Sunday, February 12, 2017

Circus Life in Thailand

Last evening driving down my soi my son Fenway spotted an elephant. The mahouts take out the beasts for a stroll in the cooler evening air and maybe earn another 100 baht from farangs feeding the changs bag of sugar cane. My son refused to go near the elephant, but knew this one by name.

"Pi-Bo, Pi-bo."

Elephants were a wonder to children and adults alike and whenever a married couple or single mother with kid visited me in Pattaya, I took them on a tour of the various tourist points of interest; the Khao Keo outdoor zoo, the Temple of Truth ( the biggest wooden structure in the world, and Nong Nooch Gardens, while steering well clear of my usual haunts i.e. the Buffalo Bar, the Welkom Inn, and Heaven Above a Go-Go.

None of these family fare attractions were far away from Pattaya and don’t give a clue to why a western man came here, which was to partake life in the Last Babylon ie Sin sin sin.

While my nephew Fast Eddie and I were at Nong Nooch we attended the elephant show.

Before the pachyderms entered the arena, I bought 50 baht of bananas from a vendor.

We sat in the front row under the shade. The music announced the first elephant, a giant tusker chained at his back feet. He took one look at the bananas and charged the stands. The minders had no chance of controlling him. I chucked the bananas at him and grabbed my godson’s hand before we were trampled beneath those flat feet.

The crowd both Thai and farang laughed at our timidity, but a elephant was like a 1200 pound gorilla. It gets to sit or shit wherever it wants.

When I mentioned this story at my local, my French friend Bruno said, “You are lucky. Two years ago an English woman tried to hide the bananas and was stomped by the elephant. She was killed and the elephant fled the scene to Isaan.”

“That’s nothing," an oldtimer said with a whiskey voice. “Back in the last century a circus dwarf was swallowed by a hippopotamus in a freak accident. He was a trapeze artist and dismounted onto the trampoline. The angle was bad and his disappeared into the mouth of a hippo. Hippos will eat anything and the beast swallowed the dwarf. Fucking audience applauded thinking it was part of the act. The handlers were unable to free the dwarf, but said the hippo was a vegetarian.”

No one laughed at the punchline, but Bruno muttered under his breath. “I heard that story before only the dwarf landed headfirst in the hippo’s asshole.’

“No.” This was starting to sound like an urban legend.

“Quais, and the dwarf survived, but quit because the circus owner wanted him to repeat the act every night.”

Which goes to show there’s no business like show business.

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