The Great Elephant Escape by Antoinette Van De Water

Title: Title: The Great Elephant Escape
Author: Antoinette Van De Water and Liesbeth Sluiter
Genre: Memoir
Source: Library
Set in: Thailand
Challenge: East and SouthEast Asia
Rating: 4 out of 5

My thoughts:
I had very low expectations from this book but it ended up surprising me. The Great Elephant Escape  is about a German woman Antoinette who volunteered in an Elephant Park in Thailand and ended up organizing a ‘Bring the Elephant home’ campaign. Antoinette loved elephants and empathized with their situation in Thailand. She wanted to do more than volunteer and that’s when she came up with the project. The book  chronicles her and her teams journey through Thailand with the rescued Elephants. The goal of the project was to make people aware of the plight of the elephants.

Today Elephants in Thailand are mainly used for begging and tourism purposes. There are Elephant shows, Elephant rides and the works. But there are also elephants that work in the logging industry. Violent measures are usually used to train them and they are often not treated well. With deforestation, the elephant owners have little to feed their elephants, so they have to resort to take them to the cities to beg or use them in the logging industry.

Antoinette begins her project by raising money which seems a lot more difficult than she imagined. A lot of things that could go wrong did go wrong during the planning of this project. But as the project progressed there was also a lot of support and awareness created about the Elephants and their plight. The author takes you through Thailand with her and lets you experience the frustration of dealing with the Thai bureaucracy, the sorrow of seeing the plight of these majestic animals and the happiness of finally doing something for them.

The writing if not very literary is good enough to pull you into the book without any distractions. Antoinette seems like a genuine person who poured her heart and soul into this project. I highly recommend this book to those who are interested in memoirs or Elephants.

Private Dancer by Stephen Leather

Title: Private Dancer
Author: Stephen Leather
Genre: Fiction (Mystery)
Set in: Thailand
Source: Free e-book download
Rating: 4 out of 5

My Thoughts:
If you have ever visited Pattaya, Bangkok, Chiang Mai or any other tourist places in Thailand, the most common sight you’d see is an old white man with a very young Thai girl. You’d wonder what’s up with that before you realize that they are actually bar girls or prostitutes and the white men are mostly sex tourists. When I searched for books based in Thailand on the internet, Private Dancer came up many times. I was thrilled when I found out that this book was available as free download on the authors site. A printed version of the book is now available but the author has not taken down the link for this one.

Anyway, I started this book when we went on a vacation to Pattaya, Thailand for the new year. What a great insight it was into the world of this so-called couples I saw around. The entire tourist area in Pattaya is filled with bars and sleaze that is usually associated with it. There are similar areas in Bangkok that are famous, viz. Nana Plaza, Patpong and a couple of others. Private Dancer is set in and around these areas.

Pete moves to Thailand from London for work. He gets involved with a bar girl and prostitute Joy and is naive enough to think it’s love. He does everything for her and she in turn is using him, as bar girls do, to get money out of him. She also has a Thai boyfriend who Pete doesn’t know about. This book provides a lot of insight into these white men/bar girl relationships. In a way, it’s the kind of book a man should read before coming to Thailand and getting involved with these bar girls.

The writer has a very interesting way of telling a story. We get to know about story and the various characters from the characters themselves. So there are a lot of viewpoints in this-Joy, her sister, Pete’s friends but most of all Pete. It’s refreshing and although there isn’t much difference in the tone of the voices, there is a difference in their situations. Since this book is written mostly from the prospective of guys, most of whom are in Thailand for the sleaze, you get a different perspective of bar girls than you would from other people, or woman for that matter.

Obviously, the bars and the night life is not what Thailand is all about but it can’t be denied that it is a very small yet prominent part of it. Read it for getting to know a world you’ll probably never get to know up-close or simply for entertainment.

Note: This is my first book for the East and SouthEast Asia Challenge.