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10.12.2020 A short period of site visits before another wave of Covid-19

2020 gave us a challenging time for the world including for all involved with film and tourism. In Thailand, we had periods of no new cases of local infection for several months after the outbreak of the first wave, which allowed us to do three trips towards the end of the year. This final one included site visits related to one of the most notable Thai films of 2016 called Joking Jazz 4G which requires a trek up the hill in Lampang province, North of Thailand.  In the same area, we also visited the site related to the story of Anna and the King - the original Louis T. Leonowens's house who was the son of Anna Leonowen. Louis returned to Thailand to operate a teak wood company before the abolition of deforestation. 


During the colonial time, there were also other stories of foreign merchants and local tales. At Kamphaengphet near Lamphang, we visited the house of the successful ethnic merchant Pa Po which inspired the novel and the film Eternity (2010). The story was written by Malai Choopiniji who was from the area. He also wrote another Thai novel Our Land which led readers to pilgrimage trips to Chumphon in the South of Thailand where at one point Choopiniji was doing coconut farming.


The journey further North to Pai and other sites in Mae Hongsorn province was also fascinating in many ways. Pai and Khumyuam districts with the scenic landscape of the Japanese sunflower fields on the mountain were the set of roadtrip/romantic Thai movies. At the real locations, stories of border-crossing and geo-political histories also emerged. At the WWII memorial bridge in Pai, we encountered one man and his nephew dressed up in their self-made Japanese solider uniform for visitors to take photographs for a small donation. 


In Khun Yuam nearby, there is the whole memorial hall dedicated to the Thai-Japanese relations during the WWII. Upon further reading, I found that local villagers had helped with many injured soldiers towards the end of the war. In Pai, this embodied memory stands right next to the remaining sign of the film location made for tourists to take photographs with. The sign has since blended in with the local surrounding area and tourists also made them their own by adding all kinds of stickers on them.


At Khun Yuam we stayed at an old cinema turned local hotel whose family still kept many of the equipments and were kind to share with us the story of film-going in the area back in the 50s and 60s.  This trip is an examplar of how different memories are weaved together as they coexist in real life.