Elephant’s Leg

Nick and I on an "amazing" Koh Chang elephant

Nick and I on an “amazing” Koh Chang elephant

“Amazing Thailand” is the long-running official slogan of the international tourism drive, as well as the ironic quote of choice for the cynical expat when hearing of some latest outrage.

The latest poltical protest? “Amazing Thailand”. Video footage of a bungling and/or corrupt cop? “Amazing Thailand”. Idiotic driving? “Amazing Thailand”. And so on.

Expats are often pretty miserable types. Naturally, when you live somewhere, you see a lot more of the contry’s foibles and annoyances than the average two-week tourist. But that doesn’t mean the tourist experience is invalid or inaccurate. To the temporary visitor, many things about this country really are amazing. Those of us who live here shouldn’t forget that.

My friend Nick came to visit last month. It was his first trip to Thailand, and in fact his first foreign holiday since he was a teenager.

I always appreciate visitors, not only because it’s good to see familiar faces from home, but also because I enjoy showing them around and being reminded of what an intoxicating place this is. Indeed, to be reminded of why I chose it as my home.

We hit all the usual tourist sites and did all the usual tourist things – things I rarely do anymore – and Nick was as blown away as most tourists are. He is also a writer and so has a keen vocabulary at his disposal, but his verbal reaction to the things he was seeing and doing was repetitive.

The sheer size of the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho: “Amazing”. The opulence of Wat Phra Kaew: “Amazing”. Making a muay Thai pilgrimage to Rajadamnern Stadium: “Amazing”. At Koh Chang, seeing his first tropical beach: “Amazing”. Riding an elephant in the jungle: “Amazing”.

Nick’s track did change once, though. While he is in a relationship and remained resolutely faithful despite the obvious temptations, he nevertheless couldn’t fail to notice how appealing the local women are. His verdict on Thai girls: “Stunning”.

That one changed adjective aside, the recurring theme was obvious, and proof that the tourism authority’s oft-mocked slogan is accurate. Moaning expats, tap into your inner tourist now and again and remember why you made “Amazing Thailand” your home.

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[…] Finally, a long-awaited visit by an old friend from home was a great reminder of how enchanting this country is to the first-timer. Nick Ellis took advantage of a recent breakup to book some R&R here. He arrived shortly before my Op Smile boxing match and helped corner me in that. Then, it was full-on sightseeing mode – first, the obvious sites in Bangkok such as Wat Pho, the Grand Palace, muay Thai at Ratchadamnoen, and so on, and then we hit the beach with a few days in Koh Chang. A longer account of Nick’s time here was posted earlier on this blog. […]


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