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The Khiri Travel story is one of
passion for the region.

A Journey Down Memory Lane

The early 90’s, when the Khiri Travel story begins, were an exciting time for Southeast Asia. The region had shook off decades of regional, domestic, and international conflict that had cost millions of lives and, to quote the then Thai Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan, was transforming “from a battlefield into a marketplace.”

In 1993, Cambodia had its UN-led elections which prompted the recovery from the brutal Pol Pot era and subsequent civil war. In 1994, President Clinton lifted the trade embargo on Vietnam that had been in place since 1975. In that same year, the Friendship Bridge spanning the Mekong opened, connecting Thailand to Laos.

Khiri’s founder, Willem Niemeijer, had worked in the Thai travel industry since 1987, the year of the highly successful “Visit Thailand” campaign. In 1992, Willem was amongst the first group of journalists and travelers to journey overland from Bangkok to Danang in Vietnam. (The adventures of this trip can be found in James’ Eckardt’s book “On the Bus“). From there, he continued his solo travels to Cambodia.
Meanwhile, Khiri’s co-founder, Frans Betgem, was leading adventurous tours in Vietnam. Despite having to work with the country’s heavy-handed bureaucracy, he traveled up and down Vietnam at least 15 times.

These travel experiences were the inspiration to start Khiri Travel. The company first started as a DMC dedicated to offering these four countries as one incredible destination. The first office was on the ground floor of half a shophouse in Pratunam. Soon, the company, which consisted of Willem and one staff member, moved into a room in the Viengtai Hotel. In 1995, a shophouse across the street became available and would remain the office for the next 8 years.

It was a time of adventure. Some of Khiri’s travelers were the first to take a boat from Luang Prabang to Vientiane in 1996. Khiri’s initial clients navigated the terrible roads between the Thai border and Siem Reap in pickup trucks. As infrastructure improved and new hotels opened up, travelers could enjoy adventures while staying in significantly more luxurious accommodations, and with less hardship of bumpy roads. Khiri soon branched out and opened operational offices throughout the region to keep on the cutting edge of product development.

Offices in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and Siem Reap were opened, in addition to the Chiang Mai branch in Thailand, which was manned by Frans since 1998.

The Khiri Headquarters moved into a purpose-built office in the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, just in time to celebrate its 10-year anniversary in 2003. With tourism making a recovery after a very difficult period of SARS, 9/11 and the region’s terrible tsunami in 2002, Khiri Travel was entering into a busy period riding a wave of fast (and not always very sustainable) growth of tourism in the region.

In 2011, Khiri Travel fulfilled a longtime dream and opened up in Myanmar, just months before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the country to prepare for the lifting of its sanctions and the start of its tourism.

To support a growing number of North American partners, Khiri opened a dedicated office in Colorado, facilitating speedy turnarounds and reducing the issue of time difference.

In 2016, Khiri Travel expanded further to both Sri Lanka and Indonesia and the journey continues!

Khiri Milestones

"It was a time of adventure.
Some of Khiri's travelers were the first to take
a boat from Luang Prabang to Vientiane in 1996"