Strange things come out at night in Phuket
Thailand is just about as foreign a place as one can get for an American girl like me (Mo here), and one thing Jo and I have learned in our first few days here is that it’s difficult to prepare for the oddities you’ll find. Most, such as Thai Elvis, singing “Love Me Tender” to a near empty restaurant bring smiles. There’s a poster sporting a pig in a Superman costume titled “Super Moo.” (Moo is actually the Thai word for pig, somewhat bizarre considering the word for cat sounds like “Meow” and the word for dog sounds like “Bar.”) Then there’s the elephant I saw while on my way to the ATM.
I knew there were elephants in Thailand, and that people paraded them in urban areas, but that knowledge failed to prepare me for seeing one, or the reaction that ensued. One moment I was chatting with Joanna, focused on stepping onto the sidewalk by the ATM. The next Jo said, “Mo, there’s an elephant.” Not more than six feet away was a young Thai elephant, not even shoulder high. I had never seen one outside a zoo, and had hoped to see one in the wild. This was not what I had in mind.
The young darling had a thatch of long, shaggy hair on its head, and seemed to swing its trunk and foot in a gentle “awe shucks” motion. Right away, I felt a rush, like the moment you ride a two-wheeler by yourself for the first time. Then my eyes began to tear up. I felt a lump in my throat and ache in my heart. The reaction surprised me. It just happened, and I had to turn away.
I do not know how this animal was attained, or how it is cared for, but seeing it shuffle under a Subway chain restaurant, scavenging for peanuts made me feel ashamed to be a person. As tourists paid to take the elephant’s picture, I wished I could give this one a second go at life. I took a photo for this blog, and to try to illustrate how f*cked up this situation seemed to be. I did not pay the man.
My hope is that this little guy is well-cared for. Elephants are revered in Thailand, but according to the website Thaiworldview.com, baby Thai elephants are often illegally captured to use in tourism in the city. Phuket is one of the worst offenders, with 400-500 baby Thai elephants on display.
My apologies for posting such a depressing update (especially when it seemed to begin so light-heartedly), but I felt this was an important moment to share.