About 90 miles southeast of Bangkok along the coast of the Gulf lies Pattaya, a small city that was once a tourist destination, but is now ruled by its sex industry. A quick walk down the street will reveal as much, about 80% of the people you’ll see will be older Caucasian males, most of which are accompanied by impossibly beautiful young Thais of all genders. Nothing wrong with that, just painting a picture for you.
My interest in Pattaya was purely cinematic as this is the home of the memorial shrine of Mitr Chaibancha, possibly the most-loved actor in Thai movie history. You may be wondering why a shrine to Mitr was built 200 miles from his hometown of Phetchaburi, but you’re probably not. You see, Pattaya was the shooting location of 1970’s Insee Thong [Gold Eagle], the highly anticipated return of his superheroic Red Eagle character, a role that helped contribute to his immense fame. And it was in Pattaya that Mitr fell to his death from a helicopter rope ladder while shooting the final scene of what would be his final film. The film was actually released to theaters with the fall included, but my DVD copy simply freezes the frame and displays some untranslated text that is likely a tribute to the actor (by the way, one of the DVD’s bonus features is the somber “The Cremation Mitr Chaibancha”, a 6.5 minute look at his massive funeral).
The shrine is located beside a highway-like road, sandwiched seemingly out of nowhere between a beachfront hotel and a revenue department. A surprisingly large number of visitors came and went during the 30 minutes we spent there, all of who paid their respects with gifts, incense, and prayers. So enjoy and appreciate the photos below as I’m pretty sure I’m one of the few Westerners to ever make this pilgrimage.
Author: Eric Bresler
Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of Cinedelphia.com whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.