[ b r o k e n c o o k i e . c o m ]

home . briefing . index . notes

Tourist Stuff

November 28, 2002

< < previous | next > >

This is not the type of day that makes one proud to be a tourist, but sometimes it needs to be done. Stepping out of the air-conditioned Toyota minivan, into the waiting arms of jaded locals hawking coconut milk and carved frogs, you recognize yourself as a bit of a caricature: the middle-aged Westerner descending upon the natives, pockets stuffed with money, camera clicking, sun hat trying in vain to keep the white skin from turning pink. You try to convince yourself that "it's for the kids" -- they'd like to see an elephant or a snake show. But they could probably get along without it, you realize as they have more fun on playground equipment at the elephant farm than with anything else all day. No, it's really you: you really are here, just like the other Americans, wanting to finally touch or even ride an elephant, wanting to see those Thai guys wrestle a python or stick their arm down a crocodile's throat, letting yourself be thrilled by the mock elephant battle and swordfights.

Like the disappointed narrator in James Joyce's "Araby", you recognize pretty quickly that you've been duped by marketing. This is not much more the jungle than is Disneyland's Adventureland. This is Bangkok's version of Buena Park, a collection of small theme parks along the side of the freeway, a convenient hour outside of town. And once the last show has run -- once the last dancers have been applauded offstage, the last elephant's thick hide patted, the last hawker dismissed with smiling apology -- you wash the dust of the day off in a fountain, and sigh hard with the relief that the day is over.