Palio at Khao Yai

Written by mdw on December 12th, 2010

PiazzaI recently had the opportunity to go to Palio, a small Italian-style complex in the mountains at Khao Yai. It’s up in that area where there are so many fancy resorts. You know, where the traffic is bad but the air is fresh.

This place is styled as a small Italian town, complete with piazzas, fountains and gardens. The buildings are close, with brickwork showing through patches of otherwise shiny new paint. The rooftops are stucco, and the winding, narrow passageways are indeed reminiscent of a small town in Italy.

What’s not consistent with the Italian theme are the hordes of young Thai kids posing for and taking pictures absolutely everywhere. They pose in every alley, making pedestrian navigation difficult. This must be one of the most sought after facebook photo spots for the young generation.

small shoppesThe shops are a mix of pretty much everything under the sun. It’s an outdoor mall as much as anything else. There are clothing stores and eateries, yet none of them seemed in any way Italian. In fact there was not a slice of pizza to be had in the whole place!

So as I sat down to eat a Thai ice, flavored as Japanese green tea with sweet red beans, I reflected. The speakers were cranking out hours of 80’s rock standards from Irish legends U2, and I wondered if any of the kids there knew any of the songs.

village rooftopsAs I thought about it, I began to really wonder about the cultural awareness of the crowd. Did these kids know the food was a mix of everything but Italian? Did they that no American (or Farangset) would enjoy eating french fries like they served there; covered with your choice of toppings including pork, beef, chicken, etc. Did they realize the irony of a place with dozens of food shoppes but nothing resembling Italian food in sight?

I’m going to go ahead and call this place a theme park. Italy is old, everything there seems to have character. And the cuisine is strong and ubiquitous, strikingly like Thailand in that respect. But I don’t remember places in Italy looking like yuppie shopping malls.

I could not find a moment or a place where there seemed to be sufficient consistency to feel like I was in a facsimile of an Italian town. Seemed more like an uncomfortable mashup of Euro-cultures, re-assemled for a pop music video.

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