By SPECIAL TO THE NATION
I had the chance to visit the Philippines last month, as the country hosted an international sustainable tourism conference for discussing and exchanging opinions and knowledge on international tourism statistics.
The theme was sustainable tourism and ministers from many countries were in attendance, and I learned that the Thai minister’s speech was touching during this time of not-yet-settled political concerns of the country.
The hosts were the Philippine government, in particular, the Tourism Department, and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. Their hosting was very nice, very warm.
This was my first time to go the Philippines. I learned that Filipinos are cheerful and look like Thais, how to use a fork and spoon, that the food was pretty spicy like Thai food.
Now Manila has heavy traffic most of the time. They need to spend hours on the road. One family said this makes people take five to six meals a day from very early morning until night.
In history, the Philippines was related to countries in different times – Spain, the US, Japan, England. Many merchants from China and so on. This makes people pretty diversified, as well as the many islands in the country with hundreds of dialects.
Some locals also told me that they are a “Land of Smiles” as well.
All these can be strong points welcoming many international visitors.
If we go back a few decades, when we were young, we may recall that the Philippines was one of the countries that was well-developed and Thais liked to continue their studies there.
After a long period, many development and corruption prevailed. So when we learned from their experience, we knew that all development processes need to continue and should not go in the wrong direction.
Despite these concerns, the country’s rich biodiversity is one of the main tourist attractions with its beaches, mountains, rainforests and an archipelago of about 7,500 islands.
Turning to another neighbouring country, Malaysia, this month I fortunately had the chance to present a research paper in Kuala Terengganu.
Kuala Terengganu is located about 440 kilometres northeast of Kuala Lumpur on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. This year, the Malaysian government is promoting the “Visit Beautiful Terengganu (VBT) 2017” campaign.
Some of us may recall that historically, Terengganu has been related to Thailand since the Ayutthaya kingdom, since the 15th century, from the Portuguese and British to the Malaysians.
Most of the people are Muslim. There are crystal clear seas and a campaign for turtle conservation. Some of the food is like Thailand’s southern cuisine.
When I had a chance to look for local food, I came across a sweet for the king in ancient times, according to the vendor. The preparation is also known in Thailand as foi thong (golden strands).
I also saw thong yip (in Thai), known as “pinched gold egg yolk” in English, which is one of the auspicious traditional Thai desserts introduced by Maria Guyomar de Pinha in the reign of Somdet Phra Narai Maharat during the Ayutthaya Kingdom.
They call it here jala emas and puding raja.
For Thailand, we may not deny that the “sustainability” trend is on its way.
And we can prepare to be among the leading economies to attract good visitors/investors here – one of the lands of natural beauty conservation.
PS Some foreigners told me how impressed they were with Thai hospitality. I hope we can maintain this in our DNA for a long time.