I’m back in Bangkok for the 2009 edition of the Bangkok Motor Show. This year is extra special because it marks the 30th anniversary of the annual event that was started by Dr. Prachin Eamlumnow, head honcho of Grand Prix International (GPI) which organizes the Bangkok Motor Show.

Despite the economic crisis that gripped the world and seriously affected the automotive industry, the event pushed through with Dr. Prachin declaring, “The Show must go on!”

This year’s show may not be as big as the shows of the past years, it is definitely the biggest in the ASEAN region and will continue to be a moving force of the Thai automobile industry thanks to the optimistic Dr. Prachin. It is also interesting to note that Chinese brands are also starting to enter the Thai market, although they are still well shielded with the help of high taxes on imported cars favoring locally manufactured vehicles.

with Chery Panda bears

For more photos and my writeup about the show, click here.

I have been a regular participant of the Bangkok Motor Show since 2003 as a media partner, although the streak was broken in 2008 when our old mail server acted up and I wasn’t able to receive my invitation. Instances like that make you appreciate invitations sent by post, and sometimes greeting cards from car companies.

A Unique Experience

The organizers arranged for a whole-day tour of Ayutthaya for the delegates the day after Press Day. It was a much welcome itinerary after our first day being devoted to the BITEC. Ayutthaya is the ancient capital of Siam, about 80-kilometers away from Bangkok. Together with some international journalists who were guests of GPI, we rode on a police-escorted bus which made weaving through the tight, bustling Bangkok traffic easier. I found myself paired up with an old acquaintance, Australian journalist Gary Stubbs, whom I’ve developed a friendship with through my past visits of the motor show.

First stop: the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal, for a brief four-legged taxi ride. Elephants were once used as transportation and vehicles of war during the olden times

It’s worth observing that elephants do not have as good a suspension as today’s cars do, although they are comparable in sturdiness and the frequent need of a wash. Cars, however, presumably don’t enjoy carwashes as much as their Thai transport predecessors enjoy their Elephant Carwash.

Elephant Carwash

We were then taken to a nearby hotel for a lunch buffet to prepare us for a very long afternoon tour. The food consisted of local Thai and International favorites. A familiarly looking dessert was the Thai version of our famous Halo-Halo which is mixed and eaten in similar manner.

Thai Ice Dessert

Ancient Ayutthaya was once a majestic city, but due to infighting an invasion by the Burmese as well as robbery of its riches, it is now mostly rubble and ruins. A visit to the National Museum gave us a glimpse of some relics that were uncovered by the Thai government. Another museum featured a recreation of Ayutthaya at the peak of its glory. One last great ruin that we visited was the Wat Chai Wattanaram, an intact Khmer temple and one of the largest in the city.

Wat Chai Wattanaram

As any tour that involves the outdoors, a humid weather and much walking and climbing will do to you, not to mention all the absorption of historical and cultural information, our day-long trip left us pleasantly exhausted. Like icing on cake, however, our tour was made sweeter with a cruise along the Chaopraya River that refreshed our souls and replenished our stomachs. We enjoyed a sumptuous Thai dinner while enjoying the unique sights of Ayutthaya such as the French Catholic Church (St. Joseph’s Church), several mosques (Thais and Muslims had good trade relations dating centuries back) and countless more temples. Our last stop was to feed some fishes that are believed to promote the Buddhist life cycle, give you luck and earn you extra merits.
River cruise dinner

Even though I’ve been coming to Thailand every year, it was my first tour in the country as my previous stays permitted me to move around Bangkok only. I would have liked to see more of the great city that was Ayutthaya, but time permitted me to merely have a bite of the cultural nugget that is Thailand. Many, many thanks to Mr. Surasek Saengphachareonsup, Foreign Manager for GPI, for arranging as well as hosting the tour. Thanks also go to Celilu and Ai for taking good care of us in the Motor Show Press Room. I’d love to be back for some more Thailand experiences, hopefully more than 60% of which will have nothing to do with cars next time.

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