I heard about FantaSea from the moment I arrived in Phuket. It’s listed in the top ten shows at every Phuket hotel and on every website. Without looking into it very much, I decided to reach out to the PR and ask for media tickets for a review. I knew from the brochure that the entire park is 140-acres packed with bizarre activities and entertainment. There’s a shopping village with carnivals, games, live performances, crafts, a 4,000-seat restaurant and a theatrical show. The show, Fantasy of a Kingdom, is a Las Vegas style production blending the beauty of Thai culture with illusions, 4-D effects, aerial ballet, acrobatics, pyrotechnics, special effects, exciting stunts and elephant performances. It sounded interesting and like a fun evening for our family. When we arrived, it was like a Thai Disneyland. Our heads were spinning with so much to see and so much happening, but I had some serious issues with the park and I left feeling bad for supporting it. Hopefully, I will give you enough information to decide for yourself. I think most people read that it’s a top-rated show and blindly visit like we did.
When we arrived at the entrance to FantaSea, I experienced complete shock at the number of people visiting the park. The lines at Disneyland have nothing on this place. The PR met us at the gates and led us passed the long lines. We didn’t have to wait and we had a tour guide for the evening. I was grateful because it was all a little overwhelming.
We, like most others who were given transportation to the park, had almost three hours to explore the grounds and eat dinner before the main show began. I didn’t know how we were going to pass all that time but it was clear that they had a goal when setting it up that way. There are dozens of shops and craftsman selling goods in the street on the way to the restaurant and theater.
We were greeted by a very colorful “WELCOME” sign and there were cartoon-like buildings in every direction. I felt like I had stepped into another world. We entered one of the first buildings through the mouth of dragon and inside were carnival games. It’s called Similan Entertainment Center and it’s an under water themed arcade. Athena played into the money-pit there and wanted to play every game. I don’t like spending ridiculous amounts of money on impossible games like that and I wanted out immediately. We let Athena play two games before quickly directing her to the next building.
Then we entered Tiger Jungle Adventure and at least it was included as part of the entrance fee. Inside, we saw 12 different exotic scenes with animals like snakes, lemurs, birds and a white tiger. The animals seemed well-treated in general and the surroundings were beautiful. Athena especially liked the white birds that were in a tree near the end of the exhibit. Even the white tiger might have only been on display for a couple hours and I don’t know his back story. They could have saved his life for all I know. He was beautiful and it was interesting to see him for myself. I’d never seen a white tiger before.
After the Tiger Jungle Adventure, we made our way to dinner, which was in a massive dining area large enough to host 4,000 guests. We dined on fresh seafood, Thai food and a few international dishes as well. This room was ornamented with golden sculptures of mythical angels and palace decor. Athena loved the dresses of the hostesses and we all ate plenty of delicious food. This was one of the highlights of the evening.
Opposite the Suriyamas Restaurant where we ate is the Palace of the Elephants. It’s a state-of-the-art theater that seats 3,000 guests. With 999 intriguing elephant statues, the theater is gorgeous. It was lit up by the sunset and visually stunning. We took tons of photos and were amazed by the architecture.
On the other side of the courtyard, there were a row of elephants waiting to carry people atop a chair on their backs; their handlers sitting on them. Guests paid for rides and were encouraged to buy a shot of the elephant posing with them still in the seat. There were at least five elephants being used for rides and posing for pictures. This is where I started to really change my mind about the show. I wondered about the treatment of the elephants and where they were housed. How often were they “working”? Were they uncomfortable like this? Did they use bull hooks? There were so many questions and looking at the elephants standing there adorned in beautiful colors, I felt sad.
Athena wanted to feed the elephants and I allowed it and even participated. When would she ever get to feed an elephant again? When would I?
By the time we entered the Palace of the Elephants for the main show, I felt ashamed. I couldn’t watch the show with the same enthusiasm. We walked through the halls to get to our seats and there were more elephants posing for photos and a baby tiger that was there for pictures too. Athena wanted to touch the baby elephants and the PR offered for us to get our photo taken with them. I stood there and posed with a smile on my face and holding Athena’s hand. I had to fight back tears. What was I teaching her? I was showing her that these animals are there for our pleasure. They don’t have a right to be free or living in the wild. One of the elephants was only three years old; like Athena. Was she taken from her mother? What have we done?
I took my seat in the theater on a plush purple chair and star-like lights dotted the ceiling. The production began with an eruption of loud music and we were taken on a journey through Thai history and mythology, which included several elephants and a couple baby tigers that appeared and disappeared throughout the show. The aerobatics of heavenly figures afloat in the air were mesmerizing and I celebrated their performance enthusiastically. This should be the focus of the show. It would stand up on its own without the animals.
A major scene during the show was tricks performed by the elephants including standing on stools, climbing on each others backs and twirling around. The more I saw, the worse I felt. Like slaves, these animals performed for their masters. I never thought I’d have such negative feelings about it. I guess I never really put much thought into it before.
I left the show speechless.
I’ve tried to maintain my composure during this post. The PR at FantaSea treated me so well and ushered us around the grounds like celebrities. We never had to wait in lines, we were given every photo opportunity we wanted and Athena was able to play a couple games in the entertainment center for free. We were given free tickets and our dinner was included. Now, I have a family photo of us with two baby elephants that will serve as a reminder of their servitude and my ignorance. I may be too ashamed to post it but it will remind me for many years to come.
I have the opportunity to show Athena the world and the help shape her into a wonderful human being. I can do better.
Do you think animals should be part of our entertainment? Have you visited a similar show?