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Interview for Longitude Newsletter of Aaron Frankel, Founder

Posted on February 10 2015

Groovy Maps Interview Questions for Longitude, Recommended Reading for Travelers

See the article HERE or see answers below... 


An Interview with Aaron Frankel

An interview with Managing Director of Groovy Map Aaron Frankel, who has lived in Bangkok for 40 years, growing up there and returning to start his own advertising company after college. Frankel discusses his map business, Groovy Map Co. Ltd., which he founded in 1999.Groovy Maps are easy-to-use, laminated map guides to cities and countries throughout Asia. Each map contains helpful listings, such as transportation options, cuisine, nightlife, shopping and local culture.


Longitude. Window seat or aisle?

Frankel. Window seat whenever possible.  My favorite activity on-board is comparing the on-board aircraft location maps to the real cities below.  It’s free aerial cartography!

Longitude. How did Groovy Map get started?

Frankel. After running my own advertising firm and struggling to make deadlines and profits, I wanted to develop a ‘brand’ that could “sell while I was sleeping” and my budget could afford only a single-print run, so a map it had to be. To give my map a point of difference from the ones already in stores, I started with ‘Bangkok by Night,’ showcasing my favorite night owl spots.

Longitude. What makes Groovy Maps unique?

Frankel. We aim for “Fun Mapped Out!” and use the term “orientation map” to describe our Groovy Map’n'Guides.  It really is the guide section that makes us stand out.  We insert our favorite restaurants, bars, clubs, shopping venues, spas and cultural activities to check out, all of them researched in a clandestine way (we don’t get paid). We try to put in places that are worth hauling our butt off the bed and crossing town to try.

For years, I resisted putting museums on the map, as I was dragged to so many as a kid (my father getting a Post Doctorate PhD in Environmental Engineering, and my mother, brother, and sister having Masters in various subjects), that I didn’t consider them fun.  We quickly learned that we needed a “Culture Vulture” section to satisfy our Groovy fans, but we still try to sort the boring museums from the fun.

Longitude. What is your relationship to the region—primarily Southeast Asia—that you map?

Frankel. I grew up in Bangkok, where I caught the travel bug. After working in the US for a few years, and having been fired from yet another job, I came back to Thailand at age 25 and wanted to explore the region.  The Groovy Maps gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to eat and drink myself silly through my Southeast Asia neighborhood, and I hope it keeps us employed in the future, although by necessity, we have diversified into Groovy Gear travel accessories and souvenirs.

Longitude. Who do you see as the ideal audience for Groovy Maps?

Frankel. In the beginning, we aimed at the backpacker set, but quickly found out that they live on pennies and will eat stale bread, so we aimed at the middle-age “affluent traveler,” who like us, values mealtimes as much as play times.

In addition, while Millennials may travel with a 5″ battery operated device, we do not believe a small screen can provide the orientation of a fold-out map, disposable, and supported by millions of years of spatial development in the horizontal plane. I myself gave up on apps after working with Nokia since 2003 and trying apps in Tokyo, Paris, Rome, Singapore, Munich and Frankfurt. Nothing like a folded map to let your brain “zoom” to areas of interest.  After 3 days running around Rome with a GPS on the front of the motorcycle, I still couldn’t locate my hotel, but after I returned the bike and turned to a paper map, I was orientated within seconds. “Wow,” I thought, “there may be a future in paper maps after all.”

Longitude. What kind of research goes into the planning of a map?

Frankel. A lot. While we troll the web like everyone else, there is nothing like walking the city and getting insight from expats who live there.

I still maintain that we lead you to better venues than 500 hours on TripAdviser reading 4.2 star (average) reviews will do. And it costs less than $10 to get our Groove… Granted, we are not for everyone, but isn’t that the point of having an opinion and a view point?  A great venue for YOU could be 200 meters out of sight, if only you knew…

Longitude. Where can I get the best Phat Thai in Bangkok?

Frankel. On the street. Thai food does not taste any better, and often worse, in a fancy restaurant, you just pay more.  Sit on a plastic bar stool on a busy street, with a cold beer, and your Phat Thai will absolutely be amazing.

Longitude. What’s your next map?

Frankel. By rights, it should be Jakarta, as one of the biggest airports in SE Asia, but given fun of research, it’ll probably be Krabi, Thailand.



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