Frans Betgem, a passionate man
Frans Betgem lives in Thailand since 1991. Since 1988 he has been involved in the travel industry, first as a tour leader/tour organiser for a Dutch company called Baobab. He worked in Thailand, Vietnam, 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 the management of 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 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.
Chiang Mai and Frans
In 1998 Frans moved from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. His first visit to Chiang Mai was in November 1987 during a backpacking trip. After his retirement 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, making 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 1000 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 and Chiang Mai a la Carte
In 2013 Frans started the Chiang Mai a la Carte website. He loves trekking and the outdoors. His strong interest in Thai history and culture however inspired him to start a site that specializes in unusual and customized tours. All the tours Chiang Mai a la Carte offers have been researched by Frans and his team. Frans has made lists of Chiang Mai Heritage Houses and Historical Buildings as well as Chiang Mai Historical sites. Work is ongoing on these lists.
Initially, Frans wanted to highlight interesting festivals on the website other than the usual ones such as the Flower Festival, Loy Krathong and Songkran. Festivals are still featured on the website but Chiang Mai a la Carte now focuses on tours that offer something different, personal, interactive and more in-depth than the standard tours on offer.
Frans travels to the 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 year Frans visited the Philippines several times a year. He still is one of the shareholders of Travel Authentic Philippines and travels there regularly.
Frans loves the Deep South of Thailand
Frans loves Thailand and has travelled 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 has many historical sites of great interest.