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08.03.2020 Bruce Lee's Big Boss film memories at Pak Chong, Thailand
One of the most frequently visited film locations by fans this project has explored is the venues related to The Big Boss (1971) with Bruce Lee as the star. Shot at locations in Pakchong, Nakhon Ratchasima not far from Bangkok, a number of fans have reviewed on social media sites how to find specific locations inlcluding the ice factory [still running as a factory called Dumrong Thai], a monastery not far from the ice factory which was used as the Big Boss's house in the final sequence of the film, and the river bank near the hotel called New Wanchai whose owner is still around and kindly provided information about the film and fan visits. I was particulalry grateful as the auntie of the New Wanchai took me on a motobike across a small concrete bridge into the housing estate to find the exact spot where Bruce Lee saved a lady from the villain.
Pak Chong is rich in history as the area was thriving when the American GIs set up the army base in Thailand and built the 'Friendship Highway' connecting this area to Bangkok. There was also a train station being built earlier connecting the town to other Northeastern cities. In 2020, Pak Chong is not busy and rather laidback with local farmers coming-and-going to the market area which is the main street. Middle class Thais driving from Bangkok nowaday would skip Pak Chong and head straight to the mountain holiday resorts nearby, which has evolved with different tourist trends and tastes overtime from a cowboy-theme holiday park with horse riding and local beef steks to Italian vinery sites and Coachella-inspired music festival venues.
For an off-beaten track visit, Pak Chong has much to offer in terms of memories associated with the Thai-American-Hong Kong geo-political history and film memory. During our trip, we encountered an expat with his wife who rented a space to set up a cafe/bistro at the front of the Rim Tharn Inn Hotel (previously the Wan Chai hotel before the owner sold it to set up the New Wan Chai nearby). The gentleman was much interested in Bruce Lee memories and even had the computer screen running a slideshow of film memories in the cafe. He wish to set up a kind of Bruce Lee tour locally but the Covid-19 situation which has just started may effect at lot of things including the restaruant business.
I spent quite a bit of time at the ice factory with the super kind madam owner. There are many stories of trips made by a documentary filmmaker from France, overseas visitors looking for bits of memories of the film. While there have been academic works on Bruce Lee fans, this part of film memory would be interesting to explored alongside stories of many genertional pilgrimage of male travellers to Thailand whose memories of martial arts/action films shot in the country invite them to visit the sites and reflect on their youths. Some of them also pass on the story to their friends and children during the trip.