by K Bhana
Discovering Thainess was the program organized by Deputy Head of Mission Surasak Suparat of Thailand to South Africa and Pahwinee Chansamran, First Secretary, to give South African media a deeper insight into the history, culture and traditions of a nation that has never been colonised.
Thailand is located in the heart of ASEAN (Association for South East Asian Nations). This elephant head shaped country is bordered by Myanmar and Laos in the north, by Cambodia in the east and Malaysia in the south.
The abundant water resources and extensive coastline together with its tropical climate makes it fertile ground for exotic fruit, vegetables, fauna, flora and a cornucopia of marine life.
Tasting durian at Suphatraland fruit farm
The Vice Governor of Chantaburi explained that his province was responsible for half the durian production and said that the world durian festival is held every year in Chantaburi in May.
Fruit makes up a large part of Thai diet, guavas, watermelon, mango and others are served after a meal as dessert. Durian however is banished from restaurants and hotels for its persistent odour.
Spicy, sweet and sour, bitter, salty and a complex combination of these tastes describes the way Thai people eat (sum rap Thai).
Chef Nooror Somany Steppe has been recognized as ‘One of the Most Creative Chefs in Asia’ is an institution of and ambassador of Thai cuisine. Her Blue Elephant Restaurant Group not only offers authentic fine Thai dining in major Capitals of the world, but also has a catering division, cooking school and grocery line specialising in Thai cooking.
Songkran, the water festival is the way Thai’s celebrate. The festival which marks the beginning of the Thai New Year on April 13 sees an exodus from the capital Bangkok as people return to their traditional home to celebrate with their families. The water festival has much significance of cleansing, and showing respect.
In Bangkok’s Shilom Road it is a time for mainly the younger generation to have fun and release energy, dance and feast while drenching each other with water from hoses, water pistols, dishes, buckets and any other available vessel.
Thailand attracts 25million tourists annually and its hospitality industry is geared up to provide for every tourists’ need.
Bangkok is situated on the Chao Praya River Delta and is regarded as a top global tourist destination city. A city steeped in history, tradition, culture and a polite society is contrasted by a metropolis that does not sleep. Its youth have embraced technology and are up to date with modern and hip trends with their own unique brand of Thai.
Phuket and Pattaya are the other popular tourist destinations but Chantaburi in the South East is realising its potential with its abundant natural beauty and pristine coast on the Gulf of Thailand. The home-stay concept in Bang Chan village is a unique experience; the landless people have built their homes on the sea among the mangroves. The only way to reach them is by boat. In a display of Thai hospitality a local family opens their home to you and treat you like relatives. It is a great opportunity to get acquainted with their way of life. Here you can feast on a variety of seafood at a fraction of the cost in Bangkok.
The Royal Project Kung Kraben by King Bumibol Adulyadej is a research and development centre that studies the problems and potential of coastal zone resources and their management. It advises local people of Chantaburi on the use and preservation of natural resources.
Restoration of the mangrove forest, aquaculture and agricultural cooperatives, and eco-tourism has increased the knowledge of the locals and allowed them to develop new skills and expertise.
Replenishing marine life through breeding projects has also contributed to sustainable fishing.
Thailand has a 0.9% unemployment rate and is acknowledged by the World Bank as a great development success story. It is the second largest economy in South East Asia and tourism is the largest contributor to its GDP than any other Asian nation.