You never know what will pop up on satellite TV in Thailand
CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Mr. Kem, the proprietor of the Vanilla Place Guesthouse in Chiang Mai, led me up to the fifth floor to show me what would be my room for the next three days in this northern Thailand city that is a popular destination for tourists.
I had booked a room in this small 15-room hotel largely because of Mr. Kem. TripAdvisor reviews of the hotel itself were so-so. But what distinguished the Vanilla Place from its competition in Chiang Mai were the glowing accolades heaped upon Mr. Kem for his wisdom and kindness in treating guests at his establishment as if they were his own family.
Need assistance in booking a tour? Mr. Kem would not only do it, he would waive the commission. Need some laundry done? No problem. Just leave it with Mr. Kem and it’s back the same day, clean and folded at a ridiculously low price.
Mr. Kem even drove me to an interview I had in downtown Chiang Mai because it was on the way to an errand he happened to be running. “Happy,” his dog, needed to see the vet.
As Mr. Kem showed me the amenities in room 51, I asked him about the television. “Any stations in English?” I wondered.
“Yes,” replied Mr. Kem. Channel 56. “Fuck News.”
I was intrigued. I knew my room tariff of 1,100 Thai baht (about $35) included air conditioning and breakfast. But Asian porn, too? This was an unexpected bonus.
I couldn’t wait to see what Channel 56 offered. As soon as Mr. Kem left the room, I picked up the remote, imagining some sort of Chinese version of Katie Couric doing unspeakable things in a rice paddy.
But no, as you’ve probably guessed by now, Mr. Kem’s English was less than stellar. Channel 56 offered a different type of perverse entertainment — Fox News. There was Sean Hannity … fully clothed, railing against gun control in the wake of the Connecticut shootings.
Turned out the only naked body I saw on my trip to Chiang Mai belonged to an elephant.
Editor’s update: I stayed at the Vanilla Place again in 2016 and was sad to learn that Mr. Kem passed away a year-and-a-half ago. A friend of the Kem family, a capable young woman named Bee, now owns Vanilla Place. And yes, the hotel still offers Fox News …
Copyright © Dan Fellner 2016