Insert: Khun Dan Mhoo Krata Buffet on Jan. 19, 2021. Right: Nga Diew on Jan. 19, 2021.

NAKHON NAYOK — In a surreal scene that unfolded Tuesday night, diners at a barbecue buffet restaurant were grilling their meat to slow country songs when a large male elephant burst out of the jungle, stepped around human cars, and began eating his own dinner.

The sight used to cause panic at the restaurant at first, but the owner of Khun Dan Mhoo Krata Buffet in Nakhon Nayok said it’s now part of the daily attraction for the customers. Diners even gathered at the roadside eatery nowadays for the elephant, who would show up precisely at 7.30pm.

Some also joked that the elephant might have been drawn by the smell of the pork BBQ, or mhoo krata.

“I’m getting even more customers than usual. People come to see the elephant,” owner Jinwimol Mahasap said. “While they’re eating pork, they wait for nong to come out.”

The male elephant has been known to habitually cross the road in the evening to snatch fruits in the orchard next to the restaurant before munching them in plain sight of the diners. Locals have dubbed him “Nga Diew” (งาเดียว, or “one tusk”) after his defining characteristic.

Why do elephants cross the road? 

Wildlife officials arrived at the scene Tuesday night in an attempt to drive Nga Diew back into the wild, but decided to cancel the operation since the elephant seemed to be in a bad mood due to hunger.

The officials estimated that Nga Diew is around 40 years old, weighs around three tons, and has difficulty seeing out of his left eye.

After dining to his heart’s content, Nga Diew would cross the road and return to his forest area. Another male elephant, Sarika, also appears in the area from time to time.

They seem to be a friendly bunch. Jinwimol said the elephants have never laid a trunk on anyone.

Ngai Diew steps out of the jungle on the side of the road on Jan. 19, 2021 in Nakhon Nayok