Most travelers see Thailand as a nation teeming with culture and historical relics that extend to its numerous ancient cities—where iconic temples and reclining Buddha statues abound. To some, a shopping haven; to the younger generation, a multitude of islands ripe for an abundance of revelry—especially come full moon nights and during the renowned cultural festivals of Songkran and Loy Krathong.
For Irish Karunungan and Eisa Ireneo Adelante, the reasons for wanting to visit Thailand again range from culture, people and to food. “I decided to visit again to experience the good food, culture and hospitality of the people of Thailand. I first visited the country for 14 days a few years ago, but this time I wanted to share the trip with some of my best friends,” Adelante tells.
|Eisa Adelante shares a camera shot with Mario Maurer|
“My family and I were debating between visiting Thailand or Hong Kong, and Macau for my nephew’s graduation celebration. Having been to both countries before, I knew that each had its own unique appeal. We ended up selecting Thailand, because when it came to culture, fantastic food and, of course, awesome shopping—it just becomes the obvious choice,” Karunungan says.
|Irish Karunungan with Thai heartthrob Maurer|
Unbeknownst to the two travelers, at the time they purchased their plane tickets, their decision to book a trip to Thailand will present them an opportunity to meet and greet Thailand’s most popular actor, Mario Maurer.
That Mario Maurer surprise
While preparing for the 24th Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) Travel Expo, which took place at the SMX Convention Center from February 10 to 12, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) organized a program that will reward two lucky travelers who will avail themselves a trip package to Thailand from participating travel agencies during the travel expo.
|Popular actor Maurer greets everyone aboard the boat.|
That surprise-of-a-gift turned out to be an all-expense-paid three-night trip to Bangkok and Pattaya, with the opportunity to go on an afternoon cruise with Maurer along the historic Chao Phraya River. The two fortunate winners turned out to be Karunungan and Adelante, who, after scoring good travel deals to Bangkok, also got the wonderful surprise of their lives when the TAT called and informed them of their Maurer date.
Experience Thailand with Maurer
Ever since the TAT tapped Maurer to be its tourism ambassador, the country has seen an uptick in the numbers of young visitors from China, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Walailak Noypayak, TAT executive director for the Asean, South Asia and South Pacific region, said, “The next generation of potential travelers is going to be young people, especially within Asia. We are happy that Mario Maurer is working with us in promoting tourism to Thailand among these new emerging markets.”
True enough, the boy-next- door actor who walks with a very likable and humble personality, despite his snowballing popularity and the successes of his movies, such as Love of Siam, Pee Mak and the Philippine-produced film Suddenly, It’s Magic, which he costarred with Erich Gonzales—Maurer appears genuinely and passionately committed to sharing the many gems his country has to offer to travelers—most especially to young people.
|Sunset over Chao Phraya River|
On-board the Supanniga Cruise boat that cruises the Chao Phraya River, Maurer privately met with the lucky fans and some members of the media at the back of the boat for an intimate talk.
Having met Maurer, both Karunungan and Adelante weren’t able to hide their excitement and joy from their faces, as I sat down with them on the boat’s second-floor dining area over a plate of delicious spring rolls.
|Tasty bites aboard the Supanniga Cruise boat|
“Thailand’s biggest heartthrob certainly did not disappoint. He was very gracious and generous with his time. Even when his leather shoes got soaked from the spray of the Chao Phraya River he just continued to chat and take pictures with me. The entire trip was such a surreal experience and meeting Mario Maurer was the proverbial icing on this cake,” shares Karunungan, as she beams in recollection of her private moment with the Thai actor.
|There are lots of interesting sights around Chao Phraya River|
“Meeting Maurer was definitely a belated Valentine’s Day and advance birthday gift for me. I not only get to experience a different side of Bangkok by cruising the Chao Phraya River, I also had the chance to meet and talk to Maurer, who was so accommodating and so into taking selfies with me,” Adelante narrates.
As we wrapped up the afternoon by navigating a scenic portion of the Chao Phraya River, we stared at the sun starting to slide underneath the horizon, while the distant old temples and towering skyscrapers of Bangkok slowly appear as silhouettes—a festive vibe reigns over the boat.
Amid the shared laughter of everyone, from fans and even those who have limited knowledge of Maurer, such as myself, but similarly—all shared a developing fascination for Thailand; its colorful culture, jovial people, majestic sights and sumptuous cuisines. A look at each of our faces depicts nothing else, but the joyful contentment of being at that place at that exact moment.
Amazing Thailand indeed, I told myself—and even without the promise of meeting another famed Thai personality, I am pretty sure even the two Filipinos and their fellow winners from Indonesia and Vietnam would agree; visiting and re-visiting Thailand much like our own country; the Philippines, is a definite must for all travelers.
This article appeared on the March 19, 2017 issue of Business Mirror