The word ‘boutique’ is French and has the associations of small and unique. Many people view package holidays as the polar opposite of this namely, for many people and off-the-peg. Is it thus possible to travel and enjoy the boutique delights of Bangkok and South East Asia on a package holiday?
Early days of Travel Agents
When pioneers like Thomson started offering package holidays in the 1960s, foreign travel for the masses was a relatively new thing. At the time most middle class and working class families took their holidays in their own country. Venturing into Asia, Africa or South America was considered fraught with problems – crime, language barriers and lack of information. There was thus safety in traveling in large groups and letting experts guide you on your foreign holiday experience; besides many people enjoyed meeting other families while traveling abroad.
In the 1990s the world changed. The internet went from government secret to a new means of communication. It was a media that had no boundaries – all you needed was a computer and a connection to the growing nexus called the internet.
The internet is now the world’s largest library. It is also the world’s largest service provider. Those who intend to travel abroad can go to flight comparison sites, hotel booking sites and online travel agents to organize their holiday. Everything from rooms to rental cars to tours to nights at the opera can all be booked in advance through the internet. This is the epitome of boutique. You can make a holiday itinerary that is unique to you.
Up to you
Some people prefer to give a ‘brief’ to a travel agent and let them work out the details, book the hotels etc. Others use several internet travel agents and booking sites to digitally piece together their own holiday.
In both cases it is very possible to stay at some of Bangkok’s best boutique hotels like Ariysomvilla, the Mandarin Oriental and Hansar Bangkok, especially if you book well in advance.
Boutique in Bangkok
Boutique has come to mean stylish, elegant and unique. Boutique hotels in Bangkok are not just for the rich and famous. If you have the money, you can stay too. Some hotels such as Maduzi and Siam@Siam Design Hotel eschew the formal and staid. They are places for the young wearing designer jeans and looking for a ‘cool’ and ‘minimal’ hotel experience. Saying this, I am far from cool and I have stayed at both hotels.
Finally, boutique in Bangkok doesn’t necessarily mean expensive either. You can hunt around the internet for bargains. There are often last minute deals. In the low season you can sometimes get 30% off room prices with a bit of savvy searching on booking engines.
So to answer the question put in the title, the answer is ‘no’. The notion of independent travel is a confusing one nowadays. There are still plenty of backpackers who carry the Lonely Planet and never book a room in advance. However, there are more people who use travel agents online, compare sites and booking sites to plan their holiday. Some of these people will travel in groups while others will travel in their own family unit. Technology has made the dichotomy between ‘travelers’ and ‘tourists’ blurred. Technology has also opened up the doors to more choice and more options; it is time that stereotypes caught up with reality.