11 July 2024

2023 may not have been a very good year for most of us given the sluggish economy, wars and uncertainties but for Thais at least, there were some glimpses of hope in the areas of art and culture and entertainment.

The Lost World: Si Thep

The celebratory mood could be felt and loud cheers echoed throughout the country especially among culture vultures and historians, when UNESCO World Heritage listed the Si Thep Historical Park in Phetchabun province as a cultural heritage site on September 19. The site has become the latest and the 7th UNESCO World heritage site in Thailand.

The honour accorded by the UNESCO World Heritage led to an influx of tourists to the ancient site, with the history of the Dvaravati empire estimated to have run from the 6th to 10th centuries revisited in studies and an exhibition at the National Museum. The recognition also reaffirms the importance of Si Thep Historical Park as one of Thailand’s greatest cultural treasures.

Thai films strike back

After a long gap, 2023 saw a remarkable turnaround for the Thai film industry, both in terms of revenues and quality. Thai films exceeded expectations, shattering numerous records and surpassing many major Hollywood franchises.

The horror film “Death Whisperer” set a new opening day revenue record and became the first film to reach 100 million baht in just three days, also making history as the first Thai film in IMAX.

Two other Thai films, “The Undertaker” and “Tee Yod”, outperformed all Hollywood releases, earning 720 million baht and 470 million baht respectively, overshadowing “Fast X” with its 300 million baht in takings. The revenue earned by the blockbusters was the highest in a decade.

Thee Yod

The Undertaker

Notable mentions include other Thai films that crossed the 100 million-baht mark, such as the renowned “Khun Pan” installation. The gangland sequel “4 Kings II” looks poised to join the top-10 blockbusters, having earned nearly 200 million baht by press time.

The industry thrived with 60 Thai films in theatres and 20 premiering on OTT platforms. “Hunger” made history as the first Thai film on Netflix’s Global Top-10 Films list and won Best Feature Film at the 2023 Asian Academy Creative Awards. The OTT film “Doi Boy” received recognition from the Busan International Film Festival.

This last year has also echoed the golden period of Thai films, with surprises like the works of 1990s masters—Nonzee Nimitbutr, Wisit Sasanatieng, and Pen-ek Rattanarung—released on OTT platforms. What a year, marking an unforeseen delight for the Thai film industry!

Miss Congeniality

Thai-Danish beauty queen Anntonia Porsild did not secure the title of Miss Universe 2023. However, the 27-year-old beauty queen performed exceptionally well, earning the esteemed position of 1st runner-up.

Despite falling short of the ultimate crown, Anntonia showcased qualities that demonstrated her readiness to compete at the highest level. Importantly, she brought Thailand closer to the coveted title, a feat not achieved since Porntip Nakhirunkanok’s victory in 1988.

Unsurprisingly, her return home was celebrated on a grand scale, reminiscent of the reception held for two former Thai Miss Universes. Thai people rejoiced, acknowledging Anntonia as a source of pride. Back in Thailand for the rest of 2023, she drew loud cheers  wherever she appeared, bringing pride and joy to Thais.

La La (Lalisa) Land

The multifaceted talent continued to create positive impacts that extend far beyond the realms of music in 2023. Lisa has become a global fashion icon, recognized for her trendsetting style and collaborations with renowned fashion brands.

Hailing from Thailand, Lisa serves as a cultural bridge between Thailand and South Korea. The headdress (“Chada”) and Thai national costume seen in the ‘Lalisa’ music video speak volumes about Thai history and culture, as well as the work of the Thai designer!”

In 2023, Lisa achieved new milestones. She is now the K-Pop soloist with the most Guinness World Records in history, with her 7th and 8th wins added this year. Her debut single album, “Lalisa”, is the first album by a solo K-pop artist to reach 1 billion streams on Spotify.

Additionally, her song “Money”, the B-side of her debut single “Lalisa”,’ has become the first K-pop track by a solo artist to reach 1 billion streams on Spotify.

Closing the year at an even higher level, Lisa celebrated Christmas with yet another new record: she now has more than 100 million Instagram followers. This makes her the first K-pop artist and the first Asian female in history to achieve this social media milestone.

By Veena Thoopkrajae