This week, we were lucky enough to get a double interview with our Product Managers in Thailand, Bram Van den Bossche, originally from Belgium, and Vincent Roudaut, hailing from France, himself. Both hold a deep and abiding love for Thailand, their adoptive country, and are constantly striving to show different sides of and perspectives on a country that is often considered “overexposed” to tourism. They were both able to give us some great, hot tips on how to travel Thailand in 2019, as well as the values and motivations that led them both on very different, but great journeys to our Easia offices:
1. Why did you choose to come to Southeast Asia? And why Easia Travel?
Bram: I didn’t initially choose Thailand as a destination – maybe it was destiny? After starting a job in financial auditing, I quickly realized my future was not in that sector. I started looking for a temporary job in a different field of business, and this is how I first ended up in the hospitality sector in Southeast Asia.
(Bram, from an inspection trip)
Vincent: As for me, I was brought up in southern France until my teenage years, and really had a hard time leaving home, when my father had found a new job in the North. Then, with time, I realized that there was a whole new world around me: many opportunities, peoples, places, and cultures to encounter – all of which helped me build my identity as a worldlier person!
Bram: I, myself, already knew Thailand from previous holidays, but having the opportunity to work and live here, I’m now able to be able to play a part in showing this beautiful region to travelers, which suits me very well. Over the last decade, I traveled and worked all over Southeast Asia, but Thailand is still the place I feel most at home.
Vincent: I believe in two things: nothing happens by accident and “life never gives you more than you can handle.” So, 12 years ago, life led me to work for 2 tour operators specializing in South Asian destinations, which actually acted as a kind of “reconnection” with my grandmother’s Vietnamese roots, and placed me perfectly to work and discover more about this beautiful region of the world. Then finally, last April, I started a new adventure with Easia Travel in Thailand, and hope to continue to grow, bringing everything I can to share about this fantastic country.
(Vincent – By Wat Arun in Bangkok, Thailand)
2. What is your role as a product manager in Thailand?
Vincent: Well…I don’t like to use the term “product” – I would rather speak about the “experiences” we work to craft. I must first observe all sorts of market trends that will inspire travelers. I, myself, also need to be inspired to craft the most suitable journeys that cater to our travelers’ every need and expectation – in a country that has a staggering amount to expect! But I’m not working alone; I have a great team, without whom, we would be nothing. Technically, I have a mission to train the team, but I would rather say that’s not about “training” as much as it’s about mutual understanding and respect.
As for Thailand as a destination, it has, for me, reached a point of no return: a point at which, becoming too famous, the country deserves some respect and breathing room to allow rediscovery of sorts. The big picture of my mission is ultimately creating experiences to make the travelers responsible and conscious about the chance they have to visit this country, all while soaking up its unbeatable beauty.
Bram: Thailand is, as you might know, often seen as a very developed destination that is overrun by mass tourism, with not many authentic things to offer – but I strongly disagree! While you can’t deny that there is a lot of tourism, and some places are surely crowded, there are plenty of places, experiences, and sites to explore that take you off the beaten tourist path. I’m just so excited to be in a position where I can actively promote the things that make Thailand so special!
(Bram, second from right)
Vincent: Indeed, I must always try to find “THE’’ thing that differentiates us from our competitors – never an easy task. Just when you think you’ve found something unique, it may have been done already! This is what makes the task so rewarding, pushing you to be even more curious and to think with other perspectives.
Finding a new secret place (especially in an ‘overexposed’ destination) for a couple or family who want to have their exclusive moment or discovering a new way to show Grand Palace differently, for example, are certainly what makes this job uniquely fulfilling on a personal and professional level.
3. Do you have any new and exciting activities or destinations in Thailand that travelers should certainly be exploring in 2019?
Vincent: I have a particular affection for Ku Di Chin, a Siamo-Portuguese community right in Bangkok. This peaceful area is in a prime location, just across Chao Phraya River, in front of the Rattanakosin area. I love Ku Di Chin not only for its tranquility and its stunning authenticity but also how it stands as such an important symbol in Bangkok’s history. Ku Di Chin boasts a great museum, a Catholic church, narrow, flowered little soi, and its delightful pastries – a stroll through the area tells a real story and reveals a curious and often-overlooked link between Europe and Thailand.
Bram: My suggestion for 2019 is for people to spend a bit more time in a single destination and venture to more remote areas, seeking out authentic experiences. In my opinion, this is how you can happen upon the most interesting adventures, and where you can really connect with the spirit of Thailand, whether through nature or culture. A fairly well-known route would be to do the Mae Hong Son loop, boasting beautiful mountain scenery and laid-back, friendly towns along the way. Or, why not really go off the beaten track into the mountains between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai? This is an area untouched by tourism, where one can embark on amazing hikes and share truly meaningful experiences with hill tribe communities.
(Bram, 1st from right side)
Vincent: I could talk for hours about all the ideas I have for 2019 – but really, as Bram suggests, 2019 is all about genuine experiences…and enjoying the little things in life. Here in Bangkok, why not take the local bus to commute instead of the all-too-modern BTS railway? It’s a great way to see the city like a local, and will give you the chance to explore as you wish! Definitely take some time to savor the invigorating Kuai Chap Noodle Soup, peppered to perfection, which my wife and I tried in a little street food stall in Yaowarat. I also think exploring the Isan area and Udon Thani Red Lotus Sea, along with Talay Bua Daeng, are musts for the intrepid traveler to Thailand. Days and even months aren’t enough to enjoy all that Thailand has to offer – it’s what kept me here, and why we work so hard to make this ultra-popular destination constantly feel fresh and new!