‘Good Morning Vietnam’ filmed at Bangkok’s Malaysia Hotel

‘Good Morning Vietnam’ starring the late Robin Williams was shot on location in Malaysia Hotel in Bangkok. — Reuters pic
‘Good Morning Vietnam’ starring the late Robin Williams was shot on location in Malaysia Hotel in Bangkok. — Reuters pic

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BANGKOK, Dec 3 — In the heart of this modern metropolis sits Malaysia Hotel, a modest hotel which has no relations whatsoever with Malaysia although it shares the same name with Thailand’s southern neighbour. 

But unknown to many outside of this family-run business, the hotel which just celebrated its golden anniversary holds a very special place to Hollywood’s film enthusiasts and fans of one of its most well-known actors who shockingly took his own life several years ago at the prime of his career.

It was this hotel, founded by entrepreneurial Chinese immigrant Peng Hui Saebae in 1967, which hosted late Hollywood funnyman Robin Williams for the shooting of his 1987 award-winning film, Good Morning Vietnam.

“They (the film crew) spend about a month here. Robin Williams came and shot the film here,” Saebae’s 73-year-old daughter Mayuree Rungsaeng told Bernama in an interview here, recently.

According to Mayuree, who helped run the hotel when the shooting of the Hollywood film took place in the 1980s, one of the rooms on the second floor of the hotel had undergone extensive renovation to resemble a radio studio.

The comedy-war film which won William a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in the Motion Picture Musical or Musical Category and an Academy Award nomination and other accolades, also starred another of Hollywood’s greats, Forest Whitaker.

In the Barry Levinson directed film, Williams who tragically committed suicide in 2014, played the role of radio DJ, Adrian Cronauer, a performance which won him not only awards but also fans across the globe.

The hotel, Mayuree said, also received a lot of patronage from American military officers during the Vietnam war, either for rest and relaxation or for official duties at nearby Joint United States Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG).

According to Mayuree’s daughter Chanthiman Rungsaeng, who is currently the managing director of the hotel, William’s did not stay at the Malaysia Hotel throughout the filming but only came to shoot the film.

On how her family came up with an idea to name the premises “Malaysia Hotel”, she said, it was the desire to maintain the family’s ancestral name “Ma” which drove them to name the hotel with a name of a South East Asian country.

“Our family name is “Ma”, so the family decided to name it Malaysia Hotel, so the name carries our family name and Malaysia, as it is easy for the customers to know,” she said of the 130-room hotel located in Sathorn area in Bangkok.

“Ma” in Chinese means “horse” she said, adding that an iron statue of a horse was placed at the entrance of the hotel to greet customers. 

The hotel just underwent an extensive renovation to commemorate its 50th anniversary as well as an effort to draw new customers in view of the increasing competition from other hoteliers in the area, said Chanthiman.

In the renovation works completed in September, many parts of the hotels was painted in golden yellow colour to mark its golden anniversary which coincidentally was similar to Malaysia’s national colour, she said.

The hotel receives a small number of customers from Malaysia but aims to attract more with efforts like providing more Malaysian food and delicacies at its restaurant as well as halal food for them.

“We also hope our unique name, Malaysia Hotel will attract more Malaysians to stay with us,” said Chanthiman of the hotel where the standard rooms start at about 900 baht (RM113) per-night. — Bernama

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