Discovery >

1994: Reflecting on the Early Days of Khiri Travel

December 15, 2012 by Khiri Travel | Filed Under: ,

In this blog, Willem Niemeijer, CEO and co-founder of Khiri Travel looks back on the early days of Khiri Travel and the events that heralded an era of growth and development for the Greater Mekong Region, at that time better known as Indochina.

In 1994 Khiri Travel was in its early days after we founded the company and as a tourist destination the region was at its infancy stage and brimming with opportunity. Our base of operations was a room on the second floor of the Viengtai Hotel in the popular backpacker area of Banglumphu in Bangkok.

At the time we handled the Thailand and Laos tours of Baobab Reizen out of The Netherlands. Each arriving group, naturally staying at the Viengtai Hotel, was treated to a small welcome party at our humble office. We served our guests Thai snacks such as Khao Tang Na Tang washed down with Mekong rice whisky. This set the mood for the adventure ahead.

And an adventure it was. In 1994 28 days was the norm for a Thailand round trip (yes 28!) which would include distant provinces like Nakhon Phanom, Loei, overnights in national parks and a four-day hill tribe trek in the North. I am proud that Khiri Travel today is still handling the tours for Baobab Reizen, a true pioneer in the Dutch travel industry.

This was also the time for pivotal changes that would alter the fortune for the region. Until then the region was still hurting in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Throughout the 1980s and 90s there were complicated relations between the Mekong countries and America, China and the Soviet Union. Tensions eased after the Berlin Wall came down in late 1989.China and Vietnam (with its ‘doi moi’ policies) started to embrace free market practices. Thailand Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan (1988-1990) sensing an opportunity, called for “battlefields to be turned into market places” across the Mekong region.

On February 3, 1994, President Clinton lifted the US-Vietnam trade embargo, which had been in force since the end of the Vietnam War. Almost 20 years later we can see the frenetic economic boom Vietnam has gone through since.

1994 was also the first anniversary of the elections in Cambodia, administered in July 1993 by the United Nations.  Although Cambodia would have to go through more years of turmoil, it was a defining moment for the Khmer people that spoke of a better future.

On April 8, 1994 the first Lao – Thai bridge (the Friendship Bridge) opened, connecting Nong Khai in Thailand with the Vientiane province. Although the charming boats would continue to ferry pedestrians between between the Indochina Market in Nong Khai and Tha Deua on the Lao side, it was another step in the opening of what was until then a very insecure and secretive country.

In 1994, Thailand , by contrast, had just welcomed almost welcomed six million tourists. Thailand was growing tourism revenues at twice the worlds average – a legacy of the pioneering and successful “Visit Thailand Year” of 1987. Thailand was a prime mover behind the first Mekong Tourism Forum, which took place in 1992.

I look back fondly on those early days of Khiri Travel. I am amazed at the changes in the region since then. Just imagine where we will be in the next 20 years!

 

1994 at a glance

Thailand

Don Muang was Bangkok’s only airport. Suvarnabhumi was just a dream
It would be five more years to the opening of the BTS “Skytrain” in Bangkok
Air Asia – founded in 1993 wasn’t flying yet
Chuan Leekpai, a lawyer from Trang, was Thai prime minister

World

Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa
Eurostar rail service carrying passengers between London, Paris and Brussels is launched
Brazil Wins 1994 World Cup in United States
The Winter Olympic Games are held in Lillehammer, Norway
Cost of a gallon of petrol in USA is US$1.09
Northridge Earthquake, magnitude 6.7, hits the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles

Popular films

Forrest Gump
The Lion King
True Lies
Clear and Present Danger

Latest post

Spotlight On—Guide Kin Thida

Meet Mrs. Kin Thida from our operations in Cambodia. She’s a real fan of the Cambodian homestays and can induce mouthwatering anticipation in traveler’s taste buds to try some delicious traditional Cambodian foods.

Read More

Vietnam: Promised You a Miracle

As the annual Tet festival starts in Vietnam, Willem Niemeijer, CEO of Khiri Travel, analyses the country’s tourism prospects and challenges 25 years after ‘doi moi’.

Read More

Tour Leader: Things We Need to Know and Things They Will Tell Us Anyway

Before a tour starts, I have a to-do list that I go through a few days on beforehand.

Read More

Khiri Travel Moves to Sustainable New Office in Vientiane

Khiri Travel Laos has moved into a new office in Vientiane. The new suburban office, near the Thai embassy, has been created to reflect Khiri’s work priorities.

Read More

Subscribe to our newsletter

Our B2B newsletters are for industry professionals




*We’ll never share your email address and you can opt out at any time.