find the sort of things they are looking for.

I guess before I was not much an internet type community person though. But something happened to me recently which caused me to step into it deeper. The inability to find the sort of information I was looking for on hotels in Thailand basically turned me into one. I live in Bangkok and when I have free time I like to travel around the countryside. Thailand is a beautiful place after all. But traveling means when I arrive somewhere I am going to need a place to stay, that is unless someone doesn’t mind me sleeping in their Sala for a night or two :)

With tourism in Thailand having grown so much in the last 10 years, the abundance of hotels increases every day. This is a good thing from a travelers standpoint. It causes competition amongst the hotels and forces them to increases their standards of quality and service. We as travelers like that :)

The problem I have always had was finding a way to make direct contact with the hotels in Thailand when I have a question on facilities, services, proximity to sites, or want to make a booking. As I have been in Thailand for some time as I mentioned, friends are always suggesting hotels to me when I want to travel upcountry somewhere to try and save me the time of finding the right place myself.

So when I get a tip on a hotel, the first thing I do is go to Google to try and pull up the hotel’s web site. This often leads nowhere. Or should I say it leads somewhere, but not to where I want to go. What I normally come up with is pages and pages of search results pointing me towards all sorts of hotel booking sites which want to show me a few pictures and then quickly whisk me off to a credit card payment facility. Not for me. I like to be romanced a bit first before we get down to a more intimate level, like getting my wallet out.

Actually, what I am really looking for in the search engines is the hotel’s own web site and not a booking site’s version of the hotel’s details. I want to see what the hotel is really offering, look at their maps and pictures, and give them a call since I also put emphasis upon the staffs ability to speak English when I call. I can also get an impression sometimes based on how they treat me on the phone as a prospective guest.

Sometimes I end up on a web site which seems like the hotel’s web site, but is actually just another booking site squatting on the hotel’s domain name. So when I get to the site I see a poorly laid out single page site with a few bad photos and there is again no way to contact the hotel directly. Just book or be booked!

So, after being frustrated by not being able to find hotel web sites when I want them, I finally decided to do something about it now and forever.

I put up my own site called Thai Trip Tips which gives people a variety of things that I was not able to find on the internet myself. The biggest thing the site offers is an easily searchable database which contains over 1,000 hotels throughout Thailand each with direct links to the hotel’s own web site and together with their direct contact phone numbers. You can imagine how long that took me to put together.

So that is one problem solved!

If you sign up for the site you can also read and write reviews on any of the 1,000 hotels in the database. Or, if the hotel you want to write a review on is not in the system yet, you can add it yourself and then write a review. Eventually when there are a lot of reviews for hotels on the site, it means you can read some firsthand hotel opinions even before going any further to the hotel’s own web sites. Again, something the booking sites did not offer me.

The next thing I was having trouble finding is a good, comprehensive and organized traveler forum just focused on Thailand. Not to say there aren’t lots of Thai travel forums, and many of them have interesting discussions going on, but all of the ones I have been able to find lack organization and a variety of discussion areas to choose from. Most are focused on just discussing accommodations and/or a few of the popular destinations, mainly because most of them are also part of the hotel booking sites.

In the forum I created I tried to give everyone as much variety as possible. As an example of some of the more extensive forum topics I put in, I included a section about Chatuchak market, Great Thai Travel Itineraries, discussion boards for each of the islands and regions, a section to discuss short trips from Bangkok for local ex-pats, and an area where people can even discuss their experiences booking rooms through the online booking sites. Plus there is more.

The last thing I did, and what the name of the site actually refers to is to create a place where travelers to Thailand can read and share trip-tips. The trip-tips section focuses on 3 major areas, restaurants, sites, and activities. I added this because I thought it is the sort of thing that people really want to know before walking out the door to get on the plane. I always thought it would be great to arrive somewhere that you may have never been before, but already have a few tips from seasoned travelers so that you feel like you are already in the know on where to get a bite or something to see off the beaten path when you get there. Although this section was not one of the things that inspired me to create this site, it may eventually become one of the most interesting areas in the future.

Everything on the site is free. I basically wanted to create a good information resource with a travel community feel, focused solely on travel in Thailand that everyone can enjoy.

Anyway, enough about what I am doing. I would like to welcome nice people who share the same feelings about Thai travel sites to post questions on my blog and come by and share the great tips you might have on the site, drop in any reviews you can offer on hotels where you have stayed in Thailand and so on.

I am always interested in improving the community, so if you have ideas and suggestion on how to do so please feel free to drop me a note through the site as well.

Happy trails to you all and hope you all are able to enjoy the beautiful things Thailand has to offer.

Tom Evans
Bangkok Thailand