Friday, June 06, 2008

Shocking Asia

So, there I was, Legion of Fans (LOF), feeling pleasantly merry after stuffing myself at the Africa House steakhouse in Koh Samui, strolling down the main drag with the Big Kahuna and his brother, fending off the unrequited attentions of effusive young ladies when I saw something that really pissed me off.

(To recap, Mr Blog is currently taking the waters and the cheap beers on the Thai island of Koh Samui as part of protracted significant birthday celebrations for his former employer and current comrade the Big Kahuna. Being Australian tourists in Thailand we see nothing wrong with flying several thousand kilometres to an exotic Asian destination and eating at an African steakhouse).

Anyway, back to the story.

A young Thai man said to me, as I passed him; "You like photograph, sir?"

Thinking he may have wanted to sell me a polaroid of his sister, or something like that, I was about to completely ignore him when I saw something move in the region of his chest.

I'd missed it at first, but when I stopped and looked at him I saw that a baby black and white gibbon was clinging to his neck. He wanted me to stop and have my picture taken with the little fuzzy primate.

I was speechless.

I wanted to punch him in the face.

I wanted to grab the gibbon and set it free.

I wanted to berate him and explain to him that there was absolutely no excuse for this sort of exploitation of wildlife to be happening in an otherwise progressive country such as Thailand or in such a booming little tourist economy in the case of Koh Samui.

If I was a character in one of my books I would have done all of the above. In fact, if I was a character in one my books I probably would have drawn my trusty nine millimetre Glock 17 and shot him (the man, not the gibbon, as my lead characters don't shoot dogs or any other wildlife).

However, I'm a middle aged Australian male on holiday, so I just gave him a filthy look (that I hoped conveyed my desire to shoot him with my non existent gun) and walked on, with fists clenched, muttering obscenities.

I let my anger grow and the Big Kahuna heard me out. "He (the bloke with the gibbon) wouldn't be here if stupid tourists didn't want to get their picture taken with it," the Big Kahuna said, voicing my own thoughts by then.

After a couple more Singha beers I decided that what I really should be doing is punching/shooting any stupid tourist I see who stops to have their picture taken with the gibbon.

A few years ago - the last time I was in Thailand - Mrs Blog and I went to a gibbon rehabilitation centre near Phuket with Richard Gere (not his real name, although he does bear an uncanny resemblance to that other famous wildlife fancier) and his wife. Here was a place that looked after orphaned gibbons whose parents had been killed so that their babies could be exploited like the one I saw last night. It was a popular tourist attraction. I haven't had time to really think about this, but isn't this just a perpetuation (is that a word?) of the same problem.

Mother Gibbon killed so baby can be exploited. Baby rescued by do-gooders and put in rehab so that it can become a different kind of tourist attraction. No. Hold on. If the rehab sanctuary really is about rehab - and it not just a low rent zoo - then this is a good thing. Right?

Who's most at fault here? The person who kills the mother gibbon to get its baby? They guy on the street corner with the baby? The tourist who stops to have their pic taken, perpetuating (that is a word) the trade? Me, for just getting angy and no actually doing anything?

Answer: All of us.


Java said...

Oh it's quite sad isn't it, I will now look and judge twice when I see such "tourist" attractions.
Not that I think anyway I/we would have done things like that, posing with the gibbon. Poor baby.
Can I shoot him too, the man now?

ali g said...

That's almost as bad as the running out of beer on that BA flight. Probably more appropriate to Glock the drinks waiter on the plane methinks.

tonypark said...

Yes, Ali and Hann, there are so many people in the world who deserve a small lead ball behind the ear it's hard to decide where to start and stop. Wait a sec... I'm sounding a bit like a serial killer character now.

Anyway, last night the gibbon man and another guy, this time with a huge iguana lizard - came to the restaurant where we were eating.

I decided to act and had quiet but strong words with both of them, and they moved away.

The best I can hope is that I cost them a few bucks.

ali g said...

Goodness me. Fending off effusive young ladies, gibbon men and now lizard men. Just hope there's some beer on your return flight. Hate to see you turn serial killer at the Hippo lounge next Thursday..
what actually is an effusive young lady anyway? Not sure I've ever met one.