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An Elephantine Tale Of Losing Face In Thailand

  • Written by David
  • April 5th, 2004
  • 5 min read


An Elephantine Tale Of Losing Face


I thought you'd love this true story. There is and old colloquial Thai saying that goes, ‘don’t try to shit like an elephant. (‘hen chang khee ya khee taam chang khee, in other words don’t tell your mother to suck eggs. And, I should know, and I’m going to reveal to you reason why, It seems I’m always losing face though I don’t mean to. However, I digress, but what happened is essentially this.

My Philippine wife and daughter of eight years old were staying with me in my house, Chiang Mai, with two other friends from the UK, Joe and his wife Elsie. And, being on holiday here, they and my little daughter wanted to see some Thai elephants. To me, I really couldn’t give a sod one way or another, because once you’ve seen one Thai elephant you’ve seen them all. But, my daughter insisted in her most adorable way, and I relented to her request. as I usually do, soft hearted fool that I am.

So, the following day, my best friend in Thailand, and her godfather, a Thai multi millionaire, called uncle Johnny, kindly came to take us all out in his Mercedes, to see the elephants at work. This is a regular venue held some forty miles from Chiang Mai city, in the heart of the northern rural hill country. A place with a clearing with well used teak logs for the elephants to practice on, in front of a large audience, generally composed of foreign tourists.

Anyway, it wasn’t the show that the mahouts were making the most money on but a trip up the adjacent hill on the back of one of their elephants. And, as you might guess my daughter wanted to go on a ride on an elephant, as so too did my irksome friend Joe for that matter. Like a mug I doled out the money, and Joe climbed a ladder onto the back of one elephant and I did likewise on another with my little daughter, before making ourselves suitably comfortable in our howdahs.

The ride began… There were eight elephants in all, each guided by their own personal mahout. And, very shortly we left, waving our two rather more sensible wives behind at the base of the hill.

I was feeling on top form, as my daughter and I settled back for the trek. It was up a well-trodden hillside trail, and as the gradient got ever steeper and the elephants in front of us climbed ever higher I began to have my doubts about the safety of this particular venture. Indeed, if our elephant had taken a tumble the razor sharp clumps of tall bamboo growing on either side of the trail would no doubt have impaled the poor beast. In fact, my friend Joe, who was on the elephant directly in front of me made a joke about this, probably to relieve his own fears.

Now, the elephants climbed ever higher and I had a constant and unchanging view of my friend’s elephant’s ass grotesquely moving side to side like a gargantuan caricature of a bargirl doing the same thing as a come on to her customers, when a great gust of wind smote the mountain side. But, it wasn’t the wind that troubled me, as my friend Joe’s elephant defecated, oh no you see, I was dressed in a white Boss T-shirt that my wife had bought me for my birthday, not a cheap copy, but the real McCoy. I think it cost her about sixty UK pounds. But, when that giant brown poop twice the size of the largest durian came back and struck me in the chest I knew that I’d been tangoed. I was covered in excrement, and really browned off, as my daughter screamed, ‘oooh!!! The elephant’s pooed on daddy,’ in a high pitched voice, not forgetting to hold her nose in disgust at the same time. My mahout, by the way, thought it highly amusing, probably because the giant poop had missed him by centimetres.

The rest of that overly long trek up and then down that hill was an anti climax. However, my woes were not at an end.

When I finally got back to base and came down from the elephant, I had to put up with my wife telling me I couldn’t continue walking around, wearing my Boss T-shirt covered in excrement, and I agreed. So, I asked one of the locals where I could change and wash myself. And, he with customary northern kindness, smiled and politely directed me to a bamboo hut nearby. I ran for it not accelerating faster than the aroma that followed me. And, once inside that hut I spied a wash basin and a large tap, and a bar of carbolic soap. I managed to get my T-shirt off, though some nastiness still streaked my face and got in my hair. I turned the tap and picked up the soap, and was about to wash myself when it happened. I don’t know if there was a pheromone in the elephants excrement, but a large black spider the size of my fist descended from the ceiling, hanging by a silk thread, in my direction. I didn’t want to get bitten and turned into spider man and as a result I flew out of that bamboo leaving my boss tea shirt behind and not having washed myself. I wasn’t going to go back in that bamboo hut for love or money, even if I did lose face. Needless to say the journey back to town in uncle Johnny’s car was one with noses held and windows wide open.

Stickman says:

Fun in Thailand!