Following in his footsteps
The best way for the people to honour the king’s exemplary life is to follow in his footsteps… A life goal of mine is to visit all the provinces in Thailand, tracing the king’s travels in each province.
October 13 was a sad day for Thailand when King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away at the age of 88. The beloved monarch reigned for 70 years with an almost legendary rectitude and devotion to his country. As a foreigner living in Thailand, I too felt the loss, and with my Thai family, mourn for the king’s death with the rest of the country.
A highly talented man, King Bhumibol was an avid jazz player, accomplished sportsman, keen photographer and innovative scientist. Also known as the World’s Development Monarch, he had undertaken many visits to rural areas throughout Thailand and initiated more than 3,000 projects in his lifelong support for opium elimination, poverty reduction and livelihood development.
Sumate Sudasna, managing director of CDM and president of Thailand Incentive and Convention Association, in his projection of the days ahead for Thailand tourism, thinks that King Bhumibol’s positive legacy and the many projects initiated and supported by the royal family will open up “a goldmine of attractions” for corporate travellers in their outreach programmes.
Not only that, I believe these royal projects can be sources of rewarding and educational experiences for general visitors to Thailand. While Thais are familiar with royal-associated attractions like Doi Tung and Doi Angkhang in the north or Doi Kham food products, to name just a few, not many foreign visitors are aware of these initiatives. Earlier efforts by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to promote these projects were also more focused on the domestic market.
At the recent ITB Asia in Singapore, TAT revealed its latest plans to market the royal projects to the foreign audience. The greater publicity and promotion of the royal projects at the international level will definitely compel more foreign travellers to visit these sites, who through their visits will hopefully gain deeper insights into King Bhumibol’s dedication to the people and better understand the roots of Thais’ deep reverence for the late king.
Also worth mentioning is the Royal Park Ratchaphruek, a personal favourite of mine. First launched as a world-class horticultural expo from November 2006 to January 2007 to commemorate the king’s 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne, the breathtaking array of flora and landscaping at this 80ha attraction in Chiang Mai captivated me so much during my visit a decade ago that I was inspired to find out more about the king’s life. Today, this botanical gem is still as picturesque and alluring as ever.
That said, it will take time for Thailand to grief and recover from the loss of the nation’s guiding light, but I believe the best way for the people to honour the king’s exemplary life is to follow in his footsteps. And as I now call Thailand home, a life goal of mine is to visit all the provinces in the country, tracing the king’s travels in each single province, all 77 of them.