Movies which have inspired travel to SE Asia

Updated: 3 days ago

Sometimes, a movie (or book) can put a place on the map and inspire travellers to visit. The movie could be a true representation of the place and be about the destination – or it could just be a set location not actually depicting the truth but perhaps a fantasy locale, such as the hobbit village set in New Zealand.

We’re highlighting a few movies here that have inspired travellers to SE Asia. We’re not giving any spoilers in case you’ve not seen these iconic movies, and we’re pleased to say that our Destination TEFL locations make the list.

The Beach

The Beach (2000, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, based on the book by Alex Garland)

While the book is set around a hidden beach in the Ang Thong National Marine Park off the island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand, most scenes in the film was actually shot on Thailand’s western coast in the Andaman Sea, in Phi Phi Islands and Maya Beach. The movie starts off in the infamous Khao San Road in Bangkok, which is where many backpackers to Asia start their trips. After this movie came out, backpacker numbers to Thailand soared…

Cambodia tomb raider

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider (2001, starring Angelina Jolie and Daniel Craig)

The iconic scenes where Lara Croft battles in root-entwined temples is shot in the Angkor Wat Temple Complex, a UNESCO world heritage site just 6km from our Destination TEFL Siem Reap training centre! Lara Croft perhaps started the trend for powerful female lead roles, a welcome change from the stereotypical ‘damsel in distress’. The movie put Cambodia on the map as a new location from the regular package holidays to Asia and appealed to the adventurer in all.

eat pray love bali

Eat, Pray, Love (2010, starring Julia Roberts, based on the book by Melissa Gilbert)

The story evolves as a newly divorced woman tries to find herself through travels to Italy (eat), India (pray) and Bali (love). A ‘feel good’ movie, many a 30-to-40 something woman could relate to the lead character, and journeyed to the locations, with Bali high on the list. We’re pleased to say that our latest Destination TEFL location is opening shortly in Bali, ideally located between Seminyak and Canggu.

best marigold hotel india

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011, starring Judy Dench)

While The Beach and Lara Croft generally inspired younger travellers, and Eat, Pray, Love the 30-40 something traveler, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel got the mature traveler off the couch and down to their local travel agent to book their ticket to India, as they realise that life begins at 60. This is another feel-good movie, a tear-jerker at times, and you can smell, taste and feel the essence of India in this film.

Anna and the King (1999, starring Jodie Foster)

The story of the romance between the King of Siam (now Thailand) and widowed British schoolteacher, Anna Leonowens, during the 1860s. While most period films are set in Europe or America, it’s fascinating being taken back in time to Asia of yesteryears. A love story between two most unlikely partners, worlds apart.

There are many more films worthy of a mention that portray SE Asia, some in reality, others not. Such as: Bridge over the River Kwai, The Killing Fields, Seven Years in Tibet, The Hangover Part II, Crazy Rich Asians, to name but a few.

Which movies or books have inspired you to visit Asia? We’d love to hear which films or books about SE Asia you have loved or hated and why.

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