Last week a friend of mine announced that he was thinking of buying a new car, and declared that it was a tossup between a Honda CRV and a Toyota Fortuner.
I nearly choked on my Heineken when I heard his words: to me, anyone who even mentions the name CRV in the same sentence as a Fortuner is guilty of almost obscene blasphemy.
I was in Thailand for a couple of years without ever being tempted to buy a car. Nothing persuaded me to walk into a showroom and put down the necessary payment to drive anything away.
Even now, my life is such that I have no great need to own a car. In reality, taxis, trains and the occasional hire car on weekends would be more than adequate for my transport needs.
But a couple of years ago, I opened the Bangkok Post motoring section and saw a vision that changed my outlook completely. Now, instead of a car purchase being a vague 'maybe,' it had instantly become an absolute necessity. Less than 24 hours after reading the article, I was in the Toyota showroom across from Lumpini Park asking excited questions about the Fortuner.
The test drive model was in the familiar sickly champagne colour that Japanese manufacturers insist on producing, so my enthusiasm was reduced somewhat. Reasons against committing to a purchase began to appear. But later that day, as I jogged through the evening streets of my leafy residential neighbourhood in rhythm to the music on my I-Pod shuffle - then the height of technology - I came across a parked black four-wheel-drive, with mean-looking silver windows. From a distance, I had no idea what it was: it looked like an obscure Japanese import, some high-tech, high-design limited edition model produced only for sale on the islands of Nippon, imported into Thailand by some fanatical enthusiast at great personal expense. Whatever it was, it was a thing of beauty.
But as I drew closer to the vehicle, my heart skipped a beat. The logo on the back was the by-now familiar name: Fortuner.
After that sighting, I was hooked and any doubts mustered by the champagne model instantly evaporated. The second visit to the showroom was made, the bank transfer was effected, the black model was specified, my name went on the four-month waiting list, and I began making space in the as-yet-unused garage in anticipation of its arrival some time in June.
Two-and-a-half years later, the Fortuner is something I could literally get emotional about. It has been everywhere; from the beaches of Phuket to the muddy landslides of Mae Hong Son, from dusty Isaan to the ridiculously potholed roads of Bangkok. In fact, as long as I'm in Thailand, the only reason I would sell the Fortuner is to buy... another Fortuner.
Anybody who buys a CRV in place of one of these gems should, at least in my mind, be committed to a psychiatric institution without delay.