Philip Cornwel-Smith text & photographs John Goss photographs
• Acclaimed bestseller that explains the perplexing charms of Thai life.
• Definitive source on Thai pop, trusted by locals, experts, media, students and visitors.
• Iconic style book for designers, authors, artists and curators.
This pioneering celebration of Thai pop and streetlife has been totally revised to reflect the dramatic changes in Thailand. With a contemporary eye and two decades” experience, the author delves beyond the Thai clichés to reveal the casual, everyday expressions of Thainess that so delight and puzzle, from floral truck bolts and taxi altars to buffalo cart furniture and drinks in a bags. Full of savvy insights into the impromptu creativity behind the exotic image of Thainess. Like no other book, Very Thai captures the quirky vigour of the Thai street.
“The defining moment of design students like me was the mid 2000s. There are two: the discovery of the book Very Thai, and visiting to Isan Retrospective exhibition at TCDC. The upshot was: how to think and how to work as a Thai designer from that time onwards.”
– Saran Yen Panya, designer and director, 56th Studio
Writing on Facebook about his design for the exhibition ‘Look Isaan Now’ at TCDC Khon Kaen, 2018-19
World Premiere screening & talk at Bangkok Design Week in TCDC on 26 January 2019
Bangkok Design Week 2019 opens on Jan 26 at TCDC with the World Premiere of World In Motion: Bangkok, a documentary series about visual culture that had its Bangkok iteration filmed in the city in 2018. Very Thai author Philip Cornwel-Smith is interviewed in a segment filmed at Wat Maha Butr in Phrakhanong, Bangkok, site of the shrine to the ghost Mae Nak Phrakhanong.
After the screening, Philip will join the panel discussion with directors/producers Graham Elliot and Roswitha Rodrigues.
Exhibition of ‘Very Thai’ style everyday objects from Thailand paired with ordinary objects from Germany. TCDC Chiang Mai’s show during Chiang Mai Design Week 2018. Running November 24-2018 till 3 February 2019.
Panel discussion on the future of streetfood in Bangok, after the city authorities start moving it out of some parts of the city
7pm, Wednesday 17th May 2017
An apparently misreported comment from a Bangkok city government official set off a storm of protest recently, when he was quote as saying all street food would be banned in the capital. The government has rushed to reassure roadside gourmands that this is not true – Bangkok is in fact planning an international street food festival. But street food vendors have been moved from some city centre areas, and the authorities say they will enforce stricter hygiene, and try to clear pavements where they are blocked, leaving lingering anxiety over the future of the quintessentially Bangkok cuisine.
The need to clear pavements and ensure food safety are legitimate concerns – but the BMA’s record of cultural sensitivity and flexibiity in enforcing its edicts is not encouraging. There are disagreements too over what defines ‘street food’ – some of the finest examples are produced in shophouses, open to the street.
Speakers: Chawadee Nualkhair is the author of “Thailand’s Best Street Food” and writes the blog Bangkok Glutton.
Piyaluck Nakayodhin is the publisher of “Street Food: 39 Great Places Under 100 Bahts”.
Philip Cornwel-Smith, a freelance writer and editor specializing in culture and travel, is the author of “Very Thai. Everyday Popular Culture”.
David Thompson is a celebrity chef who has run several successful restaurants in Australia, UK and Thailand, including the Nahm restaurant in Bangkok, and is the author of “Thai Street Food”, a collection of this favorite 100 recipes of the street.
Join us for what promises to be an invigorating discussion with some of the city’s greatest street food afficionados.
Members: free, Non-members 450thb, Thai journalists and Students with VALID ID: 150thb
Very Thai is #1 in blog’s list of “10 Thailand Souvenirs that Don’t Suck”
The book Very Thai has been named by the blog Rice/Potato as the #1 item in a list of “10 Thailand Souvenirs that Don’t Suck’!
1: ‘Very Thai’ book
Ever wondered about the meaning of taxi talismans, the life of Bangkok’s ‘hi-so’ crowd, or why drinks are often served in plastic bags? Philip Cornwel-Smith’s Very Thai gives a fascinating insight into the colorful everyday life of Thailand’s residents and shines a light on aspects of everyday pop culture, Thai design, and ancient traditions. This book is essential for anyone who wants to take a deeper dive into contemporary Thai culture. A lot of ‘Ah, that’s why!’ moments guaranteed.
Where to find it: Available at most branches of Asia Books. (THB 995,-)
A lot has happened in Thailand since the 2nd edition of Very Thai was launched. King Bhumbol passed away on 13 October 2016, beginning the reign of King Vachiralongkorn. The Bangkok Shutdown protests, the coup of 2014 and the subsequent junta regime have changed many things about the country’s popular culture, especially in the capital.
In particular the junta and BMA have targeted the informal economy, evicting communities, closing famous markets, banishing streetfood and vendors from most of downtown, reorganising motorcycle taxis and car taxis, buses, boats and other streetlife. They have also affected nightlife, media, entertainments, and the river, among many other things. Meanwhile, movements like new curated markets have made a big splash. In addition, the world has shifted ever more into the digital realm, with apps becoming a major feature of Bangkok life.
This update has kept the structure of the book the same, but affected most chapters in some way.