Thai & Lao Culture in ‘Sabaidee Luang Prabang’
Sabaidee Luang Prabang (Good morning, Luang Prabang, 2008, directed by Sakchai Deenan) is a romantic drama movie starring Thai movie star Ananda Everingham who is of Lao-Australian descent. The special feature of this film is that it deals with the relationship between Thailand and Laos. What is more, it is also the first Thai-Laotian commercial film since 1975. In my view this is a special and beautiful movie because it shows the amazing landscape in Laos.
Sabaidee Luang Prabang
The plot of the movie is relatively simple: Sorn (played by A. Everingham) is a Thai photographer visiting Laos. There he falls in love with his lovely Laotian tour guide, Noi (Khamlek Pallawong). The film features and focusses on several tourist sites in Laos and points out the differences between Thailand and Laos. This contrast is already depicted in the trailer to the movie.
In fact, the film is shot primarily outdoors, thus using a kind of road movie approach. The settings in Laos contrast sharply with Bangkok because the latter is presented as a hectic metropolitan city whereas life in Laos appears to be more calm and harmonic. In addition, the Laotian scenery is green, pristine and unspoiled by modernity.
The first part of the movie presents the protagonist Sorn as a small creature surrounded by the city skyline in Bangkok. However, in Laos, Sorn experiences an easy atmosphere of small towns where people have a simple lifestyle and are still connected with their local traditions.
Luang Prabang, which is also a world heritage site, is the central motif of the movie. Hence, it appears in the film title and it is the place where the protagonists move around at the end of the movie, showing the natural and historical sites of the town.
Thus, the audience gets the impression of Laos being a place unspoiled by modernity compared to Bangkok city. What is more, the untouched towns stand for a kind of utopian space where everyone lives in contentment. Even though the settings in Thailand and Laos are opposed to each other, the movie also stresses similarities between Thai and Lao culture.
For instance, the title of the film points out a similarity but also a difference between Thai and Lao language. In Lao, Sabaidee Luang Prabang means Hello Luang Prabang whereas in Thai it will rather say I’m fine Luang Prabang or in interrogative sentence ‘How are you?‘. However, although the literal translation of the title is not identical in Thai and Lao, the word ‘Sabaidee’ is understood as a greeting in both cultures.
What is more, there are many tourism elements in the movie that seem to encourage the audience wanting to go to Laos. For example, every time Sorn and Noi move from one town to another the caption will be shown ensuring that the audience knows where the place is. Sometimes it is also explained in the movie how to get to the respective places.
In addition, since Noi is a tour guide she often explains about natural and historical places to Sorn who is a photographer and thus captures the beautiful scenery on his photos. Thus, the film title and the intact scenery shown in the movie make it to a kind of ‘tourism film’.
In a nutshell, we may say that even though the plot is simple, Sabaidee Luang Prabang is a great film, admirable for its beautiful presentations of local Lao landmarks. Indeed, it can be called a ‘tourism movie’ because the viewer feels inspired to explore the natural scenery of Luang Prabang, Laos. In addition, the role of photographer Sorn seems to be tailor-made for Ananda Everingham 🙂
*photo credit: Ananda Everingham, FB page