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DESTINATION INSIGHT

Wednesday, 13 December, 2017, 14 : 29 PM [IST]

Open to the New Shades of Thailand

Rated as one of the top three destinations in the world (in terms of tourism receipts), Thailand never fails to inspire its visitors. Be it FIT, a family holiday, social visitor, or a religious traveller, the picturesque destination has something in store for everyone. On a familiarisation trip organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Sumit Jha explores this beautiful land.


Chose to indulge in the hustle and bustle of the busy malls and night markets of Bangkok - shopping to your heart’s content; vibrant streets to experience their rich culture and traditions; opt for holistic solace by visiting some of the most serene temples; expose your palate to a riot of flavours available across the Kingdom; or chose to recuperate and rejuvenate amidst the tranquil surroundings of one of the many sought after tourist attractions, Thailand offers it all. Not a surprise then that Thailand ranks 3rd in the world in terms of international tourism receipts

PB Valley


To continue holding their strong position in the international tourism market and offer visitors a variety of new and engaging experiences, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has embarked on its new marketing concept of ‘Open to the New Shades of Thailand’. The promotion aims to further strengthen the Thai tourism industry, focus on quality tourism, create higher economic value, and distribute tourism income to the regional areas of Thailand. As a prelude to the new policy, TAT organised a grand familiarisation (FAM) trip for its partners (international travel agents) and media from across the world (inviting over 300 representatives), to give them a first-hand experience of the New Shades of Thailand.

The warmth of its people and their professional attitude towards providing quality service to their visitors can be experiences from the very moment you board Thai Airways to reach this picturesque destination. Smooth as Silk, the adage used by the airline, does not just hold true for their guests flying experience, but is also apt for their ground services as well as on board facilities, making the ride to this sought-after destination as Smooth as Silk. The sounds of Swathika (welcome) echo through the corridors of the aircraft as the airline staff welcome us with folded hands.

Open to the New Shades of Thailand familiarisation trip was designed to showcase the unknown aspects of Thailand to our guests. There are a lot of destinations in Thailand that are not popular among Indian tourists and TAT would like to promote these regions to the evolving and growing markets. New destination like Nakhon Ratchsima is a good option to combine with Bangkok for a short break in Thailand. Visitors can do a lot of adventure activities such as trekking, bird watching, canoeing, cliff climbing in Khao Yai National Park which is also listed as a World Heritage site. Apart from nature trails, family with kids can also spend a day in the scenic world theme park, visit several flower gardens which will be in full bloom around December to February. Farm Chok Chai is another edutainment destination for family where kids can enjoy riding the ponies or roam around the farm by bicycle. For visitors who have been to Bangkok many times, they can look for some new experiences such as helicopter tour, dining at the rooftop restaurants with breath-taking views of Bangkok city. For those who want to try local Thai experiences, taking a cooking class or a Thai boxing class can be good options. There are also many attractions in Bangkok that await for you to explore, such as sacred Buddhist temples and monuments, Thai style house museum in the city centre and cool aquarium underground of the high-end shopping mall. Thailand is open for everyone to explore and enjoy their quality time with our Thai hospitality.

< Our group, which was accompanied by Soraya Homchuen, Director, Tourism Authority of Thailand - Mumbai office, landed into Bangkok at Suvarnabhumi Airport early in the morning and post our on arrival visa formalities, were greeted by our guide for the trip Patihan Tao, a representative of the World Travel Services.

After refreshments at the Novotel Airport Hotel, we were ushered in a comfortable van to Khao Yai, which is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and hosts Thailand’s third largest and one of the most visited national parks. During the drive, while our friendly guide Tao continued to enlighten us with information about the various aspects of Thailand, one could not stop looking around to soak in beauty of the region and its complementing infrastructural development.

Source: TAT


Our exploration of this mystic land started within the next couple of hours of driving with a visit to one of the most popular wineries of the region, PB Valley which spreads over an area of 800 acres. This provides a unique experience, especially for visitors to Thailand, as most people do not associate a holiday in Thailand with a visit to the winery. While a tour of the winery with detailed inputs from their experienced staff and wine-tasting sessions are the biggest draw for visitors to this winery, for those not inclined towards the wine, PB Valley also produces a range of fresh from farm produce including exquisite juices and coffee. The excitement of exploring the vineyards was enhanced by enjoying a sumptuous meal at their unique restaurant which couples delicious food with stunning valley and mountain scenery.

Primo Piazza


Next stop was at The Bloom Garden – the largest flower garden in Khao Yai, spread over an area of 160,000 square meters, welcoming tourists from around the world to get surrounded by the blooming flowers. Well appointed rooms, tents and conferencing facilities, nestled amidst the beauty of flowers in irreplaceable atmosphere surrounded by mountains with several joyful activities, make the place ideal for a family getaway or any event. One can also chose to visit the garden for an outing with their group. The attractions include The Garden Maze, Giant Vegetable Tunnel, Ivy Tunnel, Sheep Farm, Fountain of Love, Butterfly Pavilion, among others.

A short drive away was nestled an Italian Village under the aegis of Primo Piazza. With the complex’s classy Italian architecture, cobbled streets and lush green surroundings, one can easily be mistaken for thinking to be in a remote Tuscan village. Ideal getaway for a romantic getaway or a family escape, Primo Piazza casts a spell with its authentic architecture and charming atmosphere. The developers of Primo Piazza have succeeded in creating a warm and relaxing Mediterranean atmosphere, with an array of cafes and restaurants on hand to help unwind.

Farm Chokchai


After the refreshing break, it was time for some adventure, as we stepped into the gates of the Khao Yai National Park. Spread over an area of 2,168 square kilometres, Khao Yai became Thailand’s first national park in 1962 and is an ASEAN World Heritage site because of its variety of flora and fauna. The high altitude and lush jungles ensure that the park has a cook climate even during the summers. Wild animals that can be seen include deer, wild boars, monkeys, tigers, gaurs and mountain goats. It was an adventurous drive into the dark alley of the jungle with a torch bearing guide searching for wildlife. We were able to spot a large number of grazing deer, tree climbing wildcat and a couple of other species. On our return to the park office, we encountered and chased some porcupine for photographs outside the park office area.

After the day-long busy schedule of capturing beauty of this lesserknown region of Thailand among us Indians, we checked into our hotel - The Greenery Resort. This integrated resort is a unique place to visit for many different interest groups. While the resort in itself offers various conferencing and social function areas, the leisure options includes LIFE Park - the resorts adventure zone for fun and thrill seekers, The Greenery Spa for relaxation, luxurious indulgence and pampering. We wound up our day with authentic Thai dinner spread that tantalised our taste buds while being a visually satisfying treat.

Como Metropolitain Bangkok


Next morning we checked out of the hotel and drove towards the famous Choke Chai Farm. The Farm, which was started way back in 1957, attracts more than a million people annually and is home to over 3,000 dairy cattle that produce more than 22 tons of raw milk per day. It is the first farm in Asia to have internationally acceptable breeding standards for dairy cattle exporting programme. Here visitors learn more about how research and technology can enhance the breeding of high milk yielding cows and the production of super quality milk and their speciality ice-cream. An exciting tractor ride through the farm showcases prowess of the 800 acre farm which produces 3,500 tons of animal feed per month. After enjoying Cowboy Skill demonstration at the Agro-tour it was time to relished a sumptuous lunch in the beautiful settings of the Chokchai Steak House.

Como Metropolitain Bangkok


Our ride back to Bangkok was a smooth one, with stop-over at a gas station to understand the convenience of taking a break while driving. On reaching our abode for the rest of the trip – COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, a hotel inspection by their friendly staff revealed that the recently renovated 160 room and 9 suites along with conferencing facilities of the hotel in the heart of the city offered high standards of comfort and luxury. COMO Shambhala Urban Escape, their renowned wellness centre offers topof- the-line facilities and treatments for rejuvenation, including complementary Yoga classes for their guests. Their award-winning restaurant Nahm takes inspiration from Thailand’s culinary traditions by using local ingredients and fresh produce from the region.

“This is a fam trip on a grand scale and its purpose is to inform participants about the TAT’s new marketing concept, ‘Open to the New Shades of Thailand’. What better way to do this than to give them first-hand experience in Thailand.”



Our next destination was Asiatique, the river front night market, which had a history of housing a temple and was once a bustling international trade port. With over 1,500 boutique shops and 40 restaurants housed under a huge replica warehouse complex, this outing was ideal for picking up gifts and souvenirs for friends back home. While there are also various entertainment options available at this beautiful venue, one of the major attractions besides shopping here is Thailand’s tallest ferris wheel - Asiatique Sky which promises unforgettable views of the city skyline. While browsing through the market, we stopped by for a sumptuous traditional Thai meal at Baan Khanitha Restaurant by the river front.

Refreshing winds welcomed us to the base camp of the Advance Aviation centre early next morning, where a twin-engine helicopter (Golden Albatross EC-135) was waiting for us to board and take a sky tour over the city of Bangkok. The sight from the top was awe-inspiring and one could not stop gazing at the skyscrapers and centuries-old pagodas, tourism hotspots, and the overlaying interweave of the city’s well organised roads network. This half hour ride over the city gave a glimpse of the entire city and provided the ultimate VIP treatment. At Advance Aviation, which also offers their helicopter and private jet charter services in Phuket and Chiang Mai, one can get tailor-made charter packages to best suit their requirement.

Post our aerial survey of the city, Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, located in the heart of the city’s premier shopping area, combining European flair with the traditions of Thai hospitality, was our host for lunch. The 401-room hotel hosting three restaurants and two bars, with multiple banqueting and conferencing areas, has been built in a circle with lush landscape tropical gardens and three saltwater pools in the centre. It is a favoured destination for shoppers, and social functions like weddings. With a strong sales team, backed by high level of service standards and top-of-the-line facilities, the hotel is popular among stand-alone and group travellers not only from the subcontinent, but also from European region.

Visit to Jim Thompson House & Museum, revealed the love of US Army personnel for Thailand. After the Second World War, he settled in Bangkok devoting himself to promotion of the long-neglected silk weaving industry. With his continued efforts he contributed substantially to the industry’s growth and to the worldwide recognition accorded to Thai silk. He was also known for his artistic collections and for the house combining six teak buildings (the museum), which represent the best in traditional Thai architecture.

Asiatique


While eating out in Bangkok is a joyful and very satisfying experience, when you are dining under the stars on the 61st floor restaurant Vertigo, the experience gets electric. Vertigo, a restaurant of the Banyan Tree Hotel, offers al fresco dining experience set atop a roof terrace overlooking the glittering cityscape of Bangkok. Moon Bar, on one end, puts visitors at ease in an informal setting. Sumptuous offerings of the restaurant ensure that you unwind and sink into the combination of taste and the splendid atmosphere late into the night.

An early morning appointment at the RSM (Rajadamnern Singha) Muay Thai Academy exposed us to the shades of Thai boxing. A training session here exposes the participants to the fundamentals of Muay Thai in an intimate group-training environment. Commencing with stretches and rope jump warm-up; the session progresses to stance and footwork training. Development of ‘weapons of Muay Thai strike’ (fists, elbows, knees, feet) for basic defence skills are taught.

Continuing our culinary journey into this rich gastronomic destination, our next stop was at the busy century-old mansion housing Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant. Founded by celebrity chef Nooror Somany Steppe, popular as the unofficial culinary ambassador of Thai cuisine, and run by her along with daughter Sandra, visitors to the restaurant experience the culinary wonders of Royal Thai cuisine.

Experience at the Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World at Siam Paragon was an exploratory one with an opportunity to step beneath the waves and get closer to the creatures and features of the world’s oceans. Spread over an area of over 10,000 square meters this aquarium has hundreds of different species on display including Penguins and sharks. Close encounters through its 270 degree glass tunnel and glass bottom boats leaves the visitors in admiration of the marine life.

Golden Buddha


Our last destination before heading out to MBK Centre for last minute shopping before boarding our flights back was to get blessing of Sukhothai Traimit Golden Buddha. This temple houses the largest golden Buddha image in the world in the mara conquering attitude, the typical style of the days when Sukhothai was the capital of Thailand. The image measuring 12 feet 5 inches in diameter and with a height of 15 feet 9 inches from the base of the crown weighs 5.5 tons, was made in pure gold and ages over 700 years.

Our visit to Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, the official name of Bangkok in Thailand, unveiled its spiritual, political, cultural, artistic, culinary, commercial and educational side. Open to the New Shades of Thailand to get exposed to a vast array of tourism activities, world-class cuisine, fantastic shopping, incredible nightlife and above all the warmth of friendly local people.

 
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