Reports that the long abandoned pillars of the ill-fated Hopewell project will finally be put out of their misery mark the end of an era.
Few citizens will shed a tear for the somewhat quirky eyesore which has become known as "Bangkok's Stonehenge", a long-running soap opera that has almost attained saga status.
The forlorn pillars, which have been rotting away for more than 15 years, have become a bit of an institution among citizens and visitors alike.
When Don Mueang was Bangkok's only airport, the pillars were among the first glimpses of Amazing Thailand foreign visitors would witness on the way from the airport.
After all, there were about 1,000 of them, yet they never earned a mention in the guide books. The pillars at least became a good conversation piece and I've spent hours boring visitors about their origins.
A visiting auntie actually thought the pillars had some sort of obscure religious role, and was quite disappointed when she learned of the less than spiritual reality.
Rock of ages
I visited the real Stonehenge in Wiltshire some years ago and must confess to finding the experience a trifle underwhelming. To be fair, it was a bit more impressive than "a pile of old rocks", as some visitors rather impolitely described it, but hardly an out-of-this-world experience. Admittedly this was more a reflection on my lack of cultural appreciation than anything else. The fact that a force-8 gale was whipping across Salisbury Plain at the time probably didn't help matters.
I happened to be with a group of American tourists who, after a cursory glance at the old stones and a five-minute stretch of the legs, wanted to get back on the coach and go down to the pub for a beer and fish 'n' chips. I must admit I felt much the same way. "Cultural dinosaurs", I think we would be rightly called.
To sum up, Stonehenge is certainly not a visual treat, but a place you have to think about. In other words, the kids will get bored very quickly.
In his book, Notes from A Small Island, American author Bill Bryson, who knows more about Britain than most Brits, calls Stonehenge an "incredible achievement" and I am sure he is right. However, he did concede that "it's not as spectacular as people often think it's going to be".
Bryson's words were borne out by a 2007 poll, in which Stonehenge topped the table as the most "disappointing" tourist attraction in Britain.
For the curious, runner-up disappointment was the Angel of the North statue, with the Blackpool Tower in third place. Making up the Top 10 disappointments were Land's End, Diana's Memorial, the London Eye, Brighton Pier, Buckingham Palace, the White Cliffs of Dover and Big Ben.
Been there, done that
I have visited the majority of those places, with the exception of Blackpool Tower and Diana's Memorial, and most are okay in their own way. It all comes down to what you expect. If you don't anticipate too much you won't be too disappointed.
To appreciate the White Cliffs of Dover, it helps to have some interest in World War II, or at least be a fan of wartime singer Vera Lynn and her song The White Cliffs of Dover. The cliffs are more symbolic than stunning, and alas, you won't find any bluebirds flying over them.
I visited Land's End as a kid and can't remember much, apart from my mother being terrified I would be blown off into the raging waters below. More memorable was the nearby fishing village of Mousehole where we stayed. It's worth a visit just for the name, although with the Cornish twang it sounds like "Mauzal".
When I was in Brighton a few years ago I took my Thai wife to No7 on the disappointment list, Brighton Pier, to give her a taste of "real" English culture. Many of the traditional piers in Britain seem to be falling to bits _ rather like Crutch. Brighton pier is still going strong however, and I must confess to introducing the wife to the dodgems. She loved it and crashed into everybody, perhaps expelling years of pent up road rage in Thailand. "It's just like Bangkok," she said.
It was encouraging that Brighton still boasted most of the things you expect at traditional seaside resorts _ deck chairs, sticks of rock, naughty postcards, jellied eels, crazy golf and fish 'n' chip shops. To my surprise, my wife loved the jellied eels, whelks and winkles and insisted I join her in this culinary feast. All I could taste was salt and vinegar.
Not making a splash
If there was a poll on Thailand's most disappointing tourist attractions, it would be interesting to see which places would feature. I'm sure most readers could name a few. When I was first in Thailand I was taken by some Thai teachers to see a waterfall at Muak Lek, in Saraburi. It was still the dry season and there was little more than a trickle of water dribbling over a few rocks. From that day on, I was always a bit hesitant about visiting nam tok in this country, although some are admittedly quite decent, if there are not a million people splashing about in them.
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About the author
- Writer: Roger Crutchley