The annual elephant festival in Surin attracted more than the usual attention last week after featuring an attempt to enter the hallowed Guinness Book of Records. Alas, the only record achieved was that hundreds of student "volunteers" roasted in the sun, exposed for hours to high temperatures reaching 39C.
In what the organisers promoted as a "historic moment" the students had gathered in the open air Elephant Show Arena in an attempt to set the world record for "the number of elephant dolls folded from Surin fabric in one sitting". One suspects that would have been one of the more obscure records to appear in the Guinness publication.
There is no question the dolls are very attractive and worth promoting because weaving is an important part of Surin's economy. But considering the heat perhaps more thought should have been given to the students with at least some kind of roof to provide shade.
The Surin festival already has one entry in the Guinness book for the "longest buffet line for elephants". Apparently in Nov 2003 a total of 269 elephants lined up patiently for the buffet which included 50 tonnes of fruit and vegetables. The jumbos were reportedly very well behaved, only getting stuck into the food after being given permission.
This was in sharp contrast to the last wedding reception I attended in Bangkok. When it was announced the buffet was open there was total mayhem and a mad stampede to the food worthy of the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Facing the music
A lady elephant from Surin starred in one of my favourite pachyderm tales back in 1991.
The elephant had just trudged 500km from its Surin home to Bangkok with a mahout aboard hoping to make a few baht from tourists. The elephant was not too impressed by the Big Mango with its backfiring samlors and belching buses and inevitably became a bit irritable.
But what really upset the elephant was when it came across a kindergarten band tuning up -- enough to shatter the nerves of even the most docile beast.
Upon hearing the first squawk of an out-of-tune trumpet the unfortunate elephant lost its cool and went on the rampage, scattering the young musicians. It was quite a sight with abandoned trumpets, recorders and drums littering the road.
Fortunately no one was hurt and the elephant was eventually subdued by a couple of tranquiliser darts in the backside. It was then taken back to where it belonged… the jungle.
Biggest, largest, longest
Thailand is no stranger to holding bizarre records including the world's biggest omelette, the largest plate of fried rice and the fattest Chinese dumpling. Then there was a woman dubbed the "Scorpion Queen" who spent 33 days locked in a box with 5,000 scorpions. Oh well, different strokes for different folks.
According to the Department of Really Ridiculous Records, many daft happenings in Thailand are related to Valentine's Day. Back in 2001 Trang hosted the largest underwater wedding ceremony in which 34 couples said "I do" while wearing flippers and snorkels and witnessed by puzzled jellyfish. The accompanying music was rumoured to be the Bee Gees song "How Deep Is Your Love".
For many years Thailand was the proud holder of the most expensive pet wedding record when two cats, Phet and Ploy, tied the knot in a solemn ceremony that reportedly cost millions of baht. They did it in style with one cat arriving by helicopter and the other aboard a Rolls-Royce. Adding a touch of class to the occasion a parrot was the best man and an iguana a maid of honour. I am not making this up.
All you need is love
Pattaya remains at the forefront of daft Valentine's-related contests. Some years ago a Thai couple broke the world record for the longest recorded kiss -- 50 hours of continuous snogging. Just imagine that. One lady dropped out when she fainted after 30 minutes, probably the wisest course of action. Perhaps her partner had been eating garlic.
In 2014 the kissing was replaced by a hugging contest. More than 20 couples broke the record lasting an auspicious 26 hours, 26 minutes and 26 seconds. No prizes for guessing what were the popular lottery numbers that week.
In November 2015 Thailand broke another record albeit unintentionally when the kingdom held the longest-ever half marathon. Towards the end of the race confused officials accidentally pointed runners down the wrong road, adding 6km to the race. This resulted in the participants running 27km instead of the normal 21. Some of the less fit runners were reportedly less than amused.
Fortunately it was an Amazing Thailand event so in a way it lived up to its name.
Fame at last
During the week a taxi driver asked me which country I was from. It is a common inquiry and I explained I hailed from sunny England. He responded that he had already guessed I was English because I looked like Boris Johnson.
This was a bit alarming and I suggested I didn't resemble the former prime minister at all apart from admittedly being unable to string together two coherent sentences.
But the cabbie insisted, saying my hair was just like that of Boris, as in "all over the place".
I think that is what is known as a backhanded compliment.
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