People who love Thailand often said that the real spirit of the nation is found in its villages. The big cities are exciting and boast their own vibrant attractions, but it is the smaller towns and villages with their longstanding traditions, local festivals, friendly people and unique way of life, that offer a real taste of this wondrous kingdom in the heart of Southeast Asia.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has been working on numerous projects and initiatives to help city-dwellers and visitors explore the kingdom’s distinct lifestyle and culture. Among which was the recent 35th Thailand Tourism Festival (TTF) that recreated a Thai village atmosphere in the urban environs of Bangkok’s Lumpini Park.
From 14-18 January, 2015, Lumpini’s evening joggers found themselves fighting the crowds, as they ran around a Thailand in microcosm. The major regions of the country were represented: the Central Plains, the hilly North, the Eastern coast, the Southern islands and the Northeastern plateau.
Throughout the five days, visitors could sample the delights – cultural, culinary and artistic, of each area. Lumpini’s lakes, were even turned into floating markets; a much-loved Thai phenomena. Here and there, substantial buildings were constructed, so that visitors could see the different styles of architecture around the nation and these Thai gems formed backdrops for lively dance shows, martial arts displays or storytelling.
Each evening, visitors were delighted by a parade that saw representatives of the culture and people of the kingdom’s different regions jointly celebrate what really held them together – their Thainess. Visitors could experience both the unity and diversity of the Thai people and culture before heading off to explore what the fair had to offer.
When entering the fair, most people headed to the Central Region to get their bearings and enjoy the action on the stage. There was much to see. The subtle and delicate moves of a Thai courtly dance or masked opera might be flowed by the leaps, kicks and sparking swords of a martial arts display. Many people sat for hours, getting up only to buy one of the traditional Thai beverages being sold nearby.
To encourage people to get a taste of all the areas of the fair, TAT gave out a special passport to be stamped at special booths. Guests who filled their passports won special prizes. Kids loved this and ran from booth to booth determined to get all the stamps they could.
The real incentive to explore the TTF was the huge variety of things to experience and enjoy. Vendors and performers wore traditional costumes unique to their region and there was a real village fair atmosphere. Visitor could enjoy an invigorating massage in the Northeastern region, operate traditional shadow puppets in the Southern area before watching the professional show, or see re-enactments of local ceremonies; such as, the Chak Phra or Buddha image hauling festival in the South, or celebrate the Wai Khru dance that Muay Thai boxers perform before a fight.
This being Thailand, food played a massive part in the fair; favourite regional dishes were prepared and cooked in front of people who queued with watering mouths. Scents drifted in the evening air – tasty sausages from the Northeast, deliciously crispy fried shellfish (hoi thot) in the floating market and hearty bowls of a noodle dish (khao soi) from the Northern region. Locals devoured their favourite dishes while visiting tourists got a delicious sample of the treats to be tasted when travelling to the provinces.
As night fell, the fair lit up – trees and flower beds were adorned with lanterns and illuminated Chinese Gods of Thailand’s South made for great photos. Most people went home with the intention of returning the next day. After all, even when the whole of Thailand is concentrated into a corner of Lumpini, it takes more than one visit to see everything – testament to the infinite variety of attractions of this exotic land.
- The TTF is now in its 35th year and a total of 613,325 Thai and foreign visitors came to join the fun. This represents a 220 per cent increase over the TTF 2014.
- Over 229.2 million Baht in revenue was generated by the fair, up 118.4 per cent from last year.
- These five interactive Thailand tourism villages were very popular, achieving an overall satisfaction score of 94.9 per cent from visitors who gave feedback.