THAILAND is a prized hotspot for Indian filmmakers and tourists alike. It is the number-one location destination for Bollywood films and a top venue for shooting Hindi television commercials.
Another appealing facet of travel to this kingdom is the initiative shown—and enacted —to promote a responsible change to travelling ‘green’ in Thailand.
First up, however, is the question of why Indian filmmakers are drawn to this kingdom? The answer is simple: for many reasons including exotic locales, sparkling beaches, rich cultural heritage, attractive film production costs and incentives from the Thailand Film Office.
Some of the films shot in Thailand include the Housefull 2; Salman Khan’s 'Ready' directed by Anees Bazmee; Kaho Naa Pyar Hai; Anthony D'Souza's directorial debut Blue; Wanted; director Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara with Hrithik Roshan; Rascals starring Sanjay Dutt; Game; Nikhil Advani's Chandni Chowk to China; Loot; and Golmaal: Fun Unlimited and Golmaal Returns.
‘Amazing Thailand’ was the backdrop for PepsiCo’s mango drink, Slice, in which actress Katrina Kaif celebrates the thought of “Sabr Ka Phal Meetha Hota Hai” as the first chapter in Aamsutra.
This is the ‘land of smiles’ where visitors become enamoured of the natural beauty and historical riches, not being able to resist the country’s fascinating culture and its friendly people.
Today India is the biggest source-market for visitors from south Asia and one of Thailand’s fastest growing markets overall. Over the past decade, tourist arrivals from India have grown rapidly due to such factors as affordability, improved accessibility, facilitation and India’s growing economy.
In 2011, India became the sixth largest source market for Thailand with total arrivals of 916,787, up an equally impressive 20.27% over 2010 and close to double the 536,356 arrivals in 2007.
The Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mr Suraphon Svetasreni, says, “We project Indian arrivals certainly will cross the one-million mark by 2012. Effectively, they will have doubled in just five years—a remarkable achievement indeed”.
Attractive ‘green initiatives’
Not only are the Thai authorities working tirelessly to attract more visitors, but they are utilising to advantage a valuable incentive with worldwide focus now on
responsible travel where the environment is conserved and the well-being of the local community is improved.
With concern turning to climate change and global warning, there has been a dramatic change in consumer attitudes, travel seasonality, outlines and tendencies.
Conscious of the importance of ecotourism, the Tourism Authority of Thailand initiated the “green initiatives” in an effort to maintain the delicate balance between tourism promotion and environmental protection to ensure long-term sustainability.
One of the tour specialists Royal Silk Holidays offers an enlightening Flavours and Fragrances tour package of the Central Plains to Samut Songkram and Petchaburi.
Here are the 10 must-see highlights, starting with a luxurious stopover in Bangkok and ending with total recreation in Hua Hin and Kanchanaburi.
1. Rejoice in deliciously lazy days or ones that are filled with adventure cushioned by indulgence at the Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa. It redefines the meaning of space, style and luxury accommodation in a tropical oasis edging the Chao Phraya River.
2. On arrival in the province of Samut Songkram, a visit to coconut plantations at Amphawa is a must, seeing how villagers produce traditional coconut sugar.
3. An early morning visit to the Tha Kha Floating Market sees innumerable boats piled high with fresh tropical fruit and vegetables and local delicacies cooked from floating kitchens.
4. After visiting the Salt Learning School, you’ll be impressed with the work of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand at the Wild Animal Protection Centre, in Amphoe Thayang.
5. The sprawling Maruekhathaiyawan Palace, fronting Cha-Am Beach, is designed by an Italian architect and built with golden teak during the reign of King Rama VI in 1923.
6. Explore ‘wines from new latitudes’ at the Hua Hin Hills Vineyards before you wallow in the beauty of Cape Nidhra Hotel Hua Hin, where each of the spacious 59 suites has an inground swimming pool—and more!
7. The 98sqkm 'Three Hundred Peaks' Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park features the dazzling Phraya Nakhon Cave, at 130 metres.
8. Take a poignant leap back in time to World War II to relive moments from history at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and JEATH (acronym for Japanese, English, Australian, American, Thai and Holland) War Museum.
9. About 130km west of Bangkok is the famous Bridge over the River Kwai and an Australian-built complex, the Hellfire Pass Museum, where you get the true story of the Thai-Burma Railway.
10. Bask in the harmony of nature as you unwind in the Jungle Rafts hotel on the River Kwai … this is paradise in the heart of the jungle.
Thailand is simply amazing. www.tourismthailand.org
* Rama Gaind was a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa and Cape Nidhra Hotel Hua Hin.