Smiling Albino (SA) takes small groups of people and engages them in experience-the-culture adventures throughout Thailand. On these trips you’ll immerse yourself in the dazzling sights, sounds and tastes of Thailand, while taking part in activities that allow you to push your personal limits. Smiling Albino offers you all kinds of adventures from one-day trips in and around Bangkok to brilliantly designed multi-day, cross-country excursions and custom developed itineraries.

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Name and Logo

 

The name “Smiling Albino” reflects both the nature and location of Smiling Albino’s business. Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles” after its endearingly friendly and hospitable population. Additionally, the name reflects something unique about Thailand’s pageantry: white albino elephants have been given as gifts to Kings of Siam for centuries and have come to represent the sacred power, grandeur and glory of the Kingdom. With these cultural elements in mind, the name Smiling Albino reveals a little of the inimitable charm of this company and its location. Similarly, the two original Canadian founders of the company certainly resembled a couple of smug albinos when they first set foot into the Kingdom many years ago.

The SA logo, featuring an auspicious, happy, white elephant set within a saffron-coloured crest was designed to establish a sense of fun and intrigue – core components of a Smiling Albino adventure.

The inscription “est. 2543” on the outside of the crest indicates the year according in the Buddhist calendar when the Smiling Albino concept was conceived in Thailand.

Accommodation

An inspired journey deserves clean, comfortable accommodations that accentuate the locales Smiling Albino visits. A vacation is both a time to have fun, explore and a chance to refresh one’s soul. For this reason Smiling Albino Adventurers stay in everything from stylish, boutique 4-star properties to charming teak hotels during your trips. Days are spent out and about, seeing things at street-level, but each and every night Smiling Albino promises you a comfortable room with hot shower and private, western-style facilities.

Food

Thai food is something Smiling Albino is really passionate about. Many of the company’s guests say their Smiling Albino adventure could be described as “a culinary trip mixed liberally with a variety of adventure activities and venues,” due to the company’s deliberate emphasis on dining.

In a culture with a highly cultivated sense of taste, mealtime is an opportunity to experiment, indulge and enjoy traditional “family-style” dining. This is how SA likes to approach meals too, sharing many dishes among the group. This way you’ll get to try an incredible array food, including famous Thai curries, dazzling sauces, fresh aromatic herbs, pungent spices and an abundance of fresh greens and exotic ingredients. Many of Smiling Albino’s guests say it’s the best food they’ve ever had.

Throughout your adventure SA will personally host you on a Thai culinary extravaganza at each and every meal. From chic urban restaurants, street-side noodle stands, to those out of the way spots that only locals know about, SA will introduce you to the most celebrated culinary traditions.

SA’s dining experiences cater to all diets and personal preferences, from the truly daring, to the more conservative palate. The best part is you can try as much or as little as you wish, ensuring that your Smiling Albino adventure is a totally enriching culinary experience.

Who are Smiling Albino Adventurers?

Most Smiling Albino guests have never taken an organized expedition before. They come from all nationalities and backgrounds, including captains of industry, families, grandparents, entrepreneurs, preachers, millionaires, adventurous 40-something dreamers and even students. Those who lay claim to a great experience with Smiling Albino indeed come from all walks of life.

SA guests appreciate that the company’s adventures are an opportunity for self discovery, legitimate local interaction and exciting activities that do justice to the areas SA visits. They like the fact that the pace of each day enables them to absorb the charm and energy of the areas we visit; things so often missed on organized “tours”.

Smiling Albino adventurers are also sensitive about their impact on local cultures and environments, preferring their money be used responsibly, in a way that benefits local communities, something we place the utmost importance on, every step of the way.

SA guests are reasonably active and adventurous folks who want some activity during their holiday without the pressure to perform. Often SA group members have a variety of physical abilities and interests and SA adjusts portions of its programs to suit everyone’s needs.

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SA’s Surroundings

SA generally travels in groups no larger than eight and puts special care and attention into minimizing its impact on the environments and cultures it comes in contact with. It hires local guides, never nickel-and-dime local suppliers and believes their service is worth a mutually fair price and deal with small business owners as often as possible. Our ability to speak Thai also enables SA to listen and learn from locals, providing a better understanding of social and cultural climates.

SA operates in a manner that is responsible to natural areas, it strives to improve the well-being of local people, and it leaves areas cleaner than it found them and strictly adheres to the following principles of ecotourism:

Family Travel in Thailand

SA can modify its daily and multi-day adventures to provide the ultimate Thailand experience for your family. It can substitute a sport utility vehicle or car for the scooter portions of our trips or arrange to double people on a scooter if they want to feel the air on their face. A wide variety of alternate day and evening activities are available to make each adventure fit your specific needs. With Smiling Albino, everything is possible!

Health and safety are paramount on all Smiling Albino adventures and it strives to help maximize the fun and minimize the stress of your family holiday.

Remember, for every custom adventure it designs and undertakes, Smiling Albino guarantees to maintain the Smiling Albino experience. Families need to share in that too.

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What Makes Smiling Albino Special?

All Original

Smiling Albino guests enjoy trips that the company has personally designed - built from the ground up with the finest adventure ingredients available. After years of researching and traveling throughout Thailand, SA has compiled the greatest hits - all the things our guests do, and get to dig into, are the proven highlights and memory makers.

The Comfort Zone
Everyday SA wants people to come out of what it calls their “Comfort Zone”. It could be the first time you use a “squatter” toilet, ride an elephant or eat a well-seasoned grasshopper. It's the rush you get when doing something you normally wouldn’t. It doesn’t involve doing dangerous and unsafe activities; it just means stepping out of your circle of comfort on a daily basis and learning, “Hey, I can do that.”

Transport
Whether SA is visiting Bangkok’s Grand Palace, riding bikes above tranquil suburban canals or motorscootering along well-paved mountain passes, no trip is ever the same twice. SA takes private mini-buses, motorbikes, mountain bikes, longtail boats, airplanes, even kayaks – whatever it takes to ensure a totally authentic and extremely enjoyable travel experience.

Logistics
Within Thailand, Smiling Albino uses no middlemen, consolidation-agents or third-party operators, and is not aligned with any multi-national conglomerates. The signature of its business relies on the intimate relationships it has built with a vast network of Thai people throughout the country. As such, Smiling Albino lies within the United Nations' definition of eco-tourism by streaming revenues in a manner that provides a direct benefit to local economies.

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Commitment and Care
Smiling Albino refuses to dictate your shopping experiences or financially benefit from them. The company will give you recommendations and pitch in with some bargaining tips, but it stops there. Smiling Albino doesn’t accept kickbacks or commissions of any sort. The total quality experience of its guests takes supreme priority over whatever small gain may be made from 3rd-party-kickbacks and alliances of convenience.

Bottom line
At its heart, Smiling Albino is a unique adventure travel company creating a positive sphere of influence in a cluttered travel community. On a larger scale, SA is a catalyst for life-changing experiences with a fresh approach to adventure travel. It has travelled the far nooks and crannies of the Kingdom, taken care of the details, and set the stage for the ultimate Thai adventure.

Founder – Dan Fraser

One smile from Dan and most people are hooked. With an insatiable appetite for socializing, if there’s something happening, he’ll probably be there and soon at the center of it. He first came to Thailand in 1995 to work on several teaching and consulting projects under the Thai Royal Family. You could say good connections left him with an urge to settle on a formal basis. After completing a Commerce degree at Texas A&M University, he returned to his home city, Calgary, Alberta, where he conquered the advertising world before trading in his tie for a life of adventure and moved to Thailand in 1999. The quintessential host, it was a natural step for Dan to get into the adventure travel business.

In addition to leading people on life-altering adventures throughout the Kingdom, he dabbles in a myriad of other areas. A well-recognized figure in Thailand, Dan has appeared in a heap of print, billboard and television commercials across Asia and recently co-starred in Thailand’s first digital feature film The Garuda in 2004, and all of his lines were in Thai. He’s worked as a TV presenter in Japan, business advisor in Singapore and team-building facilitator for such companies as Nokia, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and IBM. Dan has been a public speaker and emcee at eco-tourism conferences, international student-exchange forums and multi-cultural corporate workshops. In September 2005, he was chosen by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to be an Andaman Ambassador as part of their Andaman Recovery Campaign.

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Interview with Smiling Albino co-founder Dan Fraser

How did the idea for Smiling Albino come about?

“In 1995 and 1996 I worked for Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn at the Chitralada Palace in Bangkok. It was an incredible year and provided opportunities to see and do things in Thailand beyond the usual visitor’s experience. At that time Scott Coates and I started discussing starting a travel company that brought visitors into the real inner fabric of a country. Choosing Thailand was a natural choice. We saw so many opportunities to do things differently in the travel industry here. We wanted to take people outside the scope of traditional mass tourism and engage them in the life and times of Thailand and its people. We thought we could offer a higher-quality experience. After dreaming about it for a few years while working in marketing in Canada, we decided it was time to take the plunge and moved here just before 2000.

“Smiling Albino, by the way, refers to the chaang phuek, or white elephants, not the company co-founders! We wanted a name that went against the grain of the industry and stood out. I think we found it!”

How has the company evolved from your original vision?

“Certainly we’ve become even more involved in the community that we first envisioned. We always wanted to have a positive impact in our local neighborhoods and environment, but through our years of meeting people and exploring this wonderful country, we’ve discovered several projects and opportunities to get ourselves and our guests involved in various development programs. Community outreach has become a very important part of our operation.

“In addition, we’ve had wonderful opportunities to develop highly-customized programs for discerning guests, VIPs, captains of industry, etc. that we originally didn’t expect to be servicing. As a result, SA has become a travel consulting company over the past couple of years reaching an elite clientele who normally wouldn’t consider organized trips.”

How do you choose the groups, or do they choose themselves? What happens if you ended up getting a malcontent who could sour the trip for others?

“Our website itineraries account for about half of the trips we run. The other half being private customized programs. For the website trips we start a trip date based on the first two people to sign up. We cap groups at 8, and the typical size is 5 or 6. Groups arrange themselves, and so far we’ve been lucky to attract wonderful clients who mesh with the concept well. I think our website and travel philosophy serve as a good filter to dissuade those who wouldn’t fit into an intimate, small group setting. We also have a great deal of personal contact with each travel before they arrive, discussing specifics about the program, etc., so we gain a fairly clear understanding of who we’re dealing with before they arrive. We’ve never had to vote anyone off the island.”

Citing specific examples from your tours, how do the itineraries of your trips differ from those of other travel companies?

“For starters we keep our groups very small, between 2 and 8, unless a private trip. Also, we do not outsource portions of the itinerary to other companies or groups. Every element of the adventure has been personally designed by us and is managed by our team in Thailand. This is appealing for clients who normally wouldn’t consider an organized experience as it shows a degree of personalization and commitment to quality – not just getting people on buses. This also gives us a great deal of flexibility to modify things on each trip to suit individual traveler’s interests or needs.

“The relationships we have with people in each area we visit are legitimate, not staged for impressions. A good friend of ours is a well-known Thai painter in northern Thailand who often invites us into his home/gallery for snacks and drinks during our stay in Chiang Rai. Little things like this mean a lot to our clients – they feel “plugged in” to the real Thailand.

“We prefer a diverse approach to travel, meaning one night we’re snacking on fried grasshoppers in the night markets of Bangkok, and the next day we’re sitting chatting with a monk in a Chiang Rai temple before a big bike ride.

“Additionally, we believe that part of the magic of Thailand is the great modes of transportation one can use to get around the country: bicycle, motorscooter (for those inclined…), foot, elephant, rocket boat, long-tail boat, etc. We prefer not to do long trips in minivans, seeing Thailand through a window. Getting from point A to point B should be at least half the fun, and the various modes of transport we use all over the country affords people a more intimate, self-propelled adventure experience. How many trips can you take where you use a bicycle, motorscooter, river canoe, elephant, van, foot and boat all in the same weekend?

“We also feature both western and Thai hosts, providing a nice balanced dual service approach.”

What other countries are you active in?

“We just ran our inaugural adventure in Nepal in October – and it was a sell-out (8) and a great success! It is a classic Smiling Albino itinerary: lots of activities, interesting modes of transport, and a focus on great food and charming accommodations. We’ll be doing it 3 times per year.

“In addition, we’ve just started offering extension programs into Laos and Cambodia and are networking with partners there to expand our services and make them unique and of high value. We are currently working on developing a great Vietnam program for fall, 2007, stay tuned!”

What are your future plans for Smiling Albino?

“To be the one-stop shop for highly-discerning, small group travelers in SE Asia. We are expanding into cycling programs, food and design-based holidays, volunteer-travel adventures and multi-activity cultural trips. Our reputation is one of service excellence and outstanding value. Smiling Albino isn’t just a travel company – it is a lifestyle company. We are planning to replicate this model into other countries as mentioned above. Our clientele trust us with their money and with their time and they expect us to uncover the hidden gems of each region we visit. That is a big responsibility!”

Contact Info:

http://www.smilingalbino.com

(662) 718-9561, (667) 035-0705

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