Thailand still draws StarsCelebrities know all about bad publicity, which is perhaps why they can't resist visiting Thailand. Despite all the travel warnings and negative media, big name personalities continue to grace Thai shores, either in search of a little escapism or to boost their careers with a little Asian mystique.
Top of the holiday 'A' list this month were newlyweds Katie Price and Alex Reid, who actually took a film crew with them on their honeymoon to Bangkok and the Full Moon Party island of Koh Phangan. The press-addled couple apparently escaped the madness of the British media to 'boost their sex life and help Katie conceive', a convincing celebrity endorsement if ever their was one.
Other household names undeterred by street protests and ash clouds this year have included legendary performance artiste Sam Fox, who actually survived a cat bite while holidaying on Koh Samui, as well as loose tongued Master Chef Gordon Ramsey, who bravely challenged some local Thai street cooks in Krabi to a shrimp paste making competition and, not surprisingly, lost.
Sports personalities also seem to favour the Land of Smiles. Formula One stars Jensen Button and Lewis Hamilton have both been spotted shooting around the Koh Samui Ring Road on scooters in the past, while from the football world, Everton Manager David Moyes recently took a break in paradise and both Sven Goran Erikson and David Beckham both still reportedly own properties on Thai islands.
Even Hollywood has sent a few ambassadors to Thailand's beaches. Kevin Spacey and William Hurt have both stayed at one of Samui's top villas and more recently Mickey Rourke checked into a secluded Thai resort to sun himself between bouts on the set of Iron man 2.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand says it plans to enhance celebrity marketing to promote the Kingdom globally. Bangkok is also becoming increasingly popular as a film set destination thanks to the low cost of production and the pool of skilled human resources available in the capital. With stars already jetting through to relax and enjoy its charms, the country's fame and appeal seems likely to continue far beyond the headlines.
By Jules Kay