Tuesday, June 9, 2009
If you happen to be in Bangkok, there is a chance that you suddenly are confronted with an elephant on the street or boardwalk.
It happened to me already several times, usually in the evening, but I believe that is because usually I am walking around in the evening, going to a restaurant or shopping place.
For me it was always a bit shaky, as it comes so unexpectedly.
The first time was when we had a birthday dinner in a restaurant on Sukhumvit road, the first month of our stay in Thailand, when we still stayed in a hotel, close to the restaurant. It was dark already and suddenly at the other side of the road there was a big one walking slowly with his driver.
Next time was close to our apartment, Ngam Wong Wan road in Chatuchak, when we walked to our restaurant, early 2009. Suddenly the animal was there, it was dark already, and blocking the way on the board walk. Quite busy as the Kaset University was closing and all the students had to pass by. The driver was trying to get money from people sitting there in the food court and enjoying their dinner. He let the animal bow for the audience and sit on his knees. The picture above was taken at that location.
The reason for telling you all this is because what happened today. I was going from the office back home quite early, as I had problems with my email in the office. My taxi driver was a guy who liked to drive as I do, as fast as you can, given the traffic circumstances. We drove at the right side of the road (traffic in Thailand is left oriented) just along the middle shoulder of the road, separating the traffic at the other opposite lanes, I guess 80 to 90 km/hour.
Suddenly we saw an elephant on the middle shoulder of the road, wobbling to move forward to cross the lanes of the road where we were driving. His driver could just prevent the animal to set its first fore leg on our lane and a crash was just prevented. At that moment I remembered a news item I had read last year, telling the story of an elephant and his driver killed in Bangkok, while walking on the street, by a drunken car driver. Both were found dead, the driver and his elephant. The car driver survived. This wasn't the first incident, there were more already in Bangkok. The government was considering to submit a law preventing elephant drivers to come to Bangkok for collecting money. I am not up-to-date with the current status, but as I learned today, it still happens.
Therefore I am also feeling uncomfortable when I meet an elephant driver again, to give money or not. He surely needs it to be able to take care of his elephant. But if you do, he will come back and that is not in the interest of driver and elephant. What would you do?