If there is one thing that is true of the Thai people, it is
their profound love and respect for their own royal family. It is a
cultural unifier that runs deep in Thai society. This year Thailand
celebrates the 60th anniversary of His Royal Majesty Bhumibol
Adulyadej’s ascension to the throne, making him the country’s
longest reigning king and the world’s longest reigning living
monarch. To celebrate his Diamond Anniversary, the Kingdom of
Thailand is throwing a huge party.
The celebration known as Thailand Grand Invitation 2006 is made
up of a year-long series of special festivals and activities.
“These events are especially exciting because of their rarity
many are once-in-a-lifetime activities,” said Santi Chudintra,
director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Los Angeles. “The
Grand Royal Barge Procession, for example, an event being organized
by the Royal Navy, cannot normally be seen by the general public.
Even most of the Thai people have never seen this program.”
The Royal Barge Procession, to be held in June, will feature 52
majestic barges, rowed by a crew of 2,082 Navy oarsmen.
Many of this year’s events are themed around the King’s favorite
activities. The Grand Jazz Festival, for example, scheduled for
December, is being organized specifically because the King himself
is an avid jazz musician and composer.
Other events include regular festivals that have been expanded
to include tributes to the King. The increasingly popular Candle
Festival held annually in Ubon Ratchathani during the Buddhist
Lent, will be expanded to Bangkok this year. On display in both
cities are many dramatic, car-sized structures, hand carved by the
skilled craftsman that live in the Ubon Ratchathani area.
Another one of this year’s highly touted events is the Royal
Flora Ratchaphruek 2006, an annual international horticultural show
that features more than 2.5 million plants and 2,200 species of
tropical plants and flowers. Exhibitions will include a “Gardens
for the King” tribute, featuring a display of 30 international and
80 domestic gardens.
In addition to a comprehensive events calendar, Thailand is also
welcoming numerous new developments this year. The long-awaited
Suvarnabhumi Airport, which will replace the current Bangkok
International Airport as Thailand’s primary international
transportation hub, should open in the fall. The new airport will
be home to a few record-holding structures, including the world’s
tallest control tower and the world’s largest single standing
Other new developments include the recently opened 2,000-seat
Siam Niramit Theatre. Having technically opened in November 2005,
performances are already meeting with rave reviews from advance
audiences. Being billed as the largest stage production in the
world, the nightly program offers an entertaining and historical
overview of Thailand in such a grand production that Disney shows
pale by comparison. The 80-minute program unfolds through the
stories of 15 classic Thai myths, with 150 performers filling the
stage’s massive four-story-tall proscenium.
Another theater, the first Royal Theatre (Sala Chalermkrung),
which was built in 1932 to commemorate Bangkok’s 150th anniversary,
has been fully refurbished and recently opened to the public. It
presents special performances of the Khon Thai Masked Dance, an art
form that previously could only be seen by members of the royal
court. Performances will run through the end of the year. Also open
in time to join the celebrations, is the 5-million-square-foot Siam
Paragon mega-shopping complex. This entertainment center,
conveniently located adjacent to the Siam Square skytrain station,
features an opera house, an aquarium and 250 high-end retail shops
with such designer names as Hermes, Gucci and Chanel.
For travel industry professionals, 2006 also brings the 55th
Annual Conference of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA),
from April 23-27 in Pattaya. The Royal Cliff Beach Resort, the
conference host venue, will provide a range of complimentary
lifestyle activities for delegates, including Thai massage and spa
programs, and classes in such activities as Thai floral arranging,
banana leaf decorations and vegetable, fruit and soap carving; Thai
cooking; Thai kite making; bamboo basketry; and palm leaf
Thai tourism officials expect the Thailand Grand Invitation 2006
to bring big tourism revenue to the country. In 2006, the TAT
anticipates more than 13.2 million visitors to Thailand, equaling
tourism receipts of nearly $12.5 billion. About 600,000 of these
visitors will hail from the United States.
Numerous tour operators are offering Bangkok programs this year,
which will allow your clients to take advantage of most of the
major festivities. Customized extensions are readily available for
more specific travel needs.
|2006 BANGKOK PROGRAMS|
The Orient Flexi Pak offers a three-night Bangkok Program from
$229, land only.
Pacific Delight Tours offers a seven-day Bangkok Program from
$1,008, land and air included.
Ritz Tours offers a 15-day Tantalizing Thailand tour featuring
Bangkok from $1,399, land and air included.
SITA World Travel offers a three-night Bangkok Program from $295,