On Location

On Location

Anna and The King

Location: Penang, Malaysia

Set: Penang Town Hall, Swettenham Pier and Armenian Street

Plot: Cultures clash when Siamese King Mongkut (played by Chow Yun Fat) hires a Western governess (Jodie Foster) to educate his many children.

Opening scenes: Thailand is uneasy about foreign depictions of its royal family’s ancestors, so Anna and the King was filmed in Malaysia. A number of the sets and historical sites featured in the movie can be found in Penang. The two hotels above typify the architecture and ambiance of the film with ornate finishings and luxury accommodation. In the city, Penang is primed for a walking tour through various scenes of the movie. ‘Bangkok Harbour’ can be found today at Swettenham Pier, Penang Harbour, and the ‘Royal Court Room’ of the Palace is actually the Grand Ballroom of Penang Town Hall on Jalan Padang Kota Lama (Esplanade Road). The ‘Bangkok Street’ scenes were filmed on Armenian Street. Also along the same street is the place where Anna and the Prince find the slave in chains – Syen Altas Mansion. The 1860s house of an Arab trader from Sumatra, and one of the best examples of upper-class Muslim residences of the period, is now the home to the Penang Heritage Centre. Lastly, the temple where Bai Ling is captured by palace guards is called Khoo Kongsi Clan House, found on busy Penang Street. Aside from opulent living, feasts fit for a king were also a hallmark of rulers at the time of the King of Siam. 

Action!:  Organise a nighttime dinner event at the Shangri-La’s Spice Market Café, where the food of Penang’s cultural heritage can be enjoyed under a canopy of century old rain trees, or for smaller groups, an outdoor deck seating overlooking Batu Feringgi Beach.

Contact: Tour East Malaysia, www.toureast.net



Location: Mumbai, India

Set: Taj Mahal Palace, JW Marriott

Plot: Boy meets girl, boy sings for girl, girl dances for boy.

Opening scenes: The historic Taj Mahal Palace and Towers (www.tajhotels.com) is Mumbai’s iconic property by the Gateway of India on the waterfront, the modern beachside JW Marriott on the other hand is the favourite nightspot for the stars themselves, who can often be spotted in the lobby, bars, nightclub and restaurants.

Action!: The Bollywood Studio Tour allows your group to get up close and personal, on-set, at one of the major film studios. Action sequences, dance numbers and scenes from popular films are recreated in one section of the tour, while a Q&A session with a director will give guests insights on the industry. The two- to three-hour official tour allows guests to enjoy the show without having to dedicate an entire day to the experience. You can even organise a choreography session at your hotel for groups who are daring enough to try their hands, hips and feet at a dance number, and what could be better to entertain guests at a gala dinner, or even outdoor reception than a professional Bollywood dance troupe?

Contact: www.bollywoodtourpackage.com

On Location

Lord of the Rings, the Trilogy

Location: New Zealand

Set: Matamata, Otaki Totara Forest

What you can do: Tolkien’s mythical world of Middle Earth, come to life in one of the most popular movie trilogies in history, was shot in various locations all over both of New Zealand’s islands. Some are considerably more inaccessible than others, however some of the sets, and the scenery that brought the movies to life, are available for themed travel, tours and events. Matamata, a city that now advertises itself as ‘Hobbiton’ has erected a Tourist Centre, and its own tour company for those interested in viewing what remains of the fictional town’s set. For more adventurous trekking, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe provided the backdrops to the savage realm of ‘Mordor’ and ‘Mount Doom’. ‘Middle Earth’ is actually Whakapapa Ski Field, on the slopes of Ruapehu, while Otaki Totara Forest in the Manuwatu Region (north of Wellington about 45 minutes) is where groups will find the ‘Outer Shire Woods’ and the roads that supposedly surround Hobbiton. Sticking to the North Island of New Zealand, an outdoor adventure of picturesque scenery and almost surreal nature is waiting.

Contact: Rings Scenic Tours, www.hobbitontours.com


The Man with the Golden Gun

Location: Hong Kong

Set: The Penninsula Hotel (hongkong.peninsula.com)

Plot: One of three James Bond movies with a Hong Kong link, The Man With the Golden Gun features Bond (played by Roger Moore) on the trail of a weapon the harnesses the power of the sun.

Action!: Hong Kong is one of the most filmed cities in Asia, but for a taste of Bond, James Bond, enjoy pre-dinner drinks (shaken, not stirred of course) at the swanky M Bar in the Mandarin Oriental, or take groups up to Pearl on the Peak for a bird’s eye view of the city, as well as a meal that meets James Bond’s notoriously high standards. Your group could stay at the Peninsula, the historic hotel where Bond follows Andrea Anders in an attempt to find the golden gun is a must. Another Bond-based activity is taking the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour, where a more modern James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, plunged into its murky waters on his way to the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. For a Bond-themed evening event, rent out one of the bars on the roof of the IFC Mall and hire a group of actors who can re-enact some of the fight scenes, and even the ‘kidnapping’ of a member of the troupe for a taste of authenticity.

Contact: Pacific World, www.pacificworld.com


Lost In Translation

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Set: Park Hyatt Tokyo Hotel (www.tokyo.park.hyatt.com)

Plot: Weary American actor (Bill Murray) arrives in Japan to film a TV commercial and is shaken out of his mid-life lethargy by a young woman staying in the same hotel. Together, they explore Tokyo together.

Opening scenes: The most beautiful time to visit Japan is during the Cherry Blossom Festival, which normally happens around April.  But groups should plan ahead as hotels, restaurants and tours book out well in advance. The Park Hyatt provides the perfect backdrop in both the cult hit movie and for a themed incentive travel destination or event. The jazz bar on the 53rd floor, high above the city, plays live music every night, but for something more typically Japanese, the hotel is located right in the busy neighbourhood of Shinjuku, with its karaoke clubs and izakaya bars for late night socialising and snacks.

Action!: What trip to Japan would be complete without a proper sushi meal? Ask the hotel to book tables for your group at Fukuzushi, along a back alley in the Roppongi district, where the toro melts in your mouth. If Shinjuku isn’t enough of a taste of the young, Japanese culture that Tokyo is famous for, travellers can take in the sites, sounds and costumes in the famous Harajuku district.

Contact: Hankyu Express International, www.hankyu-travel.com


Apocalypse Now

Location: The Philippines

Set: Pagsanjan, Luzon

Plot: An updated version of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the film is set during the American War in Vietnam. The story follows the search by Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) to find and kill Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a psychotic US special forces officer, who has established his own private kingdom on the Cambodian border.

Action!: Although depicting the Vietnam War, was in fact shot in the jungles of the Philippines. The beaches, lush vegetation and opportunities for hikes, water sports and stress-relieving retreats into areas where your BlackBerry may not work are still reminiscent of the epic helicopter scenes and picturesque backdrops that frame the film.  Shot on the northern coast of Luzon, the island that is also home to Manila, the country’s capital. Pagsanjan, where many of the scenes were re-created, is a trek to get to, but worth it to enjoy the scenery captured in the movie.  Instead of the bumpy three-hour bus ride from Manila, try taking groups on a thrilling, wet and wild white water rafting adventure to get to Pagsanjan Falls (also known as Magdapio Falls). Helicopter tours or private water plane tours of the island can be arranged and take off from many of the smaller airports around the country.

Go from December to the middle of May to enjoy all the island has to offer.

Contact: Rajah Tours Philippines, 



On Location

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Location: Sydney, Alice Springs

Set: Lasseters Hotel Casino (www.lassetershotelcasino.com.au)

Plot: An everyday tale of two Australian drag queens and a widowed transsexual, who head from Sydney en route to a show in Alice Springs, travelling through the macho Outback on a pink bus named Priscilla. Their final destination is Lasseters Hotel Casino, which today is next door to the Alice Springs Convention Centre (www.aspcc.com.au).

Action!: Alice Springs is surrounded by the stunning MacDonnell Ranges, creating an awesome natural backdrop for your events. There are any number of open-air venues and spots that can be used, although sensitivity to indigenous Aboriginal sites is a must. You can try camel trekking or have a gala dinner under the clear night sky at the traditional Ooraminna Homestead (www.ooraminnahomestead.com.au) You can even dress up in a pink, feather boa if you want.

Contact: Northern Territory Convention Bureau,



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