Bangkok is a busy metropolis with often hellish traffic, but the buzz is fantastic, and its young people crowd shopping malls and outdoor eateries late into the evening. It's a long schlep from Europe and the U.K., but those who've made the trek say it's worth it.
(Nightlife, Bangkok)LOCATION SITES
The city of Chiang Mai in the north is considered a top destination. Phuket and Phi Phi island are home to some fabulous beaches. Ko Tapu has been called James Bond Island since it was featured in 1974's "The Man With the Golden Gun." For coral reefs, there's Ko Tao, while Bangkok has dazzling palaces. Doi Suthep-Doi Pui National Park in Chiang Mai is a paradise of flora, while mountains and forests are plentiful in the northwestern province of Mae Hong Son.
(Spice Shop post-production house in Bangkok)OLD PERCEPTIONS
Many people think of Buddhist temples or of clubs that provided sexual R&R for soldiers during the Vietnam war. Tales persist about both extremes, and of a mysterious Yank linked to various intelligence operations in the region during the 1950s. In 1967, he walked into the Malaysian jungle and disappeared, but his legend is going strong in Thailand.
("Hangover II")FILM INDUSTRY
Thailand lures foreign productions because they bring in direct revenue, and help attract tourists. Foreign companies will find facilities aplenty. Matthew Szabo, director of operations at the Spice Shop post-production house in Bangkok, boasts that his operation is 30% faster and cheaper than Europe. Don Robinson, head of Siamlite Intl., touts his company's facilities and staffing levels. "And if you need something and we don't have it here, we'll get it in L.A. or Hong Kong," he says. The industry generated tax revenues of $81.4 million in 2011, according to the Motion Picture Assn. Meanwhile, the National Federation of Thai Film Assns. expects the local pic industry to double in size this year, with the key films being "King Naresuan 5," "Tom yum goong 2" and horror pic "Pee mak phra khanong." Big Western movies in recent years include "Hangover II" and "The Impossible." The massive success of the Chinese movie "Lost in Thailand" has resulted in a noticeable rise in the number of Chinese tourists.
("The Impossible")WORDS OF CAUTION
Thailand is popular as an American tourist venue, and Americans are welcome, but English is not as pervasive as one might think. Thailand also is prone to major political upheavals, but is a country that is able to thrive, despite an often bewildering level of political instability, largely because it is unified in its reverence for the monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In 2011, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was elected to replace Abhisit Vejjajiva, whose coalition government came to power in December 2008 after a court decision. Her election was the nation's second since the military ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup in 2006 for corruption.