Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thailand -- More on Cowboys There

I've written on this blog about cowboy theme parks and how the Imaginary Wild West is alive and well in Thailand -- but it turns out that there is much more there than I had known about (or imagined)!

There was even an article last year in The Atlantic by Joshua Kurlantzick-- called (what else) "Thai Noon"....
It’s 7:30 on a humid April evening, and the line dancing has begun. Women in cowgirl dresses sway to the music, mouthing the words as they step backward and forward in unison on the stage. After a while they sit down, and I hear whinnying in the distance. A group of horsemen in chaps and buckskin coats thunders up atop black-and-white steeds. Surrounded by guests in bolo ties, I watch, transfixed. It’s my first evening at the Pensuk Great Western Resort—a 40-acre spread in the heart of Southeast Asia. The “cowgirls” are graceful Thai women, the “cowboys” slight, lithe Thai men.

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This article reads remarkably like the piece I wrote for the New York Times some years ago about Wild West theme parks in Germany and the Czech Republic, called "Deep in the Heart of Bavaria":

IT'S nowhere near high noon, but a tough-looking hombre in a black leather vest, black stovepipe pants and a black cowboy hat is sauntering down the dusty length of a frontier Main Street, a gun belt slung low on his hips. He strolls past the sheriff's office, the Palace Hotel and a saddled horse hitched loosely to a wooden railing, then pauses for a moment at the broad covered porch of the Black Bison Saloon. Entering, he strides up to the bar and places his order. ''Ein bier, bitte.''

This is Pullman City, a theme park in southern Germany where more than a million visitors a year step out of 21st-century Europe into an American Wild West fantasyland of stagecoaches, gunfighters, mountain men and Indians.

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I've just been contacted by Erik Cohen, an emeritus professor of anthropology (and expert on tourism studies) at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who lives in Thailand and has included a lengthy -- and fascinating -- description and analysis of "Thai Cowboys" in his book Explorations in Thai Tourism, published in 2008 by Emerald, Bingley.

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