What Was Thailand Like in the 1960s? (Travel Video)

bangkok in 1960


If you’ve ever wondered what Thailand was like in the 1960s, wonder no longer. This fascinating Pan Am promotional video was made in 1960 in an effort to get Americans to travel to Thailand and it shows first-hand what type of a trip a tourist to Thailand could expect.

Interestingly, even though Bangkok especially has modernized rapidly since the 1960s (look at all those almost empty roads — you rarely see that in Bangkok any more!), much of what is shown in the video is still the same. Water taxis, temples, Buddha statues, floating markets, shopping in quaint little old-fashioned shops and, of course, bargaining while you do so, saffron-robed monks — it’s all still easy to find in Bangkok just a couple of streets off the main roads.

What has changed is transportation (the traffic jams in Bangkok have to be seen to be believed), and where the narrator says “canals carry 80 percent of internal traffic in Bangkok” is sadly no longer true.

Many of Bangkok’s canals have been filled in to create roads, which has not only led to our current ridiculous traffic jams but has also made sure the city is hotter than ever before and that it floods terribly every year during rainy season.

The narrator also mentions “70 percent of Thailand is forested and one third of that is teak wood”. That is also no longer the case as much of Thailand’s forest and jungle areas have disappeared due to too much logging and teak is so rare nowadays there are limits on how much can be harvested. Sadly, that’s what modernizing too fast does for a country, even one as luscious and beautiful as Thailand.

Overall, though, the Pam Am promotional video of Thailand is a fascinating look at a way of life just over 50 years ago. A way of life that, in some respects may still be the same but, if Thais and the Thai government don’t do more to preserve it, could easily be lost forever.