The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is pledging to continue three principles of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s work by supporting his Royal Projects. TAT, together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), are carrying on his legacy via the recently launched ‘The King’s Wisdom for Sustainable Tourism‘ plan.
The goal of this campaign is to preserve the late King’s philosophy by integrating it with local resources to build sustainable tourism foundations that lasts for generations.
Its ethos is to add value to an area or regional tourism product by prudently using revenue earned from every tourist dollar spent. Then it is invested back into human resource development to strengthen the local community, allowing it to enjoy sustained growth and economic independence.
Various case studies in model community tourism development that fulfilled required criteria relating to the late King’s philosophy were selected, including the Chanthaboon Riverside Community hailing from Thailand’s Eastern Region in Chanthaburi province.
When roaming the streets of the Chanthaboon Riverside Community, visitors are delighted to find how ‘Instagramable’ the area is, with a wealth of social media friendly settings to choose from. It is nearly impossible not to take pictures.
The well-preserved gingerbread colonial buildings are graced with European-styled verandas that rub shoulders with vibrant Thai and Cambodian influenced homes. This is juxtaposed by the numerous ‘hipster’ coffee shops and art galleries tucked along small old alleys, which snake alongside the Chanthaburi River. These narrow lanes are also home to street vendors selling conical straw hats, a testament to the sizeable Vietnamese community that have settled there since the early 19th century.
Together with the neighbouring province of Trat and the region around Pailin, across the border in Cambodia, Chanthaburi used to be an important source of gemstones, especially rubies and sapphires. And locally mined gems still sparkle in many of the glass cabinets around Chanthaboon’s famous workshops, making it an intriguing place to window shop.
Not to be missed is a traditional house known as ‘Khun Anusornsombat’s House’ or ‘Learning House 69’. Another handsome old building, this wooden shophouse at 69 Sukhaphiban Road, was converted into a learning centre, which also functions as a folk museum and tourist information bureau. Local curators make a special effort to keep this open on weekends when the town receives most of its visitors. It is surrounded by picturesque gardens that provide a colourful backdrop when in bloom, whilst the home is filled with fantastic photography, videos and art illustrating the history of the Chanthaboon Riverside Community and the surrounding area.
Visitors have a hard time missing the towering spires of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which is the rock of Chanthaboon’s Catholic community, which was founded when the previously mentioned Vietnamese began fleeing religious persecution in their former homeland. All one has to do is walk inside this great gothic building (remembering of course to remove one’s shoes and dress modestly) to admire its elaborate interiors. Even for those not drawn there for any religious reason, it’s quite an architectural achievement and a spectacular sight to behold.
All tourism stakeholders agree that the Chanthaboon Riverside Community needs to remain vigilant to ensure it preserves its identity and honour the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s work, thus preserving the architecture and rich history of this precious little tourism gem. It remains one of the most charming areas of Thailand’ and a model sustainable tourism community that still retains its traditional way of life. This reflects TAT’s efforts to honour the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s sustainable tourism philosophy that also promotes Thai local experiences to international travellers.