Rayong: Thailand is synonymous with serendipity. The more you traverse, the more layers you find. Formerly known as Siam, this unitary state at the centre of the Southeast Asian Indochinese peninsula is hospitality personified. The welcoming ‘Thai smile’ is one of the most endearing things a globetrotter would come across and is something which no traveller would fail to miss – earning the country the sobriquet ‘Land of Smiles’.
Looking beyond Pattaya, Thailand Tourism, with its unbound natural resources, cultural uniqueness and massive makeover of lesser-known destinations like Chanthaburi, Chonburi and Rayong is eyeing to capture the imagination of families across the globe
From a bouquet of adventure activities, stunning beaches, idyllic mountain villages, quirky cuisines to unique culture and customs, and ancient temples and historical monuments, Thailand is today increasingly becoming one of the ultimate tourism hubs in Asia. A first-time tourist to Thailand is certain to be blown away by the sheer span of Suvarnabhumi Airport of Bangkok and the neatly laid out roads winding around it.
Though the international airport is located some 40-odd km away from the capital city of Thailand, reaching Bangkok is a cakewalk with Airport Rail Link (ARL) of the State Railway of Thailand operating services every five minutes.
Tourism, the main money-minter for Thailand, recorded around 35 million arrivals last year. Interestingly, tourists from India constitute around 18 per cent of the total arrivals to the country. “Annually, about 1.54 million Indian tourists visit Thailand. India is indeed a key source market for us,” says Walailak Noypayak, Executive Director, ASEAN, South Asia and South Pacific Region Department, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
“Travelling across the Eastern region will allow tourists to experience first-hand the emerging secondary destinations such as Rayong, Chonburi and Chanthaburi. These are some of the vibrant destinations which can attract the growing Indian outbound traveller” – Tanes Petsuwan, Deputy Governor, Marketing Communications, TAT
For a vast majority of first-time outbound travellers from India, Thailand or UAE is the maiden foreign holiday destination. Most Indians eagerly look forward to feeding a tiger cub at Safari World, Bangkok. But, there is indeed a Thailand beyond that – a Thailand which is nurtured by rich cultural and historical ancestry, a Thailand which is adorned by off-the-grid archipelagos.
Putting its best foot forward, TAT is on mission mode to promote the lesser-known destinations which are often overshadowed by the lure of other popular spots in the country. With an aim to woo the family segment in the luxury space of the sector, TAT recently launched a video campaign titled ‘Open to the New Shades’. The campaign aims to promote niche markets in emerging tourist destinations that are not very popular among the inbound crowd – mainly high-end travellers. It is also a clarion call to tourists across the globe to explore the untapped rustic hinterlands and exquisite cultural heritage of Thailand.
“Annually, about 1.54 million Indian tourists visit Thailand. India is indeed a key source market for us”
Walailak Noypayak, Executive Director, Tourism Authority of Thailand
Through the campaign, the TAT showcases a variety of products and services under five sub-themes – Shades of Thai Gastronomy, Shades of Thai Arts and Crafts, Shades of Thai Culture, Shades of Thai Beach and Nature, and Shades of the Thai Way of Life.
“For the high-end tourists, there are several activities, including golfing, yachting, helicopter tour and hot air balloon ride. On the other hand, budget travellers can spend their quality time in the country by exploring Thai delicacies and street food, taking a boat tour and visiting the local Thai villages, communities and temples,” says Soraya Homchuen, Director, TAT Mumbai Office.
In this regard, destinations like Chanthaburi, Chonburi, Rayong, Trat and Chiangmai are being rigorously promoted by TAT. “It is important to create awareness about new destinations and new activities in Thailand. We understand that there are still many destinations in Thailand which have not hogged the limelight and there are many more exciting experiences awaiting tourists,” said Santi Chudintra, Deputy Governor, Asia Market, TAT.
Having focussed their attention on the income from tourism, both the local people and governmental agencies assure safety to the tourists visiting their country. “When you are in Thailand, we can guarantee your safety. The crime rate here is relatively very low. You don’t have to even carry your passport while visiting Bangkok or other parts of Thailand,” says Prawid, who works as a tourist guide during the inbound season and as a farmer during the off-season in his hometown in the Samui Island, south of Thailand.
Sea Life Aquarium, Bangkok
Sea Life Bangkok, housed in ventilated underground alleys of Siam Paragon Shopping centre, in the 991 Rama 1 Road, will leave a lasting impression on tourists. It offers visitors a ring-side view to some of the most spectacular and curious marine heritage. The aquarium features ocean tunnels which allow the visitors to see ginormous sharks and other sea animals up close. ‘Shark Walk’ is another exciting experience which gives visitors an adrenaline rush as they are placed on a thick glass platform right above a shark-infested pool. Sea life Bangkok features about 8000 marine creatures – from enchanting Jellyfish and Pacific Octopus to the playful Otters. The place also provides the rare opportunity to watch the Gentoo Penguins, which are commonly found in Sub-Antarctic islands.
Ramayana Water Park, Rayong
Located 20 km south of Pattaya, Ramayana Water Park is themed on the characters of Indian epic – Ramayana. It is spread over 45 acres. Although the amusement park is relatively smaller in size than the ones in the west, it is no let-down for tourists.
Ko Samet Island, Rayong Province
Three hours away from Bangkok city and close to 15 minutes off-coast of Rayong province sits the picturesque Ko Samet Island with its white sandy beaches. Ko Samet inhabited by just 1500 people found a place on the world tourism map after being popularised by Thai locals as a favourite getaway. It is a sought-after destination for Thai teens.
Since most part of the island – Khao Laem Ya and Mu Ko Samet National Park – is declared as a protected area, the permission of Thai local administration is required for overnight stay. Nevertheless, the island also has a variety of resorts targeting the family segment and party crowds. The peak season in Ko Samet is from March to June, before the monsoon.
Old Town, Chanthaburi Province
Chanthaburi (Moon City) is one of the less known yet one of the most charming destinations in Thailand. The true essence of the country’s rustic culture hangs in the air of the Old Town of Chanthaburi, located about 250 km south of Bangkok. The quaint Old Town is perched on the banks of the Chantaboon River. While the people of the riverside community are mostly farmers, many are also into gem business. A nice stroll through the centre of the Chanthaburi riverside community will help one trace back their origins, beliefs, trade and other activities.
Agriculture and Industries
In the agriculture sector, beans, sugarcane and peanuts are the primary produce. Seafood, the staple food of Thais, coupled with an exclusive leafy diet is said to be the reason for their lean body features. Thailand has also been trying its hand at IT exports. A lot of international car manufacturers have assembly units in Thailand. Most assembly units are based in the industrial city of Rayong.
Pattaya, the eastern beach city of Thailand, is best known for its thriving nightlife. Pattaya comes alive at twilight in the Gulf of Thailand and goes to bed at daybreak. Pattaya may not be a destination which suits the family segment. It is ideal for single travellers and adults.
Yomjinda Thanon Walking Street
Yomjinda Thanon Walking Street in the Rayong province is the go-to place to explore decades-old architecture of Rayong and savour the authentic delicacies of the Old Town. Food and craft fairs, shadow puppetry, festivities, dance and music nights are an integral part of the walking street after 6 pm, and goes on till 10.30 pm.
A trip to Pattaya will be incomplete if you haven’t booked a seat to watch the Kaan Show – a musical, dance, action, special effects drama. It is the world’s first levitating theatre presented by Singha Corporation at D’Luck Theatre in Pattaya. If the special effects extravagance in Baahubali made you go gaga, well, watching this show – inspired by Indian epic ‘Ramayana’ – would sweep you off your feet. To secure a seat in top rows (Star Zone), one will have to shell out 6000 bahts (Rs. 12,467) and 3000 bahts (Rs. 6233) for mid-section (Ocean Zone) and 2500 bahts (Rs. 5194) for the lower section (Sky Zone) of the gallery. The show is premiered daily from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm. For online bookings, visit www.kaanshow.com
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum has been a rage among tourists who visit some of the big destinations across the globe. Apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, actor Prabhas in his famed Baahubali outfit is the new addition to the wax museum, granting selfie opportunities for not just Indian tourists but Baahubali fanatics across the globe.
Art in Paradise, Pattaya
Art in Paradise, a 3D painting museum in Pattaya, is an unmissable experience for visitors. The art museum is cleverly designed so that visitors can actively interact with the painting exhibits. The entry ticket to the museum is 300 baht per person.
Mining Industry is another major source of livelihood for Thais. Besides being one of the leading hubs of gemstone jewellery, Thailand is one of the largest exporters of precious stones such as Ruby, Sapphire and Onyx. Most stones are obtained from mines in Chanthaburi and Kanchanaburi. According to Gem and Jewellery Institute of Thailand, the country exported precious stones worth over $10 billion in 2017.
Getting to any popular destination in Thailand from metro cities in India has become easier than ever. Every week 213 direct flights connect Bangakok from cities like Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chandigargh, Bhubaneswar, Kochi, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow and Trichi. Tourists can connect to popular destinations in Thailand like Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Samui, Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani on domestic airlines operating from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.
Must Visit Places in Thailand
- Kaan Show Pattaya, D’Luck Theatre
- Ko Samet Island, Rayong
- Saun La Mai Fruit Garden, Rayong
- Old Town, Chanthaburi Waterfront Community
Yomjinda Thanon Walking Street, Rayong
- Wat Phra Kaew, commonly known as the Temple of Emerald Buddha, near Bangkok
- Death Railway from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok, one of the most popular train rides
- Sea Life Aquarium, Bangkok
- Madame Tussauds, Bangkok
- Art in Paradise 3D Painting Museum, Pattaya
- Doi Inthanon National Park, known as‘Roof of Thailand’, Chom Thong District
- Sriracha Tiger Zoo, Chonburi
(The author was hosted by Tourism Authority of Thailand)