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Back in Tuscany: Little Italy in Thailand

It seems every country has an ode to Italy. The United States boasts the Venetian in Las Vegas, Manhattan’s Little Italy district, and Taylor Street in Chicago. There’s La Boca in Buenos Aires and Eritrea, Africa. To my surprise, even Thailand has its very own taste of Tuscany.

Located in the province of Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Palio is a large outdoor shopping mall, complete with stucco buildings, cobblestone walkways and Italian tunes coming from the speakers above.

I went on a school field trip with my sophomore class (M4), and was excited when the teachers explained we would be visiting a “little Italian city on top of a mountain.” How cool does that sound? I can finally get a glass of wine, I thought, despite the fact I’d be traveling with a few hundred teenagers. Hey, this is Thailand, and silly laws like that are not enforced.

Plus, I haven’t had a glass of wine since I landed in Thailand. The only store that even sells it in Suwannaphum is the English supermarket, Tesco Lotus, and they have only four options (none is from Thailand). The cheapest is a regular size bottle of Carlos Rossi for the bargain price of…$15 (for that, I can buy three two-hour massages). Whoa! We could purchase an entire jug of Carlos Rossi for about $7 when I was in high school…

But that’s not real wine, and it won’t satisfy my craving. So, as we entered the city of Khao Yai and drove down a dirt road lined with vineyards on either side, I was screaming inside. Stop! Please! Can we go have a taste?

But we kept driving, past the modern style homes, past the “vino” signs. And we didn’t stop until we were at Palio. Imagine my disappointment when the mountain was just a higher elevation, and the city was a manmade shopping experience, not much different from the one I lived near in Los Angeles.

The Thais thought it was pretty cool though, despite the expensive price tags in all of the boutiques. Nobody bought anything, but the scenery provided several good photo opportunities.

They felt like they traveled to Italy, and that made them happy. So when they asked me if it was like the real Italy, I couldn’t bring myself to see their smiles fade.

“Yes,” I said. “I feel like I’m back in Tuscany.”

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