Meet Philip in Chiang Mai to Sip from a Foamy Cappuccino and Chat about Elephants
Every month, we put the Spotlight On one of the key players that make it happen for your privileged clients. This month we spoke with Philip van Driesten, Chiang Mai Branch Manager, Khiri Travel Thailand. The Chiang Mai office is the organizational center for travel experiences such as town walks, golf excursions and finding out about elephants. They also make great espresso and cappuccino there, says Philip
Where were you born? Please tell us a bit about your personal life
I was born in Leiden, a city between The Hague and Amsterdam. I studied for some years in both cities and had several freelance jobs before I moved to Thailand in 1989. After several business trips here I fell in love with the country and decided to live here.
In 1995 I met my wife Maleerat and now we have two kids, our son Erik and a daughter Esther.
Can you tell us about your hospitality career?
First, I was working as a Sales Manager Europe for a travel agent in Bangkok. In 1990 I became a tour manager for a Dutch travel company. I conducted the tours and often went on surveys to new destinations for our overseas agents. I did a lot of pioneer work in Malaysia and Myanmar. In the 17 years in which I worked as a tour manager, I travelled around Southeast Asia extensively.
Many people have asked why I stay in Thailand, the answer is easy. Thailand, in my opinion, is a perfect country to live in. Chiang Mai is a lovely place. I like mountains and nature. All of that you can find here in the North of Thailand.
Why did you choose to work with Khiri Travel?
I’ve known the founders of Khiri Travel from the beginning. I saw Khiri growing. One of the co-founders kept me updated about Khiri — the tailor made programs, offices in the countries around Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. After 17 years working as a tour leader I got the chance to work for them.
When the opportunity came to work in the Khiri Travel Thailand Chiang Mai branch office, I was happy to take that position too. To this day I am very happy to serve our clients. You are welcome to visit our office in Chiang Mai. We will serve you a great espresso or cappuccino. We open every day and are always happy to have you in for a chat.
What is the most special experience that Khiri has to offer in North Thailand? Why should clients book it?
There are many special experiences with Khiri, but my favorite is the walking tour of Chiang Mai city with some great food tasting along the way. You know, it so much nicer to walk through a city. First at all you will see much more. If you sit in a minibus or tuk tuk, everything passes so fast; you lose amazing moments. I recommend the walking trip if you want to really experience the essence of Chiang Mai and its people. We have excellent guides. It’s immersive, slow tourism. It appeals to all age groups.
This newsletter is about golf. Have you ever played the game and if not, any plans to play soon?
I played golf for the first time in my life 25 years ago. I thought I would pick it up when I lived in Thailand, which has many great courses. To be honest, I haven’t played since moving here. Friends tell me, however, that the golf here in Chiang Mai is really great.
What is the best Golf course in and around Chiang Mai?
An exciting and challenging course for the amateur and professional is the Royal Chiang Mai Golf Club. It was designed by Peter Thomson and makes the most of the scenic countryside. It is an 18-hole course and has been open since 1996. It’s a 40 minutes ride from Chiang Mai in the direction of Phrao.
Another great place in Chiang Mai is the Alpine Golf Resort designed by Ron Garl. It’s on the way to Lamphun (30 minutes from Chiang Mai) and has 18 holes. The course is an amazing place to be. It integrates with the natural landscape very well.
Any secret advice travellers should know about Chiang Mai?
Not a secret, but a place you should really visit when in Chiang Mai is the Elephant Parade House. Here you don’t just learn how to paint a replica model of an Asian elephant, but you learn about elephants via a computerized game. Kids and adults love it. They also have a great showroom where you can buy souvenirs – or even better – a unique piece of art. In this way you help save Asian elephants.
The picture of me at the front of Khiri Travel Chiang Mai branch office is together with Ms. Bubble, the female elephant we adopted from Elephant Parade.