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Kitsch Is The Same All Over

Phuket's Fantasea Land is a small but faithful version of Disneyland.

When I travel, I try to avoid certain educated American middle-class hangups. I'm not always successful, but I do my best. The one I'm most focused on quashing at the moment is "the authentic experience."

If you or someone you know has complained about a place being "too touristy," or thumbs a nose at locales that have become too popular--Cancun, Mexico, for example--or says things like, "That's not the real [fill in the country of your choice]," then you know what I'm talking about.

Don't get me wrong, of course tourism changes a place; that's obvious. But it's not as if the culture that's being changed isn't involved in the changing. Cultures highlight themselves, and show off their favorite parts just like foreigners do. Is someone going to suggest that Disneyland is not the real America? It's not the only America, sure, but it's part of who we are.

It's sort of like setting your table for guests. Do you put the fine china out every night? No. Do you cook prime rib for every dinner? No. But that doesn't mean that dressing up the table and cooking a superb meal isn't authentic.

I say all this to prepare you for the cheesiest show on earth. The FantaSea theme park in Phuket, Thailand.

The pictures speak for themselves, but let me add that every manner of  ridiculously stereotyped Thai mascot and animal attraction is outlined in neon and surrounded with photo opportunities.

The food is overpriced and mediocre, and the entertainment uses every cliche and predictable flourish currently available to modern science to give the largely international audience what it wants.

I can't say it was all that much fun, but I can say authentic Thai people made it that way. They know how to suck the fun out of a place as well as we do.

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