While the Thai tourist authority works hard to promote their theme of "Amazing Thailand", the natural and perhaps all-too-true stereotypes of the real Thailand are spreading life wild fire throughout the world.
Just tonight, I accidentally fell upon a midnight TV comedy/talk show name "Jimmy Kimmel Live", October 26, 2004 edition.
In it, a funny German comedian, Gerhard R—-, depicted a skit of his botched attempt at ballooning. Eventually, he survives and lands in Thailand, in what appears to be Bangkok.
He has no idea where "the hell am I?", as he sits in a tuk-tuk. He narrates that he meets a nice woman as a video of Thai go-go girls doing the Bangkok shuffle in a bar are shown. The skit ends with a video of him and his new, non-talking, Thai wife throwing bread into a dirty slimy klong (river) brown from pollution. She is quiet, named "Mei", and dressed like a traditional Thai woman.
What is interesting is that few of the viewers in the audience of the talk show likely have ever visited Thailand, yet they all laughed knowingly that he crashed landed in hookerville, met some prostitute, and was now living with her in Thailand. Everyone just picked up on the idea that the Thai "wife" was one of the gogo girls in the previous video, yet they were clearly different women. Perhaps some naive liberals or Thai blinded by pride would argue the farang audience saw all Thais or Asians as looking the same, but it's much more likely that the stereotype of Thailand being a land of prostitutes, pollution, and nerdy sex tourists is now undeniably wide-spread and unstoppable.
In my country, housewives who have never left their hometowns know what Bangkok is all about. Everyone thinks about tasty food, hookers, and Wats. What the Thai tourist board cannot do with all advertising, word of mouth and has done. Thailand is famous!
However, it's not in the way the Thais had hoped for. The world sees the negative and arguably true side of Thailand. It is not a beautiful clean land of docile, friendly, non-violent people. It is a land suffering from pollution, corruption, and moral quagmires.
I recently read a Thai book of fiction written by a Thai writer. It was interesting for two reasons. First, he was more anti-Thai than any expat or holiday farang could ever be. Unlike the Thailand critics who complain on their generally happy and regular
holidays or long-stays in LOS, this man was born Thai and yet is more of a vehement critic of the East and sympathetic to the West than most farangs will ever be.
The other interesting thing is the sections where he writes about the rampant corruption in the poorest region of Thailand (Isaan) and the Thai way of silencing critics/enemies/competitors with violence/death/murder. The book was written about events 10-15 years ago. Yet, the very next day, I picked up a copy of the Bangkok Post and read a story detailing out the exact same details.
It was almost as if the author travelled back in time to write his book after living thru modern day Thailand.
I am not sure how popular the TAT's "Amazing Thailand" is. However, the realty of "fantastic Thailand" is well known as a place for cheap sex, pollution, and corruption….and of coarse, tasty food and Jasmine rice.