Frans Betgem, founder of Chiang Mai a la Carte
Passion for Travel, History and South East Asia
Frans Betgem lives in Thailand since 1991. Since 1988 he has been involved in the travel industry, first as a tour leader/tour organizer for a Dutch company called Baobab. He worked in Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia. Frans hails from the Netherlands.
In 1993 he co-founded Khiri Travel, a destination management company based in Bangkok. From then onwards, he was involved in managing this company with his friend and partner, Willem Niemeijer. Frans created many of the innovative tours, which, amongst others, made Khiri Travel one of the most highly respected companies in Southeast Asia. In 2012 Frans stepped back from the management to devote himself to projects of a smaller scale. He founded Green Trails, a company that specializes in active and outdoor tours in North Thailand. Frans holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Amsterdam. Travel, history, and Chiang Mai are his passions, besides music, animals, and sports. He is an avid cyclist.
Frans and Chiang Mai
In 1998 Frans moved from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. His first visit to Chiang Mai was in November 1987, during a backpacking trip. After he retired from Khiri Travel in 2012, Frans became more and more interested in the history of Chiang Mai and North Thailand. He started to collect old photographs. In 2014 he started a website called Chiang Mai Then and Now. Frans is a great fan of “Then and Now” pictures. Sometimes you can see him roaming the streets of Chiang Mai, taking comparative photos of old pictures of street scenes.
In 2016 he started a Facebook group called “Chiang Mai Memories,” devoted to pictures and stories of old Chiang Mai. The group now has more than 2700 members and is growing. Several Chiang Mai history buffs also post regularly on the group page.
In 2018 he changed the name of the Chiang Mai Then and Now website to Travel and History because he also wanted to write about other subjects and places other than Chiang Mai.
Frans Betgem co-founds Travel Authentic Philippines
In 2013 the AFOS Foundation from Germany hired Frans as a consultant for a community-based project on the Visayas in the Philippines. Green Trails hosted two groups of stakeholders in the project from the Philippines in Chiang Mai. It culminated in the foundation of a Destination Management Company called Travel Authentic Philippines in 2016. In those years, Frans visited the Philippines several times a year. He still is one of the shareholders of Travel Authentic Philippines and travels there regularly.
Chiang Mai on Three Wheels
In 2016 Frans became involved in the samlors of Chiang Mai. These traditional bicycle taxis are disappearing from the streets. The drivers are poor, old men who struggle to make a living. To support them he started Chiang Mai on Three Wheels, a project that aims to preserve the samlor as a Chiang Mai Heritage. The tours of Chiang Mai on Three Wheels appear on this website. The samlor project is ongoing. Chiang Mai on Three Wheels has not fulfilled its mission yet.
The Deep South of Thailand
Frans loves Thailand and has traveled extensively in the kingdom. Recently he has visited the Deep South several times. Many countries have a travel warning for the four provinces Songkhla, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala. This area has been suffering from a violent conflict between the Islamic minority and Thai authorities. You can find a report of Frans’ 2018 trip to the Deep South here.
He has visited Songkhla several times over the last couple of years. Songkhla was known as Singora in the past and had many historical sites of great interest.