Bangkok 101

Mango Art Festival: A Weekend-Long Showcase of Thai Contemporary Art

by Pasavat Tanskul, Bangkok 101 31 Mar

Art talk forums will include expert Asian art curator Jorn Middelborg on Myanmar political art, Philip Cornwel-Smith (of best-selling book Very Bangkok) on “Rival Portrayals from Myths to Noir to Realism,” and moderator David Robinson on the young Thai artist movement.

As everyone looks forward to the upcoming Songkran holidays, art lovers will be keeping themselves busy this coming weekend at Mango Art Festival.

Dubbed “the most complete art festival,” Mango Art Festival unites famous designers, trendy independent artists and renowned art studios from across Thailand to showcase visually striking and thought-provoking contemporary art, along with the latest design trends.

The festival will take place at Lhong 1919, the 19th-century Thai-Chinese riverfront venue, from Saturday, Apr. 3 to Tuesday, Apr. 6.

Mango Art Festival will also feature fashion shows, jazz music and DJ sets. Art talk forums will include expert Asian art curator Jorn Middelborg on Myanmar political art, Philip Cornwel-Smith (of best-selling book Very Bangkok) on “Rival Portrayals from Myths to Noir to Realism,” and moderator David Robinson on the young Thai artist movement.

Additionally, there will be special art exhibitions including rare artworks and personal displays of Thai art collectors and an “Art for Environment” exhibition curated by Ek Thongprasert and Wishulada Pantaranuwong.

For more information, follow Mango Art Festival on Facebook and Instagram.

All photos courtesy of Mango Art Festival

Posted in: Blog, Events, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

Bangkok River BKKRVR

Explore: Thai: Very Bangkok

6 March 2021

Bangkok can seem confusing, but beneath the chaos, it has a surprising internal logic. Understanding its inner character is the aim of Very Bangkok, which is the most up-to-date and comprehensive book on the Thai capital.

Written by longtime resident Philip Cornwel-Smith, Very Bangkok: In the City of the Senses is not arranged by area or era, but through themes that explain this city of surprise. Vividly photographed by the author, the book starts and finishes on the river, from the city’s origins as a trading post and sacred island to today’s riverside creative resurgence. In between, we get to explore its many contradictions, whether chic or street, elite or pop, ancient or futuristic.

Half of the book explores Bangkok’s impact on our senses, whether the love of boisterous noise or the aromatic herbal and floral arts. It turns out that Bangkok food has its own flavour profile, thanks to multi-ethnic influences. We also probe the supernatural sixth sense that shapes many decisions, plus the semi-taboo scene of shamanic trance. In all, it covers 20 senses, including the distinctive Thai senses of direction, time or colour. You’ll never think of Bangkok the same way again.

The heart of the book is about Bangkokians themselves, whether hi-so elites, folk communities or middle-class mall-goers. We encounter vivid subcultures, such as the informal markets, youth tribes and ethnic identities, from Muslims and Mons to the majority Thai-Chinese. The conclusion reflects on the gulfs between Bangkok’s self-image, its wilder noir reputation, and a new wave of realistic portrayals in the arts. Behind the myths of Thainess, we discover the essence of Bangkokness.

The author has become an expert on his adopted city since 1994, as founding editor of its first listings magazine Metro, editor of the Time Out Bangkok city guide, and author of the influential bestseller, Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

The Guardian

Bangkok: a virtual tour through film, food, music and books

Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, in Bangkok.
Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, in Bangkok. Photograph: Thatree Thitivongvaroon/Getty Images

by Philip Cornwel-Smith, Fri 26 Feb 2021 11.00 GMT

Explore the dynamism and contradictions of one of Asia’s most beguiling cities through its culture, novels and cuisine

Few cities assail the senses as viscerally as Bangkok, from the kinetic cacophony of its street life to its aromatic herbal cures and the incendiary spice of the food. Social distancing has only briefly withheld the touch of Thai massage and the jostle of its markets. Juxtapositions startle the eye, with designs often decided by fortune tellers or sacred colours. Timber shacks abut glitzy towers of novelty shapes in the world’s third least equal society. 

Breakneck modernisation has sparked tensions between the cosmopolitan “hi-so” (high society) and grassroots values, while young reformers protest at the seniority system that enforces a hidden order behind the apparent chaos. Amid the hi-tech towers, a vast informal economy wheels food stalls and makes street furniture from found materials. It’s both fun and poignant to ride around the teeming centre on motorcycle taxis, converted pickup trucks or canal boats with a hinged canvas roof that lowers under bridges.

Bangkok’s canal districts are still served by floating corner shops.
Bangkok’s canal districts are still served by floating corner shops. Photograph: Philip Cornwel-Smith

Author and composer SP Somtow called it a “city both futuristic and feudalistic, a city where the first and third worlds were in endless collision”, in his book The Crow: Temple of Night. Others say this village-minded megalopolis is Blade Runner-esque.

Returning tourists will find its tangled laneways opened up by fresh routes. New rapid urban railways link neglected districts, and will meet the trans-Asian network at the new Bang Sue Grand station. Driverless Gold Line trains run to the huge IconSiam riverside mall, and on to Kudi Jeen, a 250-year-old quarter first settled by Persians and Portuguese, Hokkien Chinese and Mon people from Myanmar. Paths lead to a waterfront cafe named My Grandparents’ House, embodying the trend of rediscovering once-supressed Chinese heritage.

London never got its garden bridge, but Bangkok last year opened the leafy SkyPark, spanning the Chao Praya river from Kudi Jeen to Chinatown. Its undulations afford views downstream, where skyscrapers bristle like a hairbrush, and upstream to the Grand Palace, the temple of the reclining Buddha, and Wat Arun, the city’s five-spired symbol. Mosaicked in particoloured glass and china, Bangkok’s temples are, to cite Somerset Maugham in his 1935 travelogue The Gentleman in the Parlour, “unlike anything in the world … and you cannot fit them into the scheme of things you know. It makes you laugh with delight that anything so fantastic could exist on this sombre Earth.”

The rejuvenated Khlong Ong Ang canal, Bangkok
The rejuvenated Khlong Ong Ang canal. Photograph: Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/Rex

The SkyPark leads right to the old moat, Khlong Ong Ang, where markets have been cleared to make canalside promenades lined with Instagram-ready murals of Sikhs, Muslims and Teochew Chinese traders. The country’s multi-ethnic past is being repackaged into a digestible “diverse” Thainess. But as William Warren warned in his 2012 portrait of the city, Bangkok, “the result of this successful assimilation has been the steady decline, virtually the disappearance, of anything purely Thai”.

Chinatown, too, is relinquishing its mysteries as shophouses turn into galleries, bars and hostels. Crumbling stucco alleys strewn with engine parts draw hipsters during the Chinese Vegetarian Festival, Bangkok Design Week and regular Galleries Nights. Siam’s first paved street, Charoenkrung Road, arcs through here into Bangrak Creative District, an independent initiative by young urbanites that bypasses the state’s orderliness to make a virtue of the varied chaos.

See

Instalation by Thai artist P7 at last year’s Bangkok Art Biennale.
Instalation by Thai artist P7 at last year’s Bangkok Art Biennale. Photograph: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Bangkok Vanguards pioneered neighbourhood tours here. You can now join them via Zoom, either as a live-streamed scooter trip or a video tour narrated by the guide. From Khlong Ong Ang, you thread through the passages of Saphan Han with its community leader, encountering a jewellery workshop, a sala pao dumpling stall and a shrine to their Teochiu deity, Pun Tao Kong.

Across the moat from Saphan Han are the neighbourhoods of Little India and Wang Burapha, which was the first Thai hub of pop culture. That history is told in one of the virtual exhibitions at the irreverent Museum Siam, viewable alongside ones of nearby Tha Tien market plus the museum’s irreverent take on nationalism, Decoding Thainess.

Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch’s porcelain tanks at the Bangkok Biennale.
Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch’s porcelain tanks at the Bangkok Biennale.
Photograph: Philip Cornwel-Smith

Museum Siam was a venue for the recent Bangkok Art Biennale, one of the few biennials to go ahead last year. Its pavilions can still be toured online. Among the 82 artists from 35 countries, Anish Kapoor adapted a wax installation for the prayer hall of Wat Pho. The 31 Thai artists include Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch, whose porcelain tanks capture the fragility of power, Peerachai “Samer” Patanaporgchai, a homeless savant whose graffiti of elaborate paranoid diagrams is a familiar sight across downtown, and Charit Pusiri’s peep show on Bangkok life.

Watch

The Hangover Part II … ‘Bangkok at its most compulsively lurid’.
The Hangover Part II … ‘Bangkok at its most compulsively lurid’. Photograph: Melinda Sue Gordon/AP

Bangkok’s reputation is at its most compulsively lurid in The Hangover Part II, a bachelor party caper that spawned Hangover guided tours and the catchphrase: “Bangkok has him now.” The best films about this city aren’t being streamed, but Netflix has several popular dramas: Bangkok Traffic Love Story, which deals with contemporary mores; Hormones (2013-15), the first Thai series to tackle youth issues with provocative realism; and time-travel fantasy series Love Destiny (2018), which contrasts today’s affluent lifestyle with 17th-century courtiers, sparking a fad for wearing traditional dress to events.

The 1840s story of the ghost of Mae Nak – who sees her beloved husbandsent off to war and later dies in childbirth in what is now the Phrakhanong neighbourhood – has sparked countless films, from the sumptuous 1999 romance Nang Nak to the 2013 horror-comedy Pee Mark Phrakhanong, about her hapless husband. In a documentary on the city’s visual culture, World In Motion: Bangkok, I guide you through Nak’s shrine at Wat Mahabut. 

Taste

Street food stall in Chinatown, Bangkok
Street food stall in Chinatown. Photograph: Philip Cornwel-Smith

In her food blog She Simmers, Leela Punyaratabandhu dissects how the TV series Love Destiny contrasted ancient and current recipes, such as a dip for grilled fish. Her cookbook Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand, explains the foreign influences upon its hybrid cuisine, and comes with YouTube demonstrations. She reveals how a Thai prime minister famously added a splash of brandy when cooking his green curry with beef. While other curries can get away with pre-made pastes, she insists that green curry paste is best made fresh, toasting the coriander seeds and cumin before grinding with the herbs and shrimp paste.

But Bangkok’s most famous cooking class, which also sparked a book and YouTube clips with Jamie Oliver, earned fame initially for its title: Cooking With Poo. Chef Saiyuud Diwong – nicknamed Poo (crab) – proudly stayed based in the Khlong Toey slum where she grew up. 

The first Michelin star for Thai food went to Australian chef David Thompson at Bangkok’s Como hotel, whose two cookbooks, Thai Food and Thai Street Food, are laced with cultural context. The latter spawned a TV series (on Vimeo), partly set in Bangkok, which demonstrates how to brown a Sino-Thai oyster omelette using pork fat and tapioca flour.

The aural equivalent of the exploding flavour pockets in Thai cuisine is molam, the north-eastern music introduced by migrants from the Thai and Laotian hinterlands since the 17th century. It’s the music most busked on the streets, often by groups of blind musicians. Spotify streams the Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band, a supergroup of master players who blended the plaintively warbled vocals and bamboo khaen pipes with surf rock and Latin rhythms that get anyone churning to its infectious beats.

Bangkok pop feels bland by comparison, with copycat sounds, K-pop formulas and tonal vocals that can sound off-key. Yet some Bangkok-born artists earn fans abroad by singing in English. Phum Viphurit sings fetching jangly tunes and one of Hugo Chakrabongse’s blues-infused rock ballads has been covered by Beyoncé.

Thai rap ranges from the polished sound of Thaitanium on Mahanakorn and with Snoop Dogg on Wake Up (Bangkok City), to slum homeboys such as 19Tygerrapping about Khlong Toey. Protest songs by the collective Rap Against Dictatorship changed Thai politics, with a 100 million YouTube views of the taboo-shattering invective Prathet Ku Mee (What My Country’s Got).

Read

Bangkok Noir cover

Bangkok Noir (2011) gives short-story tastes of Bangkok’s detective genre set in seedy locales like Soi Cowboy. “Noir in Bangkok happens fast,” notes its editor, Christopher G Moore, talking of how it is fed by folk beliefs and the news. “At every turn there is a new noir-like incident, such as the temple morgue found to contain two thousand aborted foetuses. Take a late night walk through some poor neighbourhoods. Hear the soi dogs howling as the angry ghosts launch themselves through the night, and observe that modern possessions don’t stop the owners from making offerings to such spirits.”

The Glass Kingdom cover

Leading literary expat Lawrence Osborne dissects the ambiguity of outsiders in his travelogue Bangkok Days and condominium-set thriller The Glass Kingdom. “Bangkok is an asylum for those who have lapsed into dilettantism,” he quips. “Westerners choose Bangkok as a place to live precisely because they can never understand it.” And it’s no less of an enigma to Thais.

Bangkok Wakes to Rain cover

Some local authors published in English try to unblock the policed blanks in the national memory. In Bangkok Wakes to Rain, Pitchaya Sudbanthad tracks a wooden house over centuries via its conversion into a spa to its fate in a flooded future Bangkok, evoking the city’s sensory hit. “A pearl-eyed lottery seller, sensing passersby from footsteps and the clap of flip-flops, calls out of an opened case of clothes-pinned tickets to whoever craves luck. Her nose picks up the ashen smell always in the air.” Like indie novellist Veeraporn Nitiprapha in The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth, he uses metaphor to tackle scandals that most try to forget. As Pitchaya dryly notes: “The not remembering doesn’t really work, does it?”

Philip Cornwel-Smith was the founding editor of Bangkok’s first listings magazine, Metro, and the Time Out City Guide to Bangkok. His latest book is Very Bangkok: In the City of the Senses (River Books, £20)

© 2021 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. (modern)

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2021/feb/26/bangkok-a-virtual-tour-through-film-food-music-and-books?fbclid=IwAR3cR3qtP3Ok309JgIOAaFheWAxeoatcv_CTMw1YGK4WzMErM1NbE3FYPOE

Posted in: Article, Blog, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

Thailand Expat Writers List (VT & VB)

A Review of ‘Very Thai’ and ‘Very Bangkok’ by Philip Cornwel-Smith 

By Steve Rosse, 20 Feb 2021

Some time in the summer of 1989 I was working on a one-day shoot for something, a dog food commercial maybe. There’s a lot of down time in video production, or at least there was before everybody was shooting movies on their iPhone. We used to stand around the set for hours and talk and talk and talk. It was one of the best parts of working in the industry.

So on this day there was a guy in the Electrics department who was holding everybody’s attention with his stories about working for a couple of months in Thailand on “Casualties of War.” (Because of the continuity challenges involved in shooting a feature length movie in which the main characters never change their clothes he called it “Casualties of Wardrobe.”)

“There’s only two Thai words you need to learn,” he said. “Towel-I and Meeow. They mean ‘how much’ and ‘I don’t want it.’” Hearty guffaws and knowing winks all the way around. His mispronunciation of the words rankled, but his implication that all Thailand had to offer was an adventageous rate of exchange was worse. Still, I held my tongue, because my own experience of Thailand was, at that point, only three months in the bars and brothels of Phuket, and I didn’t think that gave me the moral high ground.

In 1990 I moved to Thailand permanently (“permanently” wound up to be only seven years) and I quickly learned that Thailand is experienced subjectively. Every farang has a different idea about what Thailand is. I had friends who owned bars, who spent every day and every night in their own bar, and had done so for years on end. Their view of Thailand was radically different than the guys who had come to Thailand in the 1960’s with the Peace Corps and spent years upcountry teaching rice farmers how to spray for weevils. And their Thailand was WAY different than the Thailand cherished by the old soldiers who had come on R&R, and WAY-WAY different from the Club Med executives who moved from continent to continent every two years, and more different still than the Thailand pored over by the academics who came to teach for a semester at Chula and stayed forever because they fell in love with being adored.

We can only know as much of the world as our five (or six) senses tell us, says The Buddha. Jump ahead to 2018, and I’m visiting Phuket for the first time in 20 years. The place overwhelms me. The God-awful traffic, the pollution everywhere, the overcrowding, the push-push-push. The sheer ugliness of the place. It was like meeting an old girlfriend who’d become hideous. My friend Baz said, “You’re the tensest tourist in Thailand. Why don’t we go ride bicycles in the Khao Sok National Forest? Maybe you can find some cannabis up there and mellow out a little.”

I hadn’t been on a bicycle since I was a teenager, but I jumped at the chance to get out of the place I’d spent two decades dreaming of coming back to. I also jumped at the possibility of finding a little weed. After living in a State with legal weed for four years I had developed a pretty stern daily habit, and it had never occurred to me, in all the time I’d spent fantasizing about coming back, that when I finally returned to my beloved Thailand it would mean suddenly going cold turkey. I was Jonesing bad. 

We went North and checked into some bungalows in the forest and the bike nearly crippled me and I never found any weed. But on our second morning there Baz took me to some breakfast joint he liked, and while we waited for our eggs I checked out the little shelf of discarded books in the corner of the dining room. Among the detective novels and Lonely Planet Guides I spotted a hard-back book called ‘Very Thai,’ by Philip Cornwel-Smith. I pulled it off the shelf because it was in hardback; it looked and felt like a textbook. Remember when books felt like something important in your hands?

Well, ‘Very Thai’ feels and looks and reads like something important and lavish and gorgeous. I read that book until our meals arrived at the table. Then I read that book while I ate. Then, after our bills were paid, I contemplated stealing that book. I’m not shy about stealing books; I’ve stolen books from some of my best friends. There was a little note on the shelves that said you could take a book if you left a book, but I didn’t have a book to leave. If that copy of ‘Very Thai’ had been a paperback it would have been in my back pocket without a second thought. But it was too big and solid and real to smuggle out in my clothing, and that skinny waitress with the lazy eye was already suspicious of me. With deep regret I put ‘Very Thai’ back on the shelf.

Since returning to New Mexico I’ve purchased my own copy of ‘Very Thai,’ and also a copy of the follow-up volume, ‘Very Bangkok.’ I almost never buy books. They’re expensive, and almost every book is available for free through the interlibrary loan system. ‘Very Thai’ and ‘Very Bangkok,’ which are only available in handsome hard-bound editions, each cost about twenty dollars at Amazon, and shipping adds another twenty.

I paid sixty dollars for two books, which is WAY, WAY, WAAAAAAY out of character for me. But I’m glad I did. I’ve got about fifty books about Thailand on my shelves right now, and in two years when I retire to Thailand (God willing) Mr. Cornwel-Smith’s books are the only books I’m planning to take with me.

He says this in his introduction to “Very Thai:” “I’ve tried to steer a balanced course through the minefield of outsider opinions: orientalist fantasists; sensationalist moral scolds; earnest students of culture; old hands (some rejoicing, some embittered); champions of Thai exceptionalism who are jaundiced about the West; universalist ideologues suspicious of cultures that are more judgmental of gender, race, class, faith, minority or other social markers; religious believers who interpret Thailand through their faith; anthropologists who filter Thainess through academic categories. I try to be the open-minded “flaneur,” – the wandering seeker of raw experience, open to impressions.”

Okay, A: Mr. Cornwel-Smith is a compulsive list-maker, but while I disagree with his use of the semicolon that is a lovely, long, wonderfully precise and colorful sentence, and B: That sentence describes what should be (I think) the object of any farang who writes about Thailand. I am surely one of the “orientalist fantasists” he mentions (and also a “universalist ideologue”) so it’s probably beneficial for me periodically to be exposed to a more open-minded flaneuring.

In his introduction to ‘Very Thai,’ Alex Kerr says, “‘Very Thai’ looks at the simple things of daily life that Thais and foreigners usually pass by, but in these very details lie the mystery and magic of what it is to be Thai.” I don’t know if revealing to farang the mystery and magic of what it is to be Thai is even possible, but certainly he’s right that Mr. Cornwel-Smith has focused on the minutiae of Thai living. He’s illuminating the macro by shining a light on the micro.

Ever wondered about those ubiquitous and almost useless little square pink tissue paper napkins? ‘Very Thai’ is where you’ll find out about them. (There were some on the table in Khao Sok when I first stumbled across this book, and so that was the first chapter I read.) Ever wondered about all those electrical wires tangled over the street? Or how you bet on a Hercules Beetle battle? The difference between Luuk Thung and Mor Lam? Soap operas, katoeys, icons, shrines, tuk-tuks, beauty contests, blind street musicians, edible insects, or lucky lottery numbers? This is where you’ll find your answers.

‘Very Thai’ seemed to me pretty Bangkok-centric, but even so Mr. Cornwell-Smith has also given us ‘Very Bangkok.’ Now, I’ve said it before in this forum but since I’m the Admin I’ll allow myself to say it again: Bangkok sucks donkey balls. It’s Mexico City without the culture. Since a million beautiful, charming, cheap places to live are available only an hour from Krung Thep by bus, I don’t know why anybody would ever choose to live there. But if you are forced by marriage or occupation to live in Bangkok then ‘Very Bangkok’ is a useful, perhaps an essential, guide.

In his introduction to ‘Very Bangkok’ Lawrence Osborne says these books are a “…brilliant and polychromatic look at Bangkok done in a way that no other writer has attempted.” I quibble with that only because I think these books are solidly in the tradition of Denis Segaler’s ‘Thai Ways,’ but brilliant and polychromatic they certainly are. The photographs are jaw-dropping. They are nothing less than amazing. Just flipping through the book looking at the photos provides more enjoyment and enlightenment than reading 90% of the books published about Thailand. Mr. Osborne goes on to say that Mr. Cornwel-Smith has “…turned Bangkok into a vast tapestry of meditations on the nature of cities.” Spot on, that.

I’m going to admit to you right now: I did not read every single word in ‘Very Thai’ and ‘Very Bangkok’ in preparation for this review. These are not books you read like novels. These are books you use like encyclopedias. The font is small and there is a LOT to read. You may wish to keep these books on your bedside table and read a chapter every night before you sleep, or keep them on your balcony to read for just as long as it takes to drink your morning espresso, or keep them on the back of your toilet…

If you try to read them like novels you’ll never remember everything. You might not even recognize everything. They’ll be most useful when you’re invited to the Phi Ta Khon festival in Loei, and you have no idea what it is or how you’re supposed to behave there. You’ll want to throw them in your bag when you go visit friends upcountry, or when you come down to the City for a dental appointment. The chapters are all about as long as an in-flight magazine article, and while they’re densely packed with information they’re written in a very engaging and readable prose. Often, even a witty prose. These are books you’ll still be referring to twenty years down the road.

I relied on the “Lonely Planet” guides when I was new in the Kingdom, and these days I suppose everybody has a favorite “influencer” on YouTube who wears a Go-Pro and wanders Soi Cowboy. But nobody, and I mean nobody, but Mr. Cornwel-Smith will quote the guy who wrote his Harvard Ph.D. dissertation about the dirty, tattered, vests that motosai drivers wear. Nobody but Mr. Cornwel-Smith takes dives this deep. Nobody I’ve read, anyway. 

I salute you, Mr. Cornwel-Smith. And I thank you, because you’ve done a huge favor for all of us.

42 likes, 34 comments, 10 shares

I bought a copy of Very Bangkok at the book release event at the FCCT. I recall that in the question period after he gave his remarks I asked him how long he thought the construction boom could go on, and he said something but not really to my point– how long we can keep creating condos that no one lives in, just for various asians to park money in. So the event must have been before the pandemic hit, because it’s a bigger question than ever now. The book marker in my copy is stuck at p. 64, I gave up for a while at that point, because hell, I’m stuck here against my will; but I hope you’ve inspired me to get back to it.

John B Williams

I’m going to try and read this again, and at least a few chapters as you suggest. I’m going to go out today and buy a HUGE magnifying glass since the publishers don’t know how to design a readable book. If I was Mr. Cornwell-Smith I would be hugely annoyed at the designer and never buy him or her a beer again.

Philip Cornwel-Smith

 Yes the print was too small in Very Thai and we increased it in the 2nd edition. Any bigger would have required a total redesign or cutting chunks of text. Very Bangkok is in a much bigger point size.

Antonis Greco Imdb

Excellent writing.. is the semi colon really dead

Christopher Minko

top read mate

Bruce Scott

‘ezz a charmin’ bloke as well

Patty Smith

I want to read these books now!! Nice writing about it, Steve! 

Billy Makin

Beautiful piece

Ken Lambert

Whoever you are you are a great writer 

Greg Currie

Gold where can l purchase these books 

Thanks

Greg Currie

 … I just got them through Amazon

Steve Balogh

 Thanks my friend 

Steve Balogh

I just bought these 2 books based on your review. Cost me AU$93 through Amazon but hopefully worth it. About US$66 I think, so about the same as what you paid. I look forward to an interesting read. 

Steve Balogh

 Sweet saved me a few bucks 

Byron Kirby

 … I will let you have a look as long as you wear white gloves and use a golden pointer stick while reading.

Steve Balogh

 I seldom buy new books. Picked up a used copy of Very Thai on ‘bay $Au 28.19, 2 more copies there for any one else downunder, or UK.

Paul Jabour

I remember buying Very Thai years ago at the airport and was attracted to the colourful cover but now with years passed this quirky and sometimes bizzare account of Thai culture is my norm and somehow makes sense !

Peter Montalbano

A review guaranteed not to make the writer cry. Oh, tears of joy, perhaps . . .

David Collier

We have 5 of the Thailand books in stock.

David Collier

 To be clear, David is saying that they’re in stock at Canterbury Tales book shop in Pattaya. Any members in Pattaya go snap ’em up!

David Collier

Steve – indeed I am….we have a huge selection from thousands of books.

David Collier

 Good to know that your well stocked [and long time] bookshop has survived during these trying times, David. Cheers!!

John Anthony

Just ordered Very Thai. 

Brian Garty

Just ordered from World Of Books, Australia, $28 , great value.

Philip Cornwel-Smith

Many thanks for your review Steve. Much appreciated. I’ll keep trying to dive deep!

Steve BaloghThat worked out well. I bought these two books from Amazon for around $90 for the two and received a $100 gift voucher for locally delivered wines. Made an order and now have a dozen bottles of fine wine valued at more than $300 discounted to $180 wholesale and I only had to pay $80. Looks like I got the two books for free and got heavily discounted wines to drink while reading them. Cheers Steve for the review. 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews, Uncategorized,

Tags:

An Englishman in… Podcast

Rob Goldstone is an Englishman in … SIAM – Philip Cornwel-Smith Ep 3‪5

By Rob Goldstone

In this episode I am an Englishman in SIAM, for International travellers, the name SIAM conjures up ‘The King and I’, tuk,tuks, temples and Buddha’s.  But what makes Thailand and its capital, Bangkok so very different to a city like London or Paris? With the answer is author and Thailand expert Philip Cornwel-Smith.

Buy Philip’s original Book “Very Thai” here: https://tinyurl.com/ybcskkwt

And his new book “Bangkok In The City of Senses here:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/siam-philip-cornwel-smith-ep-35/id1528028046?i=1000502640026

Find out more about Rob Goldstone: https://isanenglishmanin.com

Posted in: Blog, Media, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

Jakarta Post

‘Very Bangkok’: In search of the contemporary in the city of senses

SEBASTIAN PARTOGI, 15 Nov 2020  /  02:59 pm

With a lot of people stressed out by being confined to their homes for months on end during the pandemic, many have started to realize they had previously taken their outdoor adventures for granted.

This, along with the rise of so-called “immersive travel experiences”, has prompted many people in quarantine to dream of being excited by the adrenaline rush of such journeys, where they can activate all their senses by exploring off-the-beaten track attractions in their chosen destinations once again.

Among the many travel books launched this year, is Philip Cornwel-Smith’s Very Bangkok: In the City of the Senses (River Books, 2020), a 360-page captivating homage to Thailand’s capital city by someone who has lived there for over 25 years.

The author: Philip Cornwel-Smith has just published 'Very Bangkok: In the City of the Senses', which takes unique ways of considering why this elusive city is the way it is.

The author: Philip Cornwel-Smith has just published ‘Very Bangkok: In the City of the Senses’, which takes unique ways of considering why this elusive city is the way it is. (Courtesy of Philip Cornwel-Smith /-)

Originally hailing from England, Smith presents a unique half-insider, half-outsider account of the place. Someone used to say that to truly experience a place, it is not enough for you to just experience it in all its glory, you also have to get in touch with the more painful aspects of its residents’ daily humdrums – something that these immersive travelers are desperately looking for.

In a similar vein, the book also gives you a rich sneak peek of how the mundane daily life in Bangkok unfolds, beyond the pad thai and the beautiful pagodas and the shopping malls and the fun nightclubs that the city is most famous for among tourists.

Congruent with its title, the book opens with an account of Bangkok as a city which truly overwhelms all your five senses, with the various smells and tastes coming from the more sacred realm of fresh culinary presentations and food markets on down to the more profane one of air pollution on the streets.

Meaty flavor: For those who like meat in their drinks, Eat Me restaurant makes a cocktail that tastes like the warm salad dish moo larb.

Meaty flavor: For those who like meat in their drinks, Eat Me restaurant makes a cocktail that tastes like the warm salad dish moo larb. (Courtesy of Philip Cornwel-Smith /-)

He also dedicates a full chapter called “Heat and Damp”, giving us a picture of how it feels like to be “hazed” by the city’s tropical temperature – normally hot and humid during the dry season but can also be cooled down by downpours during the monsoon.

Having experienced great cabin fever upon months and months of home quarantine, all of a sudden, the idea of venturing out in the open, taking in the innocent sensuality of the hot afternoon sun stinging your skin or braving a hard rain during a motorcycle ride can sound tempting to so many travelers.

Bangkok is also a city where poor neighborhoods and more luxurious establishments stand side by side. 

On these roads you can witness the socioeconomic inequality at play, the lives of the privileged being brutally contrasted with the less fortunate ones. True “road dogs” who are up for a navigational challenge can also find something to love about memorizing the puzzling routes of the local roads, which do not follow a grid system.

This is why travelers from Jakarta will also find that despite its very distinctive style and nuances, Bangkok’s daily hustle-and-bustle can be shockingly similar to Indonesia’s capital.

Street performance: The Sino-Thais are the majority population of Bangkok. But as society changed, Chinese opera and lion dances started to be performed by a later group of indigenous migrants from Thailand’s northeast region.

Street performance: The Sino-Thais are the majority population of Bangkok. But as society changed, Chinese opera and lion dances started to be performed by a later group of indigenous migrants from Thailand’s northeast region. (Courtesy of Philip Cornwel-Smith /-)

Perhaps this fine balance between familiarity and strangeness between Indonesia and Thailand explains why so many Indonesian tourists have been attracted to visit the place year after year. Data from the Thai Embassy in Jakarta from 2016 revealed roughly 500,000 Indonesian tourists visited Thailand each year.  

Also similar to Indonesia, Thailand comprises a multitude of different ethnic groups and faiths living side by side. The book portrays how the dynamics among these groups play out through accounts of street food, for instance.

Another social identity issue that this book has brought up is that of the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Despite many tourists across the globe having a somewhat orientalist view of Bangkok as a “gay paradise” and despite the availability of so many gay clubs in the city, Smith quotes a 2019 Legatum Prosperity Index revealing that Thailand ranked 48 out of 167 for LGBT tolerance.

Yet, the author does not take the quantitative measure at face value as he also mentions that the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center hosted the Spectrosynthesis II, the biggest ever LGBT art exhibition in Asia, in November 2019.

Speaking of the arts, he also provides you a guide to the city’s aesthetics and places you can go to, to take some kind of artistic and intellectual refuge. Yet, as we mention in the beginning, an author can only do some justice to a place when he also addresses local tragedies, which you will typically miss if you only frequent local tourist attractions.

The beautiful, bad and ugly stories from Bangkok are very well captured here, presented in in-depth historical, political, social and cultural context by the author, which link together the city’s historical roots with its current, contemporary state.

Ceremonious: Bangkok is a loud city of modern noise, but also a center of delicate aural culture, such as conch shell blowing in Brahmin rituals.

Ceremonious: Bangkok is a loud city of modern noise, but also a center of delicate aural culture, such as conch shell blowing in Brahmin rituals. (Courtesy of Philip Cornwel-Smith /-)

The historical and political account can also give you contextual sense of the very recent youth-led pro-democratic rallies in the city, which tourists who picture Thailand as a paradise might find puzzling.

If after the pandemic is over you find yourself longing for some extended thrills abroad, you can consider reading this book to guide you to explore Bangkok in its totality.

You are in for some new surprises about the city thanks to Smith’s deep insight into the place, aided by multi-sensory description methods which, again, live up to what he promises readers in the title. 

If you have already been to the city before, the way Smith approaches the Bangkok story here can also inspire you to read more books and learn more about the sociopolitical history and contexts of other destinations as well, so as to enrich your next trip itinerary, wherever that may be. 

Whatever your future plans might be, we can only pray that the day when we will be allowed to travel internationally again will come soon. (ste)

Posted in: Blog, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

City Life

A review of Very Bangkok: Unique and pithy insights into the Big Mango by Very Observant Philip Cornwel-Smith

By Aydan Stuart | Thu 5 Nov 2020

As any visitor to Bangkok will know, it’s impossible to avoid the hot mess of sizzling street food, fragrant shrines, putrid canals and never-ending traffic jams. As one of the most complex and complicated cities in the world, just being there can be an overwhelming experience that forces every sense into overdrive. But why is it this way? And what makes Bangkok so, well, very Bangkok?

It is these sounds, sights, tastes and smells of Bangkok that Philip Cornwell-Smith attempts to dissect in his most recent book, Very Bangkok, which expertly explores how every hidden secret and cultural anomaly catches our senses and tickles our curiosity.

Donning his anthropological cap once again, some seven years after his highly-acclaimed second edition of Very Thai—which offers an in-depth exploration of Thai popular culture—Cornwell-Smith again shoots past the obvious and goes straight for the jugular, exposing the real-life spaces, faces and rat races that our technicolour capital hides best.

Guiding you down smelly canals, letting your mind stroll around fragrant gardens, and unmasking your misinterpretations on polluted highways, this well-written and deeply insightful guide to Krungthep Mahanakorn is a coffee table must, and much more besides. Each one of its 360 pages offers honest and visceral insights into the heart of Thailand’s most unique personality. His prose unapologetically frank, full of whimsy, and deliberately evoking.

Describing the city and its many suburbs as one “living, breathing art piece”, he skirts around more obvious topics such as ‘Streetfood’ and ‘Vertical Living’, before exposing new perspectives such as ‘Bang-Pop’, ‘Birdsong’, and ‘Bangkoklyn’. Cornwell-Smith, once again, serves up a dense helping of endless discoveries, picking apart every aspect of daily life and fondly sharing why Bangkok is so quintessentially iconic.

Leaving no stone uncovered, and no taboo unspoken, he explores both the popular and unpopular fame the city attracts. Seedy, sweaty red-light districts make way for auto-amnesiac destructions of history and free-flowing corruption that locals have come to expect and live to exploit. “Krungthep’s liveliness comes from constant churn;” he writes. “It reflects the fact that the city is structurally unstable at deeper levels. Things that most countries consider permanent, shift with surprising ease in Bangkok.”

Yet, as politics increasingly defines what it means to be “Thai”, the shifting political culture and recognition of the people and events that have defined the city’s almost clockwork cycle of protest, election and coup, are diplomatically scant. Instead, Cornwell-Smith focuses on how the overall idea of “Thainess” is evolving and forever being re-defined by society, a theme that plays a prominent role throughout Very Bangkok, just as it did in both editions of Very Thai.

And although a Chiang Mai version of his Very-series would be both fascinating, yet unlikely to make it to the printers, there are more than enough points and tidbits that can tickle the fancies of us Northern folk.

As an ex-Chiang Mai resident sat on a dusty Bangkok balcony, trying to read over the grinding hum of the city below, I was pleasantly surprised to find something on almost every page that evoked a sense of Northern nostalgia.

Marble-clad temples performing Lanna rituals with betel nut offerings and spirals of sai-ua sausages. Provincial-themed street parties that totally disregard the standstill traffic jams around them. Hercules Beetle fighting championships that go deep into the night. Regional transit that has “more jazzy stripes than Paul Smith socks”.

With countless references to the unique and Thai-defining elements that make up the Kingdom, it is no surprise that even those (un)lucky enough to avoid Bangkok altogether, can still pick up on many similarities to their hometown or provincial city sweetheart.

As always, Cornwell-Smith is a master in articulating the unexplainable and shining a light on the invisible. Very Bangkok is a five-star journey through the many tiers of the capital and offers a wide-open window onto the fluorescent pulse of the city. From city sewers to cultural hierarchies, every aspect of Bangkok’s rich identity is laid bare in spectacularly engaging and eye-opening detail.

Get to know Philip Cornwell-Smith in this Citylife interview.

https://www.chiangmaicitylife.com/clg/living/getting-around/a-review-of-very-bangkok/

Posted in: Blog, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

Journal of the Siam Society

Reviews: Very Bangkok: In the City of the Senses 

By John Clark, JSS Edition 108

Very Bangkok: In the City of the Senses by Philip Cornwel-Smith, Bangkok: River Books, 2020. ISBN: 9786164510432. 995 Baht.

 Bangkok is one of the most often studied and written about cities in the contemporary world.1 Sometimes ‘Bangkok’ stands by itself as a singular set of urban phenomena (p. 15), as a symptom of other social conditions, as a unique destination for tourist delectation (p. 193). Sometimes discussions of this city function as a stalking horse for yet another representation of progressive globalization (p. 87), or it poses as the ultimately flawed epitome of the ‘Thai’ nation whose outer honour is fanatically defended but which conceals a cruel and nihilistic core (p. 187). ‘Bangkok’ can serve as a symbolic cauldron into which are titrated the liqueous humours of a strangely occult concoction, partly a modern excitatory effluvium, partly an ancient flow from an implacably poisonous, subterranean swamp (pp. 13, 25). 

Cornwel-Smith’s second Thai compilation from fifteen years of further perceptions and recorded glances, after his Very Thai, Everyday Popular Culture (2005),2 is organized as the product of three zones, or modes, of physical perception and display: Senses, Heart, and Face. The text is accompanied by photographs, which he largely took himself and sometimes take over from the text as the bearers of his perception. The written texts are far more insightful than Very Thai, but both books have their origins in the rather breathless Time Out style of the guides he used to edit: a kind of ‘travelling Wikipedia on speed’ without too much interventionist or academic referencing. Nevertheless, Very Bangkok is much more careful in tying its perceptions to other sources, or to more rounded if often critical perceptions, and the index is printed in better-spaced columns, making it more useful and more valid as a traveller’s reference. Unlike Cornwel-Smith’s earlier book, it also includes two particularly detailed maps, a conventional North-South view, and one with a new orientation of Bangkok rightwards and southwards towards the sea.

The longest zone is of the ‘Senses’, with fifty-five subcategories. ‘Heart’ has twenty-six and ‘Face’ has eighteen subcategories, and within these texts about sixty per cent are closed off into mini-essays on special topics like ‘cycling’ or ‘graffiti’. I was a little frustrated at the rather choppy flow until I reached the fourth group of subcategories under ‘Space’, which has the four subcategories, ‘Sanam Luang’, ‘Background City’, ‘Third Places’ and ‘Green Space’. I then began to see the author’s careful imbrication of his material in a number of critiques of urban life, some environmental concerns and notions of different kinds of urban space. One set of examples shows the author’s skill in this area: 

Tiered spaces reinforce social tiers. Rich, middle and poor often live adjacent and may mingle in some public areas, but their worlds barely touch. Each class accesses separate overlapping grids, whether for work, shopping, or socialising, with modes of transit for each class of passenger. (p. 48) 

Foreigners can be oblivious to the social rules of kalatesa [time-space] which govern what’s appropriate to any situation from manners to possessions. (p. 49, in ‘Background City’, ‘City of Levels, p. 46) 

It is, however, difficult in such an apparently haphazard set of different texts to sustain an underlying flow, and the quality of an aleatoric, non-consecutive existence only reappeared, for me, in the later section, ‘Portrayals’, which had six subcategories. This is where the author comes to grips with the fictionality of the city and of its imagined mess, which is somehow liveable and, despite itself, self-sustaining. Cornwel-Smith cites the use of soap opera templates by the prominent author, Veeraporn Nitiprapha, to reveal Bangkok’s ideological blindness. 

If you can understand the myths of love then you can understand the myths of everything, of hatred and of conflicts…..what struck me about the 2010 crackdown is how there were people glad about other people’s deaths. (Veeraporn, p. 309) 

Land. These crises, whatever their historical generation, are also handled by a political and regal symbolic system, which seems only suited to defer or obfuscate them. There is no chapter which handles authoritarianism, in particular that shown in the military massacres on Bangkok’s streets in 1992 and 2010. Cornwel- Smith may think these events would be a political distraction from the subject of experiencing the city through his senses, but they are a real part of the lives of all Bangkokians, even if deflected or obscured in many aspects of daily life. He does handle memory in the section ‘Memory: remembering to forget’, noting that ‘Forgetting is policy. Recent events dissolve before our very eyes, didn’t happen here’ (p, 282), but this may be a too straightforward a formulation for the deliberate and self-interested avoidance by both the perpetrators and their victims. 

Walking about almost any city is likely to trigger associations of historical memory. However, one does not find in Cornwel-Smith’s text the lyrical engagement with the past in Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul: Memories of a City,3 that might require a longing, or love, that is slipping out of grasp and is only recuperated by Pamuk’s text and by his mobilization of other photographs and illustrations of a world which has nearly gone. Nor does one see the probing historical mind of late 19th century Northern European visitors to Istanbul, who divide off parts of a city by the period and type of their occupation. One would not know much about Thonburi or its role in the genesis of the Bangkok side of the river from Cornwel-Smith, as one sees clearly the rise of ‘Stamboul’ in Hutton’s Constantinople.4

This lack of a lyrical or a historical thread becomes a very clear impediment with regard to formation of the multi-ethnic nature of Bangkok’s population, which has arrived over time. In Very Bangkok the treatment of ethnicities is spread out, not seen as a particular force given via the nature of late Ayutthaya history, the defeat of the Burmese, and the recommencement of one of many long waves of Chinese immigration (p. 222). Instead, Brahmins and Muslim Thais are handled under the subcategory of ‘Sacred’, but Indian Thais under that of ‘Becoming Bangkokian’, and Thai-Jiin under a mixing concept of ‘Stir-Fry’. This reader lost all sense of a peculiar and place-specific interaction between historical situations and the geographical/geological possibilities of habitation in Thonburi/Bangkok. This is clearly laid out in the book by Van Roy, Siamese Melting Pot: Ethnic Minorities in the Making of Bangkok (2017), which Cornwel-Smith includes in his bibliography but does not actively mobilize.5 Such ethnic variety explains the restricted viability of the concept of ‘Thainess’ like none other, and the casual observer may not so easily sense in Very Bangkok the fictional quality of ethnic categories in the streets and in historical time (p. 297). 

It could be objected that the purpose of Very Bangkok is not to capture ‘Thainess’, but the range of specific experiences and their real-world situations which can be cumulated into ‘Bangkok Thainess’. Unfortunately the multi-ethnicity of Thai society makes one realize that the lack of such an intention will not make the issue of a deceptive and self-interested ‘national essence’ deployed assiduously by the rich and powerful go away (p. 178), whatever level of concreteness any particular set of sensations have given rise to. Indeed, Cornwel-Smith assumes throughout a sort of inclusivist sensibility which, in practice, the reader has no means of affirming. He leaves himself out of the account of his sensations, which, for him, have a directness and purity. It is difficult to believe that inherited cultural habits may allow such perception to be unmediated, however long someone has been in Thailand. 

Despite extensive observations about digital realities (see ‘Feeling digital’, pp. 166- 169, and index, pp. 350, 353), perhaps this book has come too late to examine in depth how digital virtuality functions in the integration of opinion youth cohorts, especially in the urban environment of Bangkok.6 These children and adolescents are now beyond the control of their parents, and increasingly younger cohorts have escaped the insistent ideological training provided by the Thai education system even before University. There is a large set of digital networks among youth, which facilitate or produce the self-positioning affiliations of even younger school children active in recent calls for constitutional reform. ‘Thai’ society is now being integrated beyond the control systems hitherto active.7 It would be useful to know how these circuits are now functioning in Bangkok and whether, or how, they have affected urban identities to any extent. 

What Very Bangkok, brings the reader, apart from its texts, are Cornwel-Smith’s own photographs. Towards the end, he confesses that he is wary of the status of the street photographs he takes because of the posing or reaction to the camera of the street subjects. He queries what has become, from Henri Cartier-Bresson, photographer’s dogma for street photography that emphasises: 

“capturing ‘The Decisive Moment’, the skill of freezing a moment to convey deep meaning.” Given the way that Bangkok street photography can flummox the viewer with ambiguous juxtapositions, it could be said to capture ‘The Indecisive Moment’ (Klongton, p. 311). 

The reader can thus go back to take an open-ended interpretive view of the images he presents. Bangkok now appears as a litany of in-between pauses, which segment and redefine its ambiguous meanings. 

Overall, this is a valuable guide to the sorts of Bangkok one can experience without necessarily forcing the reader to agree with the author. Aside from an understandable reluctance to handle issues to do with royal status or the authoritarianism of the current military regime, it represents a remarkably comprehensive view of Bangkok’s social phenomena as may be encountered in the street. 

John Clark

1 Among more useful texts are: Askew, Marc, Bangkok: Place, Practice, and Representation, London: Routledge, 2002; Hamilton, Annette, “Wonderful, Terrible: Everyday Life in Bangkok”, in Bridge, Gary and Sophie Watson (eds.), A Companion to the City, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2000, pp. 460–471; O’Connor, Richard A., “Place, Power and Discourse in the Thai image of Bangkok”, JSS, vol. 78, no. 2, 1990, pp. 61-73; Ünaldi, Serhat, Working towards the Monarchy: The Politics of Space in Downtown Bangkok, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2016; Van Roy, Edward, Siamese Melting Pot: Ethnic Minorities in the Making of Bangkok, Singapore: ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute and Chiang Mai, Silkworm Books, 2017. 

All images in this review are from Very Bangkok

2 Cornwel-Smith, Phillip, with photographs by John Goss and Phillip Cornwel-Smith, Very Thai, Everyday Popular Culture, Bangkok: River Books, 2005.

3 Pamuk, Orhan, Istanbul: Memories of a City, London: Faber & Faber, 2005. 

4 Hutton, William Holden, Constantinople: The Story of the Old Capital of the Empire, London: J.M. Dent, 1900, reprinted 1933.

5 See note 1 above. 

6 Cornwel -Smith somewhat simplistically concludes: “Time will tell if digitisation poses an existential threat to the sensory experience of Bangkok or gives it a new flavour’ (p. 169). 

7 On the issue of digital controls, see Aim Sinpeng, “Digital media, political authoritarianism, and Internet controls in Southeast Asia”, Media, Culture & Society, vol. 42 (1), pp. 25-39, 2019. There is some analysis of the role of the internet in forming new youth cohorts in Aim Sinpeng and Janjira Sombatpoonsiri, “New tactics, old grievances in Thai Protests”, East Asia Forum at http://eastasiaforum.org/2020/09/08/new -tactics-old-grievances-in-the-thai-protests/

Posted in: Blog, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

Talk Travel Asia Podcast

Episode 111: Very Bangkok with Philip Cornwel Smith

Scott Coates & Trevor Ranges, 22 October 2020

Talk Travel Asia podcast welcomes back Phillip Cornwel Smith to talk about his latest publication: Very Bangkok. There’s no doubt that Bangkok is one of the world’s most visited cities. Its sites are some of the most featured on Instagram, and almost everyone will come up with some mental pictures of the city, good and bad, the moment they hear the name. Founded in 1782 when the Chakri Dynasty established Bangkok as Thailand’s capital, it’s a vibrant, dynamic city that dazzles the senses at every turn. Some love it, others hate it, and all with good reason. Today we’ll explore the City of Angels well beyond the surface with longtime resident and author Philip Cornwel Smith, who will share insights from his book Very Bangkok.

Crazy intersection? Very Bangkok. No traffic? Not so Bangkok! (courtesy of Philip Cornwel Smith)

Trevor & Scott give a quick overview of our time in Bangkok and Thailand, including some of their loves and hates of the city. Scott loves the food, friendly people, variety of transport methods, all sorts of hidden corners and communities; he dislikes constant heat, traffic, lack of green spaces, the smell of salty fish and elephant pants. 

After Trevor gives his love and hate list of Bangkok, which he misses very much, they give their Impressions of Philip’s Very Thai book which was the topic of conversation on Talk Travel Asia Episode 28: Very Thailand with Philip Cornwel Smith. This is followed by a bit of background about the Very Bangkok book.

IF YOU ENJOY LISTENING, PLEASE DONATE TO THE SHOW

You can sponsor anywhere from $1/month upwards. These funds will help us cover costs of keeping the show going. Visit PATREON TO DONATE TO THE SHOW or the link from the left-side of our website, or search Talk Travel Asia Patreon. Thanks in advance for supporting the cost and helping to keep the travel talk happening.

Guest Intro: Philip Cornwel Smith

Philip and his wonderful books (photo courtesy of Philip Cornwel Smith)

We’ve been lucky enough to know our guest for quite a long time. Philip Cornwel Smith is originally from the UK but made his way to Thailand in the nineties, quite by accident as many do. He started as the editor of a listings magazine, Bangkok Metro, authored and produced a Timeout Travel Guide to Bangkok and the Beaches, and then made a massive splash in 2005 with Very Thai. In it, he explored many, many quirky elements of Thai life and has since gone to become the ‘go to’ authority on Thainess, despite not being Thai himself. He joins us today from the UK. Welcome again Philip and thanks for making time for us.

Listen to Episode 111: Very Bangkok with Philip Cornwel Smith to hear Philip answer the following questions: 

  • You were last on our show in July 2015 to talk about your other book Very Thai on Episode 28, what have you been up to since then?
  • Before we get to Very Bangkok, has the success of Very Thai surprised you?
  • When did you first get the idea for Very Bangkok and why has it taken 14-years to get to print?
  • What can readers expect to learn from Very Bangkok that they didn’t experience in Very Thai?
  • The subtitle of Very Bangkok is ‘In The City of The Senses’, why did you choose that?
  • You broke the book into some pretty interesting sections: Senses, Heart, and Face; why did you choose those?
  • You also touch quite a number of times on the use of digital sensing and tools to understand the city. How did that come about? 
  • Bangkok is one of the world’s most visited and photographed cities, what do you think are some of the biggest surprises about the city that readers will discover with Very Bangkok? 
  • I found it really interesting that you mention a lack of Bangkok pride amongst its residents. Why is this?
  • You spend a fair bit of time in Bali now, what do you enjoy there that you don’t get when you’re here?
  • What’s next for you Philip?

You can sponsor anywhere from $1/month upwards. These funds will help us cover costs of keeping the show going. Visit PATREON TO DONATE TO THE SHOW or the link from the left-side of our website, or search Talk Travel Asia Patreon. Thanks in advance for supporting the cost and helping to keep the travel talk happening.

Links

Talk Travel Asia is brought to you by Trevor Ranges and Scott Coates, every two weeks(ish) from wherever in the Asia they happen to be. Alternating episodes feature a guest or the two hosts, cultivating travel insight through intelligent conversation. If you enjoyed the show, please donate, even just a dollar a month: that’s only .50c per episode(ish). 

PLEASE DONATE TO THE SHOW – we appreciate your support to keep the podcast happening (thanks)!

Liked it? Take a second to support Talk Travel Asia on Patreon!

Posted in: Blog, Events, Media, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

Evil O Podcast

Very Bangkok – Philip Cornwel-Smith in Conversation

The India-Thailand connection: “Very Bangkok” is Philip Cornwel-Smith’s long awaited follow-up to his iconic book “Very Thai”. A longtime cultural observer of all things in Thailand, Cornwel-Smith is keenly aware of a construct of “Thai-ness” that is often quite different to the experienced lives of Thai peoples within their own popular culture. Using a non-Western, non-categorical approach in his new book, he instead looks at popular Thai culture through a multitude of senses. In this rambling conversation he discusses the historical and cultural connections between India and Thailand, Hinduism and Buddhism in Thailand today, why Hinduism has become more popular in Thailand, and how sex and alternative sexual lifestyles are viewed in Thai culture.

https://youtu.be/30ewI0Kq9sM

Posted in: Blog, Media, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

Expique

Very Bangkok: Soaking In and Exploring The City of Senses

by Mae Rosukhon & Simon Philipp, co-founders, Expique tours, 15 May 2020Very

You’ve landed in Bangkok – and the smell hits you like a blast. It’s the heat, combined with food, grilled meats, frying chilli and basil, the flower garlands… mixed with traffic exhausts and dank canalways. Smell is the first sense to be assaulted by Bangkok, but certainly not the last. 

Sensing Bangkok may just be the best way to explore it. Why is the capital city of Thailand the way it is? This is the question Philip Cornwel-Smith, the author of Very Bangkok, has set out to answer. A follow-up to the highly-acclaimed Very Thai, his in-depth look at Thai popular culture, Very Bangkok is equally wide-ranging, and captures how Bangkok catches our senses, aware and unawares, delving beyond smell, taste and sound to explore other senses like space and flow, balance, and the heart of being Thai.

“Bangkok is a city with lots of preconceptions and projections,” said Cornwel-Smith at his book launch at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Bangkok (FCCT). “It’s known as the Land of Smiles, and its serene view of itself competes with a sensationalist view of the city.” Bangkok’s nightlife temptations are quite world-renowned but has tended to crowd out other stories of the city, such as of its creativity and design, he also noted.



This is a city that encompasses all and is multi-faceted, multi-tiered, full of charms and temptations, saturated with hues and diverse flavours. Bangkok’s face shows life, all walks of city life, on a rich and stimulating kaleidoscope. It’s no wonder your senses are overwhelmed, but Very Bangkok is the perfect companion to understanding why. And you can take Bangkok in at your own pace through its pages.


This is a guest post by Mae Rosukhon: Co-Founder of Random Thainess and Founder of  http://www.thelanguagebase.com/

Very Bangkok mentions Expique’s tours and translucent roofs in its chapter on Looking: Seeing is not believing – Come join our tours and see Bangkok for yourself!







Posted in: Blog, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

Mekong Review

Bangkok Days by Pim Wangtechawat

Vol 5, No 3, May–July 2020 

As someone born and raised in Bangkok, no matter how often I heard outsiders characterise the city a ‘bounty of sensory pleasures’, it always felt as though they were describing a place that didn’t exist. Despite its many mazes, its contrasting shades and sides, to me Bangkok is simply home, a place where you spend your life navigating the traffic, the humidity and the shopping malls. And the nature of home is that it remains the same. However it might feel to others, my Bangkok was stagnant, impervious to progress. And to live in it was to be bound by its sense of uniformity. 

I spent my childhood and teenage years feeling out of place in my own city and yearning to be somewhere else, to belong somewhere else. Other places in the world— whether it be London, Paris, Tokyo, Milan—all seemed rich and intoxicating in comparison. So whenever I heard visitors or friends from abroad rhapsodising about how much they ‘love Bangkok’, I always felt sceptical and detached from their positive sentiment. There are many things about being from Bangkok that these outsiders could never understand—especially the way life is lived here, which, as a young person, I find mundane and stifling. Unless you become an actor or a pop star, your entire ‘ordinary’ life is already laid out before you—a good education, a steady job, a steady income and then a family. 

When I first heard of Very Bangkok, Philip Cornwel- Smith’s follow-up to his popular book Very Thai, I felt similarly sceptical. What could a white Westerner tell me about my hometown that I didn’t already know? What could be gained from a book about Bangkok written in English and meant to be consumed largely by non- Thais? The experiment seemed both futile and clichéd. Would the book, like so many others about Thailand written by foreigners, be concerned with just the ‘touristy’ elements of Bangkok? If not, then how honest and nuanced could it be when it came to discussing what it’s truly like to be a Bangkokian? 

Yet as I started engaging with Very Bangkok, I
began to see that there might be some merit to having as its author someone who hasn’t, to quote author Lawrence Osborne in the book’s foreword, ‘absorbed unconsciously as a child’ the things which make Bangkok unique. By taking on the role of an outside observer, Cornwel-Smith is able to provide a more well-rounded view of Bangkok than a Bangkokian who’s lived in only one area of the city. An example of this is the section on Bangkok’s LGBT scene, which has long been unfairly aligned with the city’s seedy underbelly. ‘Bangkok is my church,’ drag artist Nuh Peace says. ‘In any other religion, if you are queer or different you’re out. But Bangkok accepts you how you are.’ 

True to its title, much of the book is devoted to Bangkok’s ‘sensory pleasures’, and to finding out the causes of the city’s ‘unexplained puzzles’. Filled with photographs of Bangkok and its people, Very Bangkok has three parts: ‘Senses’, ‘Heart’ and ‘Face’. Cornwel- Smith calls Bangkok ‘the world’s most primate city’ and is interested not in simply providing niche knowledge on various historical landmarks but in getting under the city’s skin and making sense of its DNA. Hence these musings, which almost turn Bangkok, a place of ‘very meaty spaces’, into a living, breathing character: ‘a city fretting about the future finds solace in orchestrating the past’, and ‘amnesiac Bangkok is recovering the gaps in its memory’. Many of the observations in Very Bangkok might not be the most flattering to this city of angels, but they are honest and important ones that many Thais haven’t dwelled on or even noticed, partly because they are so ingrained in us. 

Thailand’s class system, for example, has always been a harmful but rarely discussed element of our culture. Very Bangkok notes that both of Bangkok’s electric rail systems, the MRT and the BTS, are ‘off limits to the poor or those with meagre incomes’, with stations directly integrated into affluent shopping malls, unlike bus stops. Religion, too, is put under the microscope, with one of the book’s Thai contributors arguing that Thai religiosity ‘has more to do with nationalism … than philosophical aspects of religion’. Our reverence for seniority is also shown to be harmful, especially to the younger generations. ‘Youth movements require spaces and time’, writes Cornwel-Smith, ‘which are not just lacking, but deliberately curtailed.’ We’re seeing more and more of this as young people attempt to take a greater role in politics. 

The section of the book that I appreciate the most discusses Bangkok’s attitude towards sexuality. In the West, Thailand is often regarded as somewhere to have ‘a good time’, a phrase usually accompanied by a suggestive wink. But this perception of sexual liberation has always contrasted greatly with reality. To quote Cornwel-Smith, Bangkok is more ‘Sin City meets Prim City’. For many Bangkokians, public displays of affection between couples are unseemly; sex is not a topic that is openly or healthily discussed, either in schools or during one’s upbringing. The book also highlights that Thailand has the world’s second- highest rate of teen pregnancy, and that 44 per cent 

of men admitted to having assaulted their partners when drunk. Although Bangkok is perceived to be a bachelor’s paradise, many of its locals are actually living in a society which ‘frowns on female sexuality’. 

Where Very Bangkok could have done better, however, is in its preoccupation with defining ‘Thai-ness’ and ‘Bangkok-ness’. Certain statements from the author and non-Thai contributors—such as ‘for Bangkokians, nothing matters more than to ‘gain face’, for the self, this city, or the nation’, and ‘selfies are a way to get your face out there without fear of losing face’—come across as sweeping generalisations. The quote from Wayne Deakin, a Thailand-based British philosopher, that ‘Thai people are searching for identity’, is not far off the mark. But you can’t help reading it and wishing the conversation could have gone on longer, with more in-depth discussions of what might have caused this condition—perhaps with other contributors, especially those who are Thai, taking centre stage. Cornwel-Smith insists that his ‘status as an outsider is somewhat moot after twenty-five years of experience’. But would the book be different if there had been a native at the helm? 

The answer isn’t straightforward. Last year I moved to Edinburgh. Living in Europe, I’ve found that Bangkok has taken on another role in my life. In many ways, I am now both the outsider and the insider; while the city is still my home, being away from it has simultaneously deepened my appreciation for it and opened my eyes to many of its flaws. Like Cornwel-Smith, I have learned to dissect the city and tried to figure out what lies beneath, leading to questions about the way we’ve been conditioned to view the world and, as Bangkokians, each other: Why do I always get compliments on my pale skin? What is life like for Bangkokians whose ethnicity or sexual orientation differs from mine? Will things ever be better for women or those not born into wealth? 

But despite these flaws—and the city’s inability to address or confront them—I still find myself missing Bangkok. While I don’t miss the traffic or the humidity, I’ve found myself longing for small home comforts, mainly the food, the shopping malls, the language and the people. Now, whenever friends of mine from Europe or the United States ask for my advice on visiting Thailand, especially Bangkok, I encourage them to go. ‘It will be very different what you’re used to, though,’ I always tell them. ‘Different and overwhelming.’ But perhaps that’s what I’ve come to miss most about my city since I’ve been away: the overwhelming sameness of home. ☐ 

Pim Wangtechawat is a Thai writer based in Edinburgh 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

The Culture Trip

Stay Curious: Experience Bangkok From Your Living Room

by David Luekens, 27 March 2020

Culture Trip invites you to indulge in a spot of cloud tourism and experience the sights and sounds of a place without leaving home. Now, hop aboard our virtual tuk-tuk and let’s take a turn round Bangkok.

Bangkok is one of the world’s most widely visited cities, and foreign travellers can usually be found scooting around in tuk-tuks, feasting on street food and wandering through the temples and palaces.

Here are five ways to acquaint yourself with the Big Mango from the comfort of your own sofa. So why not prepare some Thai food, listen to some of Bangkokians’ favourite music to get you in the mood, and learn a few Thai phrases in preparation for going there IRL. Read on and you’ll get an idea of some of the energy that normally pulses through Bangkok.

Read and learn

Introduce yourself to the Thai capital’s quirkiness with a look through Very Bangkok (2016) by Philip Cornwel-Smith. It’s a follow-up to his similarly captivating Very Thai (2005), with both of these works honing in on the details that give the Thai capital a character found nowhere else. They share the pop culture, superstitions and unexpected style of everyday Bangkok and Thailand. Book stays and experiences,
hand-picked by our travel experts.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

Khao Sod English

British Author’s ‘Very Bangkok’ Deftly Dissects Thai Capital

Very Bangkok reviewed by Teeranai Boonbandit, March 5, 2020

BANGKOK — Why do Bangkokians love malls so much and why do they call some Western tourists “bird shit Whiteys?”

These answers can be found in in farang Thai expert Philip Cornwel-Smith’s new book “Very Bangkok,” something between a tourist guidebook and an anthropological encyclopedia. At a recent book launch, Cornwel-Smith said he wants to hold up a krajok hok dan, or six-sided mirror, to the city of eight million.

The term, he noted, was first coined by Luang Phor Toh, a widely-revered monk who is believed to have exorcised the vengeful spirit of Mae Nak who allegedly haunted the community of Phra Khanong.

“We tend to look at a mirror to see our faces reflected back. This prioritizes the face, which is extremely important in this culture,” the British author said. “But Luang Phor Toh conceives that we should consider a sixsided mirror, where all around us are ways of reflecting on our lives and what is happening around us.”

Like a hexagonal mirror, “Very Bangkok: In the City of the Senses” invites readers to not only feel the city with the basic senses such as touch, taste, or smell – but also the phenomena he deemed unique to Bangkok such as the city’s erratic flow of movement.

The first of the three large sections, “Senses” makes up the bulk of the book. 

“This city is pretty wild in the way everything is moving around without an order,” Cornwel-Smith said. “Directions tend to be based on personal landmarks or things that are familiar. There are even three centers of the city to choose from, as different organizations use different places for their kilometer zero.”

But it’s not only the obvious senses that are being discussed in the book, it also includes invisible, undesirable, and supernatural domains.

“The sixth sense is very visible in Bangkok,” Cornwel-Smith said. “There’s a very big subculture of trance in Bangkok as well. It’s not what the authorities are trying to promote particularly, but you would see it happening at a Hindu temple on Silom Road and the vegetarian festival at Chinatown.”

Of course, with all the uncanny sensations that bombard Bangkokians everyday, it seems that they can find an oasis right in front of almost every soi: chains of convenience stores and shopping malls.

And contrary to the popular narrative in Western media that malls “drain the life” out of the city, Cornwel-Smith said he understands why they are popular among Thais.

“I personally think that one of their appeals is that they are cold, very bland, and neutral, offering a relief before we go back out into all of these sensory stimulations,” he said.

And to answer the other question posed at the beginning of this article, Cornwel-Smith explains in the “Backpackers” chapter that “farang kii nok” or bird shit Whitey, is a term Bangkokians reserve for “backpackers who grow blond dreadlocks, bargain too low, pair batik pantaloons with a tie-die vest, and reek of patchouli.”

“Heart” digs into societies and subcultures that make up the city’s melting pot (the “Stir-Fry” section is dedicated to the Sino-Thai). “Face” deconstructs different portrayals of Bangkok, whether they are official (“Project Singapore”), notorious (“Tourist Trappings”), and popular (“Bladerunneresque”).

Cornwell-Smith, who has lived in Thailand 26 years, described his latest work as a “distant cousin” to his first book, “Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture.”

Published in 2005, “Very Thai” has since become one of the best-selling coffee table books about Thailand, thanks to its well-researched effort to define “Thainess” through ordinary and everyday phenomena.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

Bangkok Post (Very Bangkok)

A love letter to a city in flux

Very Bangkok reviewed by Chris Baker, 21 Feb 2020

Philip Cornwel-Smith’s treatise on Bangkok is thoughtful, compelling and affectionate Very Thai (2005) was about things. About teasing the meaning of Thai out of objects and signs, ranging from the sublime symbolism of Thai design to the question why the paper napkins in all everyday Thai eateries were pink in colour and stupidly small in size.

Philip Cornwel-Smith’s long-awaited sequel is very different. It is entirely about people. The physical city is a backdrop to its residents, sojourners and visitors. Though Bangkok is a subset of Thai, this book is bigger and weightier. The author and his assistants have talked to lots of people — from artists to administrators, from visitors to vendors, from the enthusiastic to the appalled.

The author’s personal biases are clear to see. There is scarcely a page that does not circle back to food, music or the creative fringe, while the temples that crowd the tourist guidebooks appear only if they host an art installation. But the coverage is remarkable for its range and its depth. There’s a lovely page on blossom. Very Bangkok is serious, thought-provoking, and fun.

As a subject, Bangkok is a problem because it does not stand still. Over the couple of decades of this book’s gestation, the city has probably doubled in size and changed radically in culture. Before the millennium, it still had a private, parochial, self-absorbed feel. Now it is a global city, transformed by the falling cost of travel, by the quiet relaxation of restrictions on foreigners after the 1997 crisis, by the massive promotion of tourism and by the confidence of a new Thai generation to welcome the world. Apart from anything else, this book tracks the transition from parochial to global beautifully.

The book is organised into three sections, labelled Senses, Heart and Face. Senses records the city as experienced by its residents and visitors, starting with the assault on the nose, ranging from tropical flora to pitiful waste disposal. It moves on to the sense of space in the chaos contrived by weak government, resistance to any kind of planning, serendipitous architecture and catastrophically inadequate public infrastructure, especially for transport.

Bangkok is a mess and “development” has only turned it into a bigger mess. But mess can be fun. The new floating and semi-floating population of outsiders, mostly quite young and quite wealthy, have recreated Bangkok as a playground with a focus on food, music and nightlife. A generation of Thais borne up by the pre-1997 boom have happily joined in, rekindling the sense of sanook which had seemed on the wane.

The second section, Heart, presents a catalogue of the city’s extraordinary ethnic diversity. During the violent 20th century, Bangkok offered refuge for all kinds of groups who lost out in the Great Nationalisation. Since the 1960s, the city has sucked in labour from the provinces, especially the Northeast, and from neighbouring countries, especially Myanmar.

The big story has been the rise of the Chinese. They have been a major part of the demography and dominant in the economy since the city’s early years, but were culturally and politically restrained by narrow nationalism and powerful bureaucracy. Since the 1990s, driven by the community’s wealth and the rise of China, they have shucked off those restraints and made their mark on everything from food to language to tastes in looks and architecture.

In parallel, the old communities in the city centre have been gradually eroded by the logic of the real estate market, the susceptibility of timber to rot, and the changes in taste, technology and lifestyle. Cornwel-Smith captures this elegantly in a description of the last few craftsmen who make monks’ alms bowls in the traditional way. The brutal destruction of the Mahakan Fort community was a symbol and a turning point. Cornwel-Smith wonders aloud what “Thai” means when its physical expression is being destroyed, and what remains is being museumised by officialdom, the tourist industry and Big Retail in projects like Iconsiam.

In the final section on Face, the background theme is the struggle over the city’s future, a struggle between order and chaos, between authoritarianism and the freedom to be creative. On the side of order is the middle class, which idealises Singapore as a model, the bureaucracy which wants to impose rules and the military politicians who like telling people what to do. On the side of chaos is the new generation which grew up in a globalising Bangkok and who have come to enjoy its freedoms and opportunities. On this side too is the new floating population, and most of the tourists, who told the shocked Tourist Authority through a survey that what they come for is the chaos.

In the backwash of the 1997 crisis, which temporarily loosened the grip of both big government and big business, there was an outpouring of creative energy in an “indie” movement of creative crafts, fashion design, music festivals and hipster markets. Though authority returned with a thump, the momentum of this movement has survived.

With Bangkok now so open to the world, the guardians of the national culture are worried over the city’s “face”. But the portrayal of Bangkok has slipped out of their control. Twenty years ago, critical novels and memoirs about Bangkok could be counted on a pair of hands. Now you could fill the wall of a bookshop. The authors include Thais writing in both Thai and English, along with foreigners from all over. As Cornwel-Smith records in great detail, the trend in film, creative arts, music and humour is much the same.

Towards the end, Cornwel-Smith waxes optimistic, raising the possibility that the projects to be completed by the city’s 250th anniversary in 2032 will make the city more liveable by tapping the creative talent which he documents, and by listening to what the city’s residents want. But a page later, he wonders whether by then the city will be slipping under rising sea levels from global warming.

Very Bangkok is crammed with information, but delivered like a friend in an informal chat rather than a teacher with a script. This tone invites readers to think about Bangkok but also about cities in general and especially about the new breed of Global City. Cornwel-Smith is clearly on the side of “messy urbanism”. He lives here because he loves it. What comes across, and what makes this a great book, is that love.

https://www.bangkokpost.com/life/arts-and-entertainment/1862459/a-love-letter-to-a-city-in-flux

Posted in: Blog, Reviews, Very Bangkok,

Tags:

Invisible Things

Exhibition co-curated by Very Thai author opens in TCDC Bangkok.

The exhibition Philip Cornwel-Smith co-curated, Invisible Things, will open in TCDC Bangkok after its successful first run in TCDC Chiang Mai last cool season. 

The show revolves around everyday objects of the kind found in Very Thai that are so familiar they go unnoticed. Yet because they are so accepted, they tell us a lot about cultural values. 

In a cross-cultural contrast, we chose 25 Thai and 25 German objects, along with videos and photographs of everyday life. The Thai photography is by Dow Wasiksiri

Philip and his co-curators Martin Rendel and Piboon Amornjiraporn will join a panel talk at the opening in June 13. The show will run at the Grand Post Office Building in the Charoenkrung Creative District from June 14-September 15. See you there – or be Invisible… #tcdc #invisiblethings#creativedistrict #verythai #verybangkok

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #Germany 

Bangkok Waits for Rain

Landmark new novel launched in Bangkok, moderated by Very Thai author.

We have long awaited the existence of a “Great Bangkok Novel”, but now we have a candidate. The Thailand launch of the brilliant new multi-era novel ‘Bangkok Wakes To Rain’ was held at Open House in Central Embassy, Bangkok, on June 2, 2019. The author Pitchaya Sudbantad read an excerpt from the novel, which spans many eras, from the distant past to two stages in the future, with a big cast of characters tied by the thread of a house. Pitchaya was then in conversation with moderator Philip Cornwel-Smith about the book’s themes and impact, before the floor opened to questions from the high-calibre audience of media and cultural influencers. It was such a success that all stock of the book sold out.

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #fiction #literature #novel 

Art4D (on impact of book)

Review post on Facebook by Art4D editor.

Since the first edition of Very Thai was published in 2005, the book has become influential to a great number of people in the design industry. Perspectives have been broadened as many take a different look at everyday objects in the city they live in. The mundaneness has been given new values. But in an even bigger picture, the term ‘Very Thai’ has become a description that people use to express quintessential Thai characteristics of an objects, place or to define certain behaviors. To us.’very Thai’ is like a ‘grey area’, it doesn’t always denote the notion of ‘greatness’ conventionally defined by the state. At the same time, it doesn’t necessarily possess any meanings that are entirely ‘negative’.

art4d had a chance to sit down with Philip Cornwel-Smith, the author of both the editions of Very Thai that was released respectively in 2005 and 2013. We were interested in what he had witnessed throughout his 25 years of living in Thailand. Our conversation jumps from a recollection of Bangkok before the birth of Very Thai, to his observations on ‘Thainess’ all the way to the ‘self’ of the city such as Bangkok.

Originally published in the supplement of art4d No. 266. Meet art4d at the Architect’19 at F205-1, 10th post. Until May 5th 2019 at Challenger Hall 1-3, Impact Muang Thong Thani

Read on art4d.com/2019/05/looking-through-very-thai
_

Interview by piyapong bhumichitra / Kanokwan Trakulyingcharoen / paphop kerdsup
Photo: Ketsiree Wongwan 

#art4dREAD #art4d

art4d READ : Looking Through Very Thai

หลังจากที่ Very Thai ฉบับแรกถูกตีพิมพ์ในปี 2005หนังสือเล่มนี้ได้ส่งอิทธิพลต่อคนในอุตสาหกรรมสร้างสรรค์ไม่น้อย มันเปิดมุมมองให้ผู้คนได้มองสิ่งของในเมืองต่างไปจากเดิมและให้คุณค่ากับสิ่งเหล่านั้นมากขึ้น ในภาพที่กว้างกว่านั้น คำว่า Very Thai กลายมาเป็นคำที่คนทั่วไปนำมาใช้เรียก สิ่งของ / กริยา / พื้นที่ประเภทหนึ่งที่ “ไทย” มากๆ เราคิดว่าคำว่า “ไทยมากๆ” มีความหมายเทาๆ เพราะมันไม่ได้หมายถึง “ความดีงาม” แบบเดียวกันกับความเป็นไทยที่รัฐสถาปนาขึ้นมา แต่มันก็ไม่ได้มีความหมายในแง่ลบแต่อย่างใด
art4d มีโอกาสได้สัมภาษณ์ Philip Cornwel-Smith ผู้เขียน Very Thai ทั้งสองฉบับที่ตีพิมพ์ในปี 2005และ 2013 ถึงสิ่งที่เขาเห็นตลอดระยะเวลา 25 ปี ที่เข้ามาใช้ชีวิตอยู่ในประเทศไทย ตั้งแต่การย้อนกลับไปพูดถึงบรรยากาศในกรุงเทพฯ ก่อนและหลังการตีพิมพ์ Very Thai ทั้งสองฉบับ ข้อสังเกตของเขาต่อคำว่า“ความเป็นไทย” ไปจนถึงตัวตนของเมืองกรุงเทพฯ เอง
บทสัมภาษณ์จากหนังสือเล่มเล็กที่มาพร้อมกับart4dเล่มที่ 266 สามารถหาซื้อได้ใน งานสถาปนิก’62 ระหว่างวันที่ 30 เมษายน – 5 พฤษภาคม 2562ที่ชาเลนเจอร์ฮอลล์ อิมแพ็คเมืองทองธานี (พิกัด: art4d ตำแหน่ง F205-1เสาต้นที่ 19)

อ่านได้ทาง art4d.com/2019/05/looking-through-very-thai

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags:

Art4D (interview)

Looking Through Very Thai

Art4D magazine interview supplement explains beyond the book.

An interview Philip Cornwel-Smith did with the architecture and design magazine Art4D on his 25th anniversary in Bangkok they turned into a free 32-page colour booklet! In both English and Thai, it goes into depth about the book and its effects, and probes his thoughts about Bangkok city for their issue theme of ‘Urban Reflections.’ It is an experimental new format for Art 4D, so thanks to the Art4D team for your generosity. It was great working with you. #verythai #verybangkok

For the full interview in English and Thai, please go to:

http://art4d.com/2019/05/looking-through-very-thai?fbclid=IwAR2Awh3TbNToEIAZjRMf-nXpT8fShX2vHDLxrE-XMUopOwjL4nfq6RlsLoA

All pictures courtesy Art4D

Posted in: about the book, Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #art4D #behindthescenes #supplement 

City Life

Very Observant

An interview with Very Thai author, Philip Cornwel-Smith, In Chiang Mai’s City Life magazine.

Exactly 25 years to the month since he first visited Chiang Mai, before settling in Bangkok, Philip was interviewed by City Life editor Pim Kemasinki, who did her first paid writing two decades ago for the magazine Philip was editing, Bangkok Metro.

“Thais are not allowed to have fun with traditions,” said Philip Cornwel-Smith, author of the wildly successful book on Thai popular culture, Very Thai, now in its 10th printing and second edition. “It is very difficult to go against the master template, so Thais have always got their novelty from bringing in things from the outside. Being very receptive to imports, Thais have fun with it. God forbid you have fun with traditions!’

Philip has a knack of saying something obvious, or seeing something interesting, that hadn’t been said nor seen before. Which is why his book, published in 2005 (and seen prominently displayed in every bookshop nationwide ever since), took the country by storm. Here was this Englishman showing us Thais an embarrassment of cultural riches that had previously gone unappreciated. It was discombobulating, inspiring, empowering and most of all sanuk.

Having studied word history at Sheffield University, where the focus was less on wars and nation building, and more on culture, invention, religion and other such factors that build and destroy nations, followed by years working for Time Out London, Philip had a solid background in looking at culture from different perspectives. Serendipitously, on a layover in Bangkok on the way back from Australia in 1994, he was asked to start Bangkok’s first city listings magazine, Bangkok Metro, which would a focus on popular culture.

“Within four days of being in Bangkok I found myself editor of a city mag which soon had 1,000 listings,” said Philip. “People were instantly shocked to learn of so much variety in the city. The transport problems in those days meant that it took two hours to travel from Ekamai to Lumpini, so most people didn’t venture far out of their five or six known areas. But when they saw in Metro how many things were going on, they began to venture further. The mag was all about pop culture. I was coming at it with outside eyes, but it didn’t take long to become a semi-insider. With my background, I had a view that popular culture is an attraction that people would travel for. Up to that point it wasn’t treated with the seriousness of formal culture; there was shame associated with street life that city-sophisticates were embarrassed by.”

As not just an observer, but an influencer of Bangkok’s pop culture, by the time Philip left Metro in 2002 he had begun to put down thoughts and ideas that would eventually come together in Very Thai.

“I’d become fascinated by then-obscure things such as the ecology of the streets,” Philip explained of how his book came about. “In Thailand so many things are to do with rice and monsoon cycles, and this explains so much about the people, especially the need for village communities to develop in a reciprocally helpful way. This value was brought to the streets of Bangkok with the mass migration of rural people into the city. The co-op ethic is vastly different from the formal bourgeois attitude of the urban people: open shop houses, street vendors looking after one another’s stalls and even kids, motorbike taxis being socially helpful by directing traffic, running after thieves and delivering packages. It is a reciprocal village value but in the big city, which gives Bangkok a warm charm you don’t get inside the malls.”

“I wrote the book thinking there would be a market amongst expats like me,” he continued. “But I was as surprised as anyone at the massive splash the book made. Immediately the biggest and most loyal fan base became the young Thai Indies in the creative industry. I have been told that the book was almost definitive for them; they had been aware of these things, but because pop culture wasn’t treated seriously, they weren’t legitimate topics to work with. Suddenly low culture was put into a high culture format — an illustrated hard cover book — it was like putting something lowly on a high-status plinth. It suddenly legitimised these things and opened them up for exploration.”

Very Thai asked questions and attempted to offer explanations for such random and obvious things as the Thai sniff-kiss, why Thais use those ubiquitous thin pink napkins, why motorbike taxis wear different coloured vests, and what’s up with all the neon lights?

“A lot of these things soon became cultural signifiers,” said Philip. “The idea that middle class Thais would go around taking photos of street vendor carts was absurd until the book came out. Today you have places like Plearnwan in Hua Hin which is a virtual theme park for such streetlife. What was interesting to me was that none of it was wholly traditional and none of it was modern. It was all hybrid. Look at the neo-classical architecture of shop houses, or the vehicles decked out in auspicious décor. Tuk tuks were originally Italian, then Japanese, but even though 34 countries around the world use the tuk tuk, they are very Thai. They used to have words such as Daihatsu on them, but after the 1997 crash they started having ‘Thailand’ emblazoned on the back with red, white and blue colours. If you really look at them, they are a short stubby vehicle, but with a real elegance, because they use ancient forms and lines of oxcarts and long tailed boats.

Thailand saw such great change between the end of the Second World War and the early 2000s. It wasn’t a slow cultural change; it was a deluge. This led to a lot of impromptu solutions to things. Especially with the low income people – they began to jury-rig things, and do a lot of improv. This led to a great amount of creativity. You can see this clearly when thinking of the Thai temple fairs. It is little known that they came about when Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, in the 1950s, promoted them as a way to bring modernity to rural villages. Technology, modern medicine, outdoor cinema propaganda, these were all introduced, as a national policy, through temple fairs. People would then localise them to their own tastes. I have noticed that there are a lot of taboos about updating traditions, but Thais have a natural sense of fun and creativity, so they played around with new and modern imports. It’s quite interesting to see how, whatever the authorities do, simply becomes less fun!”

From observing pop culture phenomena, Philip has just about turned into one himself, with fans of the book sometimes asking to take selfies with him. Very Thai has been subject of numerous artworks and exhibitions and Philip is a frequent guest lecturer at various universities. One designer wrote recently on Facebook, “The defining moments for me as a Thai designer, both in was the mid-2000s. were the discovery of the book Very Thai, and visiting the Isaan Retrospective exhibition at TCDC.”

Which brings us to why we have chosen now to interview Philip who, until the end of this month, will be co-curating a fascinating little exhibition at TCDC Chiang Mai called Invisible Things. Together with TCDC and the Goethe Institute Bangkok, Philip and exhibition designer Piboon Amornjiraporn put together a collection of 25 everyday items which ‘we take for granted and no longer perceive, but which in fact influence our consumer behaviour’, according to the exhibition’s booklet. The selection of Thai objects echo a collection of German objects on the other side of the room, curated by Martin Rendel, which are on a tour which started in China.

Displayed are packets of mama found in every single Thai household, the largely unnoticed dragon jars sitting in nearly every garden, the sin sai white strings used in a bewildering number of ways from house blessing ceremonies to greeting a guest, and the omnipresent fisherman pants which Philip describes as Thai to the core, “Many cultures have some kind of wrapping trousers,” explains Philip. “Yet it is known internationally as a Thai thing. I find it very Thai because it is extremely flexible and adaptable, infinitely expandable and practical. It represents Thainess internationally.”

“One classic example of an invisible thing is the red Fanta bottle. Interestingly Thais prefer drinking green Fanta, yet millions of red Fanta bottles are left open on alters, shrines and spirit houses nationwide. Next to flowers and incense they are probably the most common offering. There is no definitive explanation for this so I called my spirit medium friend — as you do in Thailand — and was told that the red represents blood which the low spirits, the demons, like. Other people say it’s simply because the bottles are sturdy and don’t blow over or that spirits want modern pop drinks too. Whatever the reason, they are found everywhere, even by the feet of the Yaksha giants at Suvarnaphumi Airport!”

Philip went on to offer a warning, however, that the era of localising imports into Thainess is nigh. “With modern communication you can get everything instantly. We are no longer a decade behind Milan in terms of fashion, because of YouTube. There is no delay in knowledge getting to Thailand. People want objects in their purest forms and they can both afford them and have them immediately — whether a Samsung tablet or a handbag. Every culture is a hybrid to some degree, but the whole world is facing unrelenting sameness. Because of the ability of digital technology, innovation isn’t happening as much in the physical form. It’s shifted into a different realm, one that’s not tactile. Whereas you used to improvise and create a hybrid, now you just get the thing you need to do the job. It’s samey everywhere. Invisible things are becoming visible.”

Invisible Things Exhibition
at TCDC Chiang Mai
Open 10.30am – 8pm
Tel. 081 833 4566
Until the end of February

Posted in: Article, Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #Germany 

Bangkok Art Biennale Symposium

 

Very Thai author Philip Cornwel-Smith will take part in a panel discussion in the symposium for the 1st Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB) on 28 January 2019.

He also wrote an essay in the official BAB catalogue book, ‘Scary Monsters & Super Happy Art’, which touches upon the influence of popular culture as an increasing subject matter of Thai art.

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #academic #art #Bangkok #culture #events #exhibitions #international #photography #popularculture #talks 

Saran Yen Panya

“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

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #design #exhibitions #popularculture  #Thailand 

World in Motion: Bangkok

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.

http://www.bangkokdesignweek.com/bkkdw/program/4290

Posted in: Blog, Events, Media,

Tags: #art #Bangkok #culture #design #documentaries #events #festivals #interviews #talks #tcdc #Thailand #video 

Invisible Things

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.

   

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #ChiangMai #design #events #exhibitions #Lanna #popularculture #streetlife #Thailand 

Thai Pop Icons: Mysteries & Masterkeys

BNH Hospital, Bangkok

VT Talk BNH Thai Cliches 13-0205 title

Keynote talk by Philip Cornwel-Smith on ‘Thai Pop Icons: Mysteries & Masterkeys’ to an audience of new arrival expatriates in Bangkok. The event is hosted by BNH and held in BNH Hospital.

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #culture #events #expatriates #medical tourism #popularculture #streetlife #talks #Thailand 

Thai Pop Icons: Mysteries & Masterkeys

BNH Hospital, Bangkok

VT Talk BNH Thai Cliches 13-0205 title

Keynote talk by Philip Cornwel-Smith on ‘Thai Pop Icons: Mysteries & Masterkeys’ to an audience of new arrival expatriates in Bangkok. The event is hosted by BNH and held in BNH Hospital.

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #culture #events #expatriates #medical tourism #popularculture #streetlife #talks #Thailand 

Bangkok’s Street Food Future

Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand

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

Posted in: Blog, Events, Media,

Tags: #Bangkok #culture #events #FCCT #food #streetlife #Thailand #tourism #tradition 

Rice/Potato

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,-)

10 Thailand souvenirs that don’t suck

 

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #endorsements #reviews 

Very Thai book updated for 2017

 

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.

Posted in: about the book, Blog,

Tags: #Bangkok #blogs #book #Thailand 

Thailand Expat Writers List (Inclusion)

by Paul Dorsey

Philip Cornwel-Smith and ‘Very Thai’ feature on this comprehensive Facebook list of all books about Thailand by expatriate authors.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/358162037876931/

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #academic #Bangkok #blogs #book #reviews #Thailand #website 

Smiling Albino

Very Thai Thai: How Pop Became Heritage:

Philip gave a talk to the guides and staff of tailored travel agency Smiling Albino at their Ramkhamhaeng HQ in Bangkok. The monochrome theme marked the mourning period for King Bhumibol.

Posted in: Blog,

Tags: #popularculture #streetlife #talks #Thai language #Thailand #tradition 

Waterfront Cities of the World: Bangkok

In this Canadian documentary about Bangkok, Philip Cornwel-Smith is interviewed about transportation, as he is filmed taking six moves of transit as the quickest route across town.

 

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Media,

Tags: #Bangkok #Canadian #culture #documentaries #French #international #interviews #Thailand #tourism #transport 

Soroptimists Bangkok talk

Very Thai Thai: How Pop Became Heritage:

Philip gave a talk to the Soroptimists Bangkok at the Grand Hyatt Erawan hotel. The monochrome theme marked the mourning period for King Bhumibol.

Posted in: Blog,

Tags: #culture #events #popularculture #Thai language #Thailand #tradition 

Finding Bangkok’s Creative Edge

A Very Thai live event in Bangkok’s ‘new’ old town.
by Philip Cornwel-Smith

Finding Bangkok’s Creative Edge

Bangkok experienced a new kind of festival over the middle weekend of February – an “ideas festival”. BangkokEdge combined diverse threads into an unusual mix: literary talks, city forums, lifestyle workshops, outdoor films, food trucks and big-name Thai singers. In this downcast period, thousands of Bangkokians relished the intelligent entertainment and cultural sophistication in a scene dominated by lowbrow commercial pop. It was such a success that BangkokEdge 2 is being planned for next year.

The festival’s name reflects its progressive tone. The talks had real substance, with edge. Hyeonseo Lee relived her escape from North Korea. Jung Chang spoke about the bans on her memoir Wild Swans and biography of Mao. Duangrit Bunnag’s provocative vision for a creative city, Bangkok Manifesto, drew cheers from a hall packed with young Thais. Panels discussed the threats to rivers and communities, the geo-poltitics of the new Asia, changes in Burma, and whether Bangkok really is a gay paradise or not.

Bangkok Manifesto

Duangrit Bunnag announcing his ‘Bangkok Manifesto’ at Bangkok Edge

There was a focus on contemporary culture too. Edge is located is in the historic old city, on a riverside that is reviving into a creative district. The bands (headlined by Hugo, Palmy, Ornaree, Lek Greasy Cafe) were indy. We got to hear Kevin Kwan discuss his hi-so hit Crazy Rich Asians; thriller novelists John Burdett and Christopher Moore debate the rise of Bangkok Noir; and Veraporn Nitiprapha dissect her SEAWrite-winning novel ‘Blind Earthworm in a Labyrinth’.

Veeraporn Jung Chang_1

SEAWrite Award-winning author Veeraporn Nitiprapha, and Jung Chang, bestselling author of ‘Wild Swans’

A panel called ‘Bangkok’s Leading Edge’ explored Thai subcultures with three leading Thai creatives [disclosure: I was moderator]. Graffiti artist Alex Face spoke on street art, director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee on indie films, and nightlife impresario Pongsuang ‘Note’ Kunprasop on the rise of Thai fashion sense as seen from the DJ booth at his Dudesweet party nights.

Bangkok Leading Edge_1

Alex Face describing his graffiti with film director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee and Dudesweet party organiser Pongsuang ‘Note’ Kunprasop, moderated by Philip Cornwel-Smith

The festival founder, Mom Ratchawang Narisa Chakrabongse, comes from a literary background, as the publisher of River Books. She wanted to launch a writers festival in Bangkok, but the format hasn’t taken off here, despite a couple of low-key attempts like two WordPlay festivals at the Neilson Hays Library. The secret to BangkokEdge is that she conceived it not as “literary” but as an “ideas festival”.

Ideas do matter in Thai society, but it has traditionally been an oral culture, less focused on the written word. Even in the modern era that remains largely true. Historically, Thai books tended to be manuals: how-to guides in ritual, medical, farming, or some other practical need. Manuals still rule Bangkok bookshelves today, whether business, education, language, cookery, decor or guidebooks. The other historical format was graphic. The murals, banners and illustrated folding books of scripture and epic poems were essentially panel cartoons – and illustration still flourishes in comics, travelogues, cute indy pocketbooks and social media.

The festival format was also styled to appeal to Thai ways. “We staged Bangkok Edge as a ‘contemporary temple fair’,” says Narisa. “Many things are going on at the same time, so people can browse around and choose what appeals to them. Some may go for the talk, others for the music, or the films, or for the food. We have lots of things to nourish different interests.”

HugoPalmy

Pop stars Hugo and Palmy headlined at Bangkok Edge

Veterans of film, arts and literary festivals are familiar with the fact that you can’t see all the talks, workshops, and other events. This was frustrating to some, but is unavoidable if a festival is to have diversity and buzz. Most of the Thai language programs were strung in a series at one venue. In the end, several sessions ended up bilingual. No matter: the talks and concerts have been uploaded to YouTube.

Among workshops on book design with Xavier Comas and crowdfunding with Jay Montonn, were cooking demonstrations. Chef Bo of Bo.lan and Err explained the essentials of Thai curry paste, while Robert Carmack and Morrison Polkinghorne, authors of ‘The Burma Cookbook’, demonstrated piquant recipes from Myanmar.

Burma Cookbook

Morrison Polkinghorne and Robert Carmack of Globetrotting Gourmet food tours demonstrated recipes from ‘The Burma Cookbook’

In between talks and workshops, festival-goers could mill around the site and grab lunch, drinks or snacks from the many food trucks and vendor carts set up along Maharat Road and in the MuseumSiam grounds. There were also stalls selling books, clothing, design items and ecological products in the vein of Bangkok’s pop-up market phenomenon.

A “chill pass” (B500 for the weekend) gave access to relax in the riverside grounds and beer garden of Chakrabongse Palace, with tours to the house being a hot ticket. To mark the fact that Saturday was Valentines Day, a live chat session on the music stage covered stories about how couples met, hosted by Hana Tassanawalai, wife of Hugo Chakrabongse.

The organisers had expected a few thousand visitors, figuring it was an untested concept, located in the old town, and would appeal to niche groups. The response was astonishing. The first day 17,000 people turned up, plus 12,000 on the Sunday. Evidently Bangkok relished having such an event.

“I just love that there’s a festival specially about my own city,” said Somporn, 27, who attended sessions on gentrification and about the river. Many gave feedback that they were especially pleased to have a festival about their city, where they could hear independent experts talk about issues that matter to them, and have the chance to question the speakers.

This runaway success encouraged the organisers to plan BangkokEdge2 on 4-5 February 2017. It will be held at the same venues, and with even more attractions planned for the weekend. Like its logo bridging Bangkok’s old and new skylines, the festival straddled the tensions between traditional and contemporary. Now with its own dedicated annual festival, Bangkok has another way to keep its edge.

This article was first posted in Bangkok 101 magazine’s website.

 

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #Bangkok #culture #e-magazine #events #exhibitions #music #popularculture 

Liquid Bangkok

Very Thai author joins up with Smiling Albino to research a Very Thai-style river adventure with boutique travel agency Smiling Albino called Liquid Bangkok.

Posted in: Blog, Media,

Tags: #Bangkok #talks #Thailand #tourism #video 

Pop Culture talk at Bangkok Edge Festival

Layout 2

Thailand’s first ‘Ideas Festival’, Bangkok Edge, will feature talks, workshops, music, film, tours and an exhibition, along with food and other entertainment on Feb 13-14, 2016.

On Feb 14 at 1-2pm, Very Thai author Philip Cornwel-Smith will host one of the panel discussions, ‘Where is Bangkok’s Leading Edge‘, with three Thai figures who are moving the culture forward. the talk will be at the Rachini School venue in the Tha Tien festival enclave.

Philip will look at how Thai trends emerge, become hip and then get accepted into the mainstream.

Pongsuang ‘Note’ Kunprasop the founder of Dudesweet nightlife theme party phenomenon will discuss changing fashion in the context of music.

Kongdej Jaturanrassmee, the film director of Tang Wong and Snap, among other acclaimed films, will look at the situation of art film in Thailand.

Alex Face, one of Thailand’s most prominent graffiti artists, gives his take on creating artistic space in public view.

 

http://www.bangkokedge.com

https://www.facebook.com/bangkokedge/?fref=ts

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #academic #art #Bangkok #culture #events #fashion #film #graffiti #music #nightlife #talks 

Bangkok Edge festival schedule

Here is the full schedule of Bangkok Edge, Thailand’s first Ideas Festival.

Among all the talks and events, look out for Very Thai author Philip Cornwel-Smith, who will head a panel on the ‘leading edge’ of Bangkok’s popular culture on Sunday Feb 14 at 1-pm.

Leaflet1 music eng sat-eng sun-eng

For details see:

http://www.bangkokedge.com

https://www.facebook.com/bangkokedge/?fref=ts

 

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #academic #Bangkok #culture #events #festivals #international #music #talks #Thailand 

Exhibiting the Overlooked

 

Embracing Thai Popular Culture as Heritage

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 2.11.14 PM

National Museum Volunteers Lecture series talk by Philip Cornwel-Smith about how popular culture artefacts have eventually come to be displayed, exhibited and treated as a serious aspect of Thai culture.

At the National Museum on Thursday morning of Nov 26, 2016, following a talk by Steve Van Beek on Thailand’s water culture.

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #academic #culture #events #musuems #popularculture #talks #Thailand 

TalkTravelAsia Podcasts

Podcast about Very Thai

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 5.24.41 PM

 

‘Very Thai’ continues to spark media coverage. The latest is a podcast on TalkTravelAsia. The podcast is an interview with author Philip Cornwel-Smith by journalist Trevor Ranges and Scott Coates, who was co-founder of the bespoke travel agency Smiling Albino.

The podcast is available through the following channels:

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/talktravelasia/talk-travel-asia-episode-28-very-thai-with-philip-cornwel-smith

iTunes: https://soundcloud.com/talktravelasia/talk-travel-asia-episode-28-very-thai-with-philip-cornwel-smith

TalkTravelAsia website: http://talktravelasia.com/2015/07/15/episode-28-very-thailand-with-philip-cornwel-smith/

Twitter: @TalkTravelAsia

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 5.23.09 PM

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 5.23.33 PM

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 5.23.49 PM

 

Posted in: about the book, Blog, Events, Media,

Tags: #Bangkok #culture #interviews #podcast #Thailand #website 

TCDC: Very Thai Cultural Filters

How Hybrids Preserve and Project a Sense of Thainess

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 1.18.15 PM

https://youtu.be/Kfp32Km69xU

My talk on the cultural filters involved in Thai design is now viewable online at You Tube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kfp32Km69xU&feature=youtu.be

As part of the TCDC exhibition ‘hello World’, Philip Cornwel-Smith gives a talk today at TCDC on 8 March 2014. Called ’Very Thai Cultural Filters: How Hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess’, the talk goes into the ways that Thais are selective about what they import and adapt into hybrids.

Various Thai values, tastes and taboos act as filters to let in only part of the import while screening out aspects that don’t suit. This leads the talk to consider what cultural filters are needed in order to create designs, products and services that can appeal to the outside world while projecting a sense of Thainess. This means looking at what aspects of Thainess appeal (or not) to outsiders and how Thais might go about the tricky task of filtering their own cultural traits so that everyone benefits.

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Media,

Tags: #culture #design #events #tcdc #Thailand #video 

TBEX Asia Preview Talk: Shrines of Ratchaprasong

Talk about Thai beliefs in Hindu gods and the spirit world at Gaysorn, in a preview of the TBEX Asia Travel Bloggers Conference.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 5.44.38 PM

An advance party of travel bloggers from the US did a preview trip to Bangkok on Feb 22, 2015. The city will host the first Asian edition of the world’s biggest travel blogging conference, TBEX Asia on October 15-18, 2015. Philip gave a talk to the bloggers about the famous Hindu shrines located around the Ratchaprasong Intersection where Gaysorn is located. The bloggers later visited the shrines, now with some background knowledge to understand the dynamics of the shrines, which are an internationally-famous draw for tourists, especially Asians.

Philip will give further talks as part of the TBEX Asia conference.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 5.44.53 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-15 at 5.45.14 PM

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #Bangkok #blogs #culture #streetlife #Thailand #tourism #tradition 

Talk to IDEA Group

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 10.50.20 PM

Philip Cornwel-Smith gave a talk to the IDEA Group, an informal gathering of expatriates who regularly meet to discuss topics about Thailand with a guest speaker. Philip spoke on the topic ‘Very Thai, Very Volatile: 20 years of change in Popular Culture’.

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #academic #culture #popularculture #talks #Thailand 

Will Bangkok’s cable nests get untangled and buried?

Oh no, I’ll have to rewrite the chapter on tangled wire installation art in Thailand if this ever actually happens…

http://bangkok.coconuts.co/2015/01/20/tangled-cable-nightmare-nests-all-disappear-bangkok

wires to be buried 2015-01-21 at 12.57.56 PM

Posted in: Blog,

Tags: #Bangkok #popularculture #streetlife 

Culture 360°

Bangkok creativity profile

A roundup of Bangkok’s art and creative scene, with one of the quotes from yours truly. Thanks for doing this David Fernández, we need more coverage for Bangkok’s arts to flourish. The article’s done for the Asia Europe Foundation, which could explain why the title sounds like bureaucratic filing system category: ‘By people / In cities: Bangkok | city profile’. File Bangkok under ‘Creative’.

http://culture360.asef.org/category/magazine/profiles/

By people : In cities | Bangkok | city profile | culture360.asef.org | culture360.asef.org

Culture 360 Creative Bkk slide

 

Posted in: Blog,

Tags: #academic #art #BACC #Bangkok #culture #design #e-magazine #exhibitions #features #interviews #tcdc #website 

The Diplomat

Very Thai: Street, Style and Society in the Kingdom

How a book by a Bangkok-based British author came to embody a shift in Thai cultural consciousness.

By Jonathan DeHart

Thailand has faced a public relations crisis in recent months. The May 22 coup and the recent murder of two British tourists has cast a shadow over the sunny “Land of Smiles“ image of golden temples, graceful dances and saffron robed monks carrying alms bowls.

But neither political turmoil nor idealized cultural traditions reflect the reality of daily life as it is lived by ordinary Thai citizens. Discovering what really makes the nation tick was precisely the goal of veteran Bangkok-based British journalist Philip Cornwel-Smith when he set out to write his enlightening, encyclopedic and entertaining book, Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture, now in its second edition.

Drawing on a wealth of insight from experts on history, anthropology, sociology and design; and generously illustrated with colorful photographs taken by Cornwel-Smith and American photographer John Goss, the book examines everything from aesthetics to folk arts.

Most significantly, it does so without succumbing to clichés or dwelling on the seedier side of life in Thailand, as exaggerated by media and bar-girl fiction. “The aim of my book was specifically to avoid those sensationalist things and to focus on topics that didn’t get looked at seriously,” Cornwel-Smith told The Diplomat. “I wanted to give a refreshing look at Thailand, to explain ‘low status’ or ‘realistic’ aspects of Thai culture. Not wholly modern, not wholly traditional – these are the criteria for things in the book.”

While a book that shuns hackneyed ideas about the kingdom’s beguiling culture would unsurprisingly be of interest to foreigners, Very Thai struck a chord with the Thai public as well. In the years following the release of its first edition in 2004, the book came to symbolize a shift in Thai society, which was on the cusp of a cultural awakening.

“The book came out at a time when the popular culture just started to become legitimized within the broader culture,” Cornwel-Smith says. “It wasn’t counted as ‘culture’ until that point. Ideas of ‘righteousness’ and ‘prestige’ were part of the official culture. Street life didn’t really fit into that. But it’s unambiguously a form of culture.”

Indeed, street food stalls, motorcycle taxi drivers in multi-hued jackets, cats nibbling on fruit offerings at a shrine, a dog panting in the shade next to a pile of coconut shells, a jumble of power lines sagging above a man dozing on a concrete bench just a few feet from the road where hot pink taxis and tuk-tuks (auto-rickshaws) zip by – these are the common street vignettes that Very Thai accounts for, in impressive detail.

And while the book begins on the street, it goes on to explore all facets of life in Thailand. It is divided into five sections: Street, Personal, Ritual, Sanuk (“fun” in Thai), and Thainess. (It is notable that an entire section is devoted to fun.) The eclectic approach was a natural choice for Cornwel-Smith who says, “I had already been looking at the culture in a pixelated way…doing a city listings magazine and putting together Time Out Bangkok guide.”

Through this “pixelated” view, the book manages to explore the cultural soul of the nation by examining the minutia of daily life: food on sticks, taxi altars, temple fairs, ghost stories, soap operas, beauty pageants, energy drinks.

Other mysteries of the mundane that are explored include quirkily groomed “poodle bushes,” garishly decorated tuk-tuks and trucks, fairy lights, Greco-Roman building facades, the tiny pink napkins found on restaurant tables nationwide, and meticulously coiffed “hi-society” socialites who “actively seek face, invent face, even leverage borrowed face (by borrowing gems),” Cornwel-Smith writes. The book also offers insights on beliefs close to the heart of the nation, from ever-present royal family portraits and the astrological importance of colors to magic tattoos and fortune telling.

Some folk beliefs explored in the book – certain aspects of amulet culture, mediumship and shamanic practices to name a few – still carry a whiff of taboo. But attitudes around these topics are softening, at an alarming speed in some cases.

“The transition of popular culture being accepted within Thailand happened very quickly,” Cornwel-Smith says. An example can be seen in the way tattoos have achieved a higher degree of acceptance in society within a short period. “The social context around tattoos has really changed since the first edition of the book (launched in 2004),” Cornwel-Smith says. “Tattoos are now much more acceptable, partially due to Angelina Jolie getting one.”

Thanks to its diversity of topics, street cred, and striking design, Very Thai has “gone beyond its creators,” Cornwel- Smith says. “It became a source book for those working in design, products, events, theater, among other kinds of work.”

Yet, the book’s reach does not end with the creative class. “They at the cutting edge put it out into culture, which has gradually made it mainstream.”

In a testament to the explosion in soi culture’s popularity, it now forms the basis of a popular theme park, Ploen Wan, which opened in a resort town in recent years. Geared towards Thai visitors, Ploen Wan “includes things like local transportation, old barbershops, general stores, pharmacies…        ‘retro’ stuff,” Cornwel-Smith explains. This form of “retro heritage” even carries a widely known slang epithet now – “Thai Thai” – coined by Suveeranont, who points to Very Thai as an emblem of this sensibility.

Ploen Wan is a physical manifestation of the Thai Thai boom, but a wider following has formed around the book online, where fans are exploring its themes further. “The Internet is a major part of the national discussion around culture taking place in Thailand now,” Cornwel-Smith says.

The Very Thai website serves as a portal on the topic. It features a blog and streams social media postings that use the #verythai hashtag in Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. “These are posted not just by me but by fans of the book’s subject and aesthetic. These hashtags were actually started by fans of the book.”

In some cases, the book itself has been used as a cultural artifact, having appeared in several art exhibitions in Bangkok, Chiang mai, Brussels and Barcelona. It has also been turned into a video installation, formed the basis of a mime production and has even been physically performed with as a puppet on stage, Cornwel-Smith explains. “There are so many ways in which Very Thai has become a cultural phenomenon in its own right.”

How could a book exploring such simple aspects of a culture have such a far-reaching impact in such a short time? Suveeranont sums it up best He wrote in the afterword to the second edition of the book: “The reason is that it reflects a mood, appearing at a time when Thai society began to debate the nature of ‘Thainess’… Cornwel-Smith’s book thus operates at the much wider level of a phi meuang, or Zeitgeist – the ‘spirit of the age’… This book enabled Thais to appreciate that ‘very Thai’ things, which were seen as low-brow, had been part of Thainess all along.”

Very Thai — The Diplomat

Very Thai -- The Diplomat 1Very Thai -- The Diplomat 2Very Thai -- The Diplomat 3Very Thai -- The Diplomat 4Very Thai -- The Diplomat 5

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #e-magazine #features #interviews #popularculture #reviews #Thailand #website 

Thrilled to BITS

 

Staying true to type. BITS MMXIV – Bangkok International Typographic Symposium is happening on November 15 & 16 at BACC, plus a workshop day on the 14th. Speakers from local and international foundries tackle letterform issues from glyphs and the digital landscape to femininity in printing and typography as social activism.

Get inside the loop – go along.

14973_929300727098112_5272810464323069846_n

BITS MMXIV International Conference
15 – 16 November 2014
BACC

—————

15 November 2014

Wee Viraporn
10.00 -11.30 am.

“Reflecting myself, according to others, through type”

To compare my relationship with type to a person, it is like having a very good friend. He’s been around me since before I became an art student. Even though we haven’t become best friends or business partners, he has always been there for me whenever I need help or need someone to play with.

In this experimental project, I will ask this friend to help me with expressing myself, according to how other friends see me.

—–

Catherine Dixon
11.30 -12.30 am.

“Hands-on: typography as social activism”

With more and more of modern daily life now managed for us digitally, so a converse fascination with the analogue in typography and lettering practice has grown, especially in relation to letterpress printing. So great is current designerly enthusiasm for such hands-on approaches that many educational institutions are now seeking to reinstate letterpress technologies alongside their digital contemporaries. This talk explores the social potential of engaging with typography in this hands-on way, from both a UK educational perspective and beyond – featured projects including a workshop in a Brazilian slum where an old press is helping to build community, and the vibrant political activism evident in design studios in Buenos Aires and Barcelona.

—–

Julius Hon-Man Hui
2.00 – 3.00 pm.

“In between the East & West: Dalton Maag’s Chinese type design”

Those are challenging years to people at Dalton Maag – they have been worked out giant size font projects that cover almost all the scripts in the world, notably the Nokia Pure, HP Simplified and Intel Sans.

Chinese is one of the most challenging scrips for DaMa people – huge character set, complex structure, loose system, a completely different aesthetic to western type, and lot of different industrial standard to fulfil.

Font developer and Chinese script project lead Julius Hui will share DaMa’s experience in tackling Chinese script’s design problems, including many the many perspective of Latin-Chinese matching, which should be the very first time to most BITS audience.

—–

Danh Hong
3.00 – 4.00 pm.

“Khmer UI font for Small Device”

UI font is designed to reduce the overall body height of text, and allow Khmer to have descender and ascender-lines closer to other scripts. It also allows their use in UI components where vertical space is a premium.

—–

Bruno Maag
4.00 – 5.00 pm.

“Type in a digital landscape”

The presentation explores how the tone of voice of a typeface can be expressed in a medium that has broad parameters, asks how technology hinders or assists the reproduction of fonts, and asks if fonts can be responsive.

The discussion topics are set against a background of Bruno Maag’s experience creating fonts for digital usage as far back as 1995, and Dalton Maag’s more recent experience working on projects with Ubuntu, Nokia, Intel and HP.

—————

16 November 2014

Roger Black
10.30 – 11.30 am.

“Your type is your brand”

Business people still think tat their products and services are their brands. A little industrial design, a little packaging, and the brand emerges. But in the new information economy, services are digital, and products are displayed on flat screens, with type. Customer experience becomes user experience. Content is king. So that makes design . . . queen?

Considering the amount of interaction with customers that involves fonts, it’s a wonder that more enterprises have not invested in unique typefaces. Custom fonts. Most still make do with the great number of typefaces available in the analog world. It’s possible to create an individual look in print, on products, in stores and advertising, but only a fraction of the the fonts are available as web fonts. So we see a lot of Georgia and Verdana . . . and Arial.

Roger Black talks about some of the history of type branding. He recounts case studies in publication design, where a particular voice and personality has been achieved through a typeface or typographical style. He shows examples of custom fonts used for an entire brand—from the logotype to the digital UI. And finally he takes up the issue of Unicode type branding, where the design has to combine glyphs for Latin, CKJ, Hindic, Arabic and the so-called minority scripts.

A brand, it’s been said, is what people think of you when you are not there. Black shows how type branding can endure.

—–

Thanarat Vachiruckul
11.30 -12.30 am.

“From user to producer”

Although, trial and error experience is an old story that have been told many times over in type design field. This version will be slightly different in his own right. From choosing and applying fonts to the layout to designing and publishing his own fonts worldwide; the story of a Thai type designer who utilizes research and knowledge in creating fonts and turning them into a full-time business as a partner of Katatrad Foundry. The stuffs along the way are always more interesting than the outcome.

—–

Georg Seifert
2.00 – 3.00 pm.

“Why does Glyphs support Thai?”

The story why I started making Glyphs, why it was easy to support Asian languages and what I learned on the way.

—–

Piyaluk Benjadol
3.00 – 4.00 pm.

“The Story of Yaw Ying (ญ): How Learning Alphabet relates to Thai Femininity Discourses?” แกะรอย ญ หญิง: การเรียนรู้ตัวอักษรสัมพันธ์กับวาทกรรมความเป็นเพศหญิงของไทยอย่างไร?

This design research explores 114-year history of one letter out of 44 Thai alphabets, Yaw Ying (ญ), in pre-school alphabet primers as the main visual resources. As a language learning tool before we can read, write, or speak, we become familiar with each letter by memorizing its shape, the sound of its pronunciation, its accompanying word, and the image illustrating the meaning of the word. Occasionally, the rhyming words are attached in order to make them easy to be learned by rote. The relations between texts and images, as verbal and non-verbal codes, in these Yaw Ying (ญ) learning tools lead us to understand how these design artifacts construct the meaning of women through their visual representations. The in-depth investigations of Yaw Ying (ญ) primer pages along with other graphic design works, such as posters, book covers, and advertisements, reveal patterns of paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations of visual languages representing social discourses about Thai women. Considering this design research as a case study, its process of visual deconstruction can be used as a model for designers, design curators, or design educators to understand how other design artifacts contextually related to cultural and social issues.

—–

David Carson
4.00 – 5.00 pm.

“Trusting Your Own Intuition”

How to be truly original and deliver your best work while having fun doing it. Where to find an inspiration and how to convert it into your work. This lecture is a fly over tour through out personal archive of his own work. David will share his experience on how to push yourself to the limit and still make the work enjoyable. He will unveil the work process that delivers the visual sensation that we all know. The audience will get to hear the in depth explanation on why things look the they way they are.

 

 

Posted in: Blog,

Tags: #academic #BACC #book #culture #design #events #international #Thailand 

Thaipography

“To loop or not to loop? That is the question typographers face when making a new Thai font. It’s a design decision, but one that twangs a tension in Thai identity.”

My article in the November issue of TheMagazine by the Bangkok Post covers the surprisingly controversial topic of typography in Thailand. On newsstands now.

Thaipography image by Anuthin

here&now-issue11-adjusted layout

Posted in: Blog,

Tags: #culture #design #magazine #Thailand #tradition 

The Beauty of Banality

What an inspiring presentation. Thais, often from outside Bangkok, are increasingly turning to inspiration from the everyday popular culture around them. Pitupong ‘Jack’ Chaowakul, the founder of Supermachine Studio, gives this TEDx Chiang Mai talk about his firm’s solutions in architecture, events and civic design from Thailand’s vernacular culture.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 12.37.39 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD3f94q_uO0

 

Posted in: Blog,

Tags: #Bangkok #design #popularculture #streetlife #Thailand 

Morlam goes Mainstream?

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 1.59.39 PM

Isaan’s pop-folk music has broken the barriers of class, language and ethnicity to become a staple of Bangkok arty parties and a ‘discovery’ on the international World Music scene.

I cover the cultural shift of morlam in Very Thai. Meanwhile, this infectiously rhythmic regional music has become the subject of a major new exhibition at the Jim Thompson Art Centre in Bangkok.

Here’s a major article about the exhibition in the Bangkok Post:
Morlam’s Mass Movement

http://www.bangkokpost.com/lifestyle/music/441917/molam-mass-movement

 

 

 

Posted in: Blog,

Tags: #Bangkok #culture #exhibitions #Isaan #jimthompson #music #newspaper #Thailand 

Thai Indy: Statement or Style?

Talk at Bangkok University’s International College on 5 Nov 2014, 12.30-2pm

A  SkIndy I heart indie JG 040616 003 copy

Thailand’s ‘indy’ subculture now spans two decades. Its impact on film, music, fashion, media and the arts have been tracked throughout by writer/editor Philip Cornwel-Smith, in Bangkok Metro Magazine, Time Out Bangkok guidebook and his book Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture. The ‘From T-Pop to Indy’ chapter from Very Thai was reproduced in a book by MTV about Cool Asia; the chapter’s revision in Very Thai’s 2nd edition shows how indy has changed over time. In this talk, Philip addresses the status of Thai indy as a cultural movement, and questions whether it has declined or matured.

The talk is in Lecture Theatre 762, Top floor of building 7 above BUG (Bkk Uni Gallery), reached by the entrance off the intersection of Kluaynamthai with Rama IV Road.

It’s open to the public but within a fixed student time slot, so it’ll start promptly. See you indie fans there!

BU_CREATIVE

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #academic #art #Bangkok #events #indy #talks #Thailand 

Creative Bangkok 2014

Creative Bangkok logo

Very Thai Thai: How Pop Became Heritage

Philip Cornwel-Smith will speak at the Creative Bangkok international symposium on October 15.

His talk will look at how streetlife, everyday pop and even some cultural taboos have gone mainstream and even become regarded as heritage. The Creative Bangkok event runs Oct 12-17 with 50 talks, 10 workshops, 6 creative team challenges, and related events. Philip will  speak on Oct 15, the day focusing on Creativity in Tourism and Heritage. So the talk will be held at MuseumSiam in the old town at 1.30pm.

Other speakers are from Google, Nasa, Walt Disney, Le Cordon Bleu, duPont, Cirque du Soleil and dozens of other Thai and international companies and organisations.

http://creativebangkok.org

Creative Bangkok Speakers

 

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #Bangkok #culture #design #international #talks 

Very Thai, Very Volatile

20 Years of Change in Popular Culture

Illustrated talk by Philip Cornwel-Smith,
author of Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture

at Bar Luna, below Casa Luna, Jalan Raya Ubud, Ubud, Bali +62-361-971 605

29 September, 7.30pm-9pm, free entry

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 10.50.20 PM

Bangkok-based British writer Philip Cornwel-Smith will give an illustrated talk about the dramatic transformations in Thailand he has witnessed as author/editor of Bangkok Metro magazine, Time Out Bangkok guidebook, and the influential bestselling book Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture (www.verythai.com). Instead of the sensational oriental clichés, he views Thai ways through the lens of its hybrid pop, social tensions and quirky urban culture. There’ll be time at the end to discuss how Thailand’s transformation compares to Bali.

Recent upheavals in Thailand have brought world attention to new stories as ordinary people express themselves and as Bangkok went chic and became the most visited city on the planet. The tropical rural idyll has urbanized and globalised, and taboo things gone mainstream, from yaa dong tonic whisky to magical tattoos. Yet everyday life in Thailand continues to beguile with its wacky hybrids, sense of fun, and unexpected quirks.

A resident of 20-years, Philip Cornwel-Smith has had an insider vantage point to see these changes. His book Very Thai, now in an updated and expanded 2nd edition, has become to the go-to reference and style guide on Thai popular culture.

Very Thai is published by River Books. Copies will be on sale, which Philip can sign.

verythai.com has full details and streams social media by followers of the book using #verythai on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram.

Philip can be contacted via verythai.com , phone +62-821-4444 2022

barluna-Banner_coffee

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Events, Uncategorized,

Tags: #events #Indonesia #international #talks #Thailand 

Very Thai talk in Bali

Philip Cornwel-Smith to speak in fringe event around Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2014

Ubud writer fest 2014

The author of Very Thai will talk about the book and the current situation of Thai popular culture in Bar Luna at Casa Luna, Jalan Raya Ubud, in the cultural centre of Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali. The talk will be on September 29 at 7.30pm and copies of Very Thai will be available for sale and signature. The talk is behind held by the organisers of Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, which starts a few days later on Oct 1-5.

For festival details see http://www.ubudwritersfestival.com

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #book #events #Indonesia #international #talks 

Very Thai given by TCDC to speakers at Creativities Unfold 2014 symposium

cu2014-webbanner-speakers010814

Nine top design gurus receive the book as a welcome gift by TCDC (Thailand Creative & Design Centre) at the 2014 edition of its Annual Symposium Creativities Unfold on 30-31 August 2014. The speakers were:

Patricia Moore (Moore Design Associates),
Koichiro Tanaka (Uniqlo’s global digital campaign creative),
Jan Chipchase (Studio Radio Durans),
Jinhyun Jeon (senses design expert),
Daan Roosegaarde (Studio Roosegaarde),
Edward Barber (Barber Ogersby, designers of 2012 Olympic torch),
Koert van Mensvoort (Next Nature Network),
Krating Poonpol (Disrupt University),
Patrick Waterhouse (editor, Colors magazine)

“Out of all the conferences I’ve been to over 15 years this is the best, most useful welcome gift I’ve received,” remarked Jan Chipchase, who endorsed the book as “A must-read for any trend or research agency that wants their team to better understand Thailand.”

Very Thai has also been presented by TCDC to speakers at some earlier Creativities Unfolds symposiums.

Posted in: Blog, Events, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #design #endorsements #events #international 

verythai.com Website Goes Live

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 19.23.21The interactive website verythai.com goes live, with full information about the book Very Thai and its many related events, talks, exhibitions, reviews, features, videos and documentary coverage.

Very Thai has had unprecedented involvement and loyalty by its readers for a book on Thailand. To repay that fanbase, now the author offers ways for the public to engage with the book online. You can interact with the VeryThai world in various ways, with live streaming from social media onto the ‘Social’ page of the website. You can post through the Very Thai fanpage on Facebook, tweet using the #verythai hashtag, and post pictures on Instagram using the #verythai tag. All these will stream live through verythai.com. Readers can also post reviews of Very Thai that will appear under Reader Reviews in the Reviews page of the website. You can also send in updates to the author, and suggest topics for future versions of Very Thai and related new books.

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #events #launch #Thailand 

20 Years of ThaiThai

Phases in Thai Popular Culture 1994-2014

20 Years of Thai Thai talk title

Philip Cornwel-Smith will give a talk on July 1 at Thammasat University to the students of its to the International Programme. Very Thai is one of their set texts. The talk will be a variation on the phases of Thai popular culture that Philip has witnessed during the past two decades in Bangkok.

 

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #academic #Bangkok #book #culture #international #talks 

Font styles

Heading 1

Heading 2

Heading 3

Heading 4

Heading 5
Heading 6 Heading 6 Heading 6 Heading 6

Paragraph Paragraph Paragraph Paragraph Paragraph Paragraph Paragraph

Address

 

Posted in: Blog,

Tags:

Fah Thai

Bangkok’s Evolving Pop Culture

Fah Thai is the inflight magazine of the boutique carrier Bangkok Airways. This feature appeared in its section called The guide: Thailand in the May/June 2014 issue.

FahThai_May_June_2014

A twenty-year veteran of Thailand, Philip Cornwel-Smith recently released the second edition of Very Thai, a celebration of Thai pop, retro, street and folk culture. The re-release covers the many cultural changes that have swept through Thailand since the first book hit store shelves to considerable success nearly a decade ago.

Through vivid photographs, sharply rendered illustrations and insightful observations, the author pinpoints some of the biggest changes he’s witnessed over the years. One of the most dramatic changes, Cornwel-Smith notes, is the way politics has come to infuse daily life in Thailand, from fashion to soap operas.

The new edition features more than 200 striking images and four original chapters, including a fascinating exploration of the rise and global popularity of the retro ‘Thai Thai’ culture. “Magical tattoos, herbal whisky, Morlam folk music and street food have evolved from low-status taboo into mainstream trends with export appeal,” the author says. What’s more, Cornwel-Smith notes, is that Thai pop culture itself, long dismissed by traditionalists as urban trivia, has acquired social legitimacy and is regularly celebrated int eh media, at museums and at galleries in Thailand and elsewhere.

Most intriguing is his in-depth exploration and explication of quirky Thai icons, historical events and traditions, including the Japanese motor-rickshaw’s transformation into the tuk-tuk, rock’s morphing into festive farm music, the colour-coding of weekdays, floral truck bolts, taxi altars and drinks in bags.

And yet it’s the youth of Thailand that continues to astound the author: “Thais have become the world’s leading users of social media, intensifying their culture of personal networks and relishing online freedom.”

 

Fah Thai is the Bangkok Airways inflight magazine

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #book #culture #design #features #international #magazine #tourism 

Thai blog on TCDC talk goes viral

The talk ‘Very Thai Cultural Filters: How Hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess’ by Philip Cornwel-Smith at TCDC on March 8 2014 sparked the Thai blogger GeekJuggler to write a post that then went viral.

Geek Juggler was animated by the idea that it is socially easier for non-Thais to do Thai-style design than for Thai designers, whose creativity is constrained by social pressures and taboos about secular use of forms related to Thai beliefs. He and most of the chat thread responders seemed to regard this as probably true and a sad situation in which it is hard to reconcile tradition and modernity. Many in the chat thread reposted the review to other blogs.

Geek Juggler “วิถีแบบไทยๆ” กับคำตอบว่าทำไมความคิดใหม่ๆ ถึงเกิดขึ้นได้ยากบนแผ่นดินนี้

GeekJuggler: Deconstruction is desecration?

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 14.08.44

reposted to Pornjeds blog

reposted to Kaebmoo blog

reposted to Zero The Zero blog

reposted to High Lizard blog

reposted to Fukaze blog

reposted to Rand’s Random Blog

reposted to Supawit Wannapila blog

reposted to Nattster blog

reposted to Futurizing blog

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #blogs #culture #design #events #reviews #talks 

20 Bangkok Years Celebrated in Space

Philip Cornwel-Smith holds anniversary party in [Space] Bangkok

Philip (right) with Pepsi, Steven Pettifor and Craig Knowles in Silom Soi 4 in 1994
Philip (right) with Pepsi, Steven Pettifor and Craig Knowles in Silom Soi 4 in 1994

On 21 March 1994, Philip started a new job, with a new visa and a new home – and a new life. Exactly 2 decades after his first day as founding editor of Bangkok Metro magazine, he marked the occasion with a reunion party of friends. And colleagues from throughout the Intervening years.

He chose Space as the venue because the journalist-run volunteer event space has the kind of impromptu bohemian bars for which Bangkok was famous back in the 1990s. It overlooks the river from the floor above a 7/11 in Khlongsan Market. What could be more Thai Thai?  Among the Space volunteers, Nym, Yvan and Scott helped manage the party, while Craig Knowles acted as a cheeky MC by delivering messages from absent friends, which ran to many pages and with plenty of rubbing and roasting of Philip.

Along the walls the party-goers spotted familiar faces (often their younger selves) in prints of party spreads from Metro magazine parties and the launch of Very Thai. Philip said a few words to thank all those present, and the many friends and colleagues who couldn’t be there. By the end of the night all were feeling the effects of the free yaa dong herbal whisky – or was it the shock of two decades of nostalgia?

Philip being roasted by Jennifer Gampell
Philip being roasted by Jennifer Gampell

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #Bangkok #metromagazine #parties 

Geek Juggler

Review of TCDC talk ‘Very Thai Cultural Filters’

“วิถีแบบไทยๆ” กับคำตอบว่าทำไมความคิดใหม่ๆ ถึงเกิดขึ้นได้ยากบนแผ่นดินนี้ – %22GeekJuggler%22 ‘s Hiding Place

The blogger Geek Juggler gave a positive response in his Thai-language blog to my talk ‘Very Thai: Cultural Filters’ at TCDC (Thailand Creative & Design Centre) in Bangkok on 8 March 2014. The 80-seat venue was booked out . The blogger took up aspects of the talk to expand upon with his own views, focusing on the cultural factors that make it socially difficult for Thai designers to filter out aspects of their culture that won’t appeal to outsiders, while foreign designers of Thai-style things have more social freedom to deconstruct and reinterpret Thai traits for contemporary designs.

https://geekjuggler.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/deconstruct-is-descrete/

NZZ docu PCS Basil Norn Len DSC05399 copy

Posted in: Blog,

Tags: #blogs #culture #design #events #talks #website 

TCDC talk: What are Thai Cultural Filters?

‘Very Thai Cultural Filters: How Hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess’

029fed9da6167d9f0cdd6b5e0d2589f9

As part of the TCDC exhibition ‘hello World’, Philip Cornwel-Smith gives a talk today at TCDC on March 8 2014. Called ‘Very Thai Cultural Filters: How Hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess’, the talk goes into the ways that Thais are selective about what they import and adapt into hybrids.

Various Thai values, tastes and taboos act as filters to let in only part of the import while screening out aspects that don’t suit. This leads the talk to consider what cultural filters are needed in order to create designs, products and services that can appeal to the outside world while projecting a sense of Thainess. This means looking at what aspects of Thainess appeal (or not) to outsiders and how Thais might go about the tricky task of filtering their own cultural traits so that everyone benefits.

http://www.tcdc.or.th/calendar/detail.php?ID=17826&lang=en

See the talk here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kfp32Km69xU&feature=youtu.be

TCDC - “Very Thai Cultural Filters- How hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess” Talk_Page_1TCDC - “Very Thai Cultural Filters- How hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess” Talk b_Page_1TCDC - “Very Thai Cultural Filters- How hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess” Talk b_Page_2

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #culture #design #talks #tcdc #tradition 

Phakinee ภคินี ดอกไม้งาม

Thainess Made of Other Things

By 

http://www.phakinee.com/thainess-made-of-other-things/

Phakinee 2014-06-29 at 21.33.30 Phakinee 2014-06-29 at 21.33.51 Phakinee 2014-06-29 at 21.34.01

Bangkok. Philip Cornwel-Smith is giving a talk about “Very Thai Cultural Filters: How hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess” this Saturday, 8 March, at Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC) at the Emporium.  I am sorry to miss it since I am going abroad tomorrow. Cornwel-Smith is the author of Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture which I have recommended ever in Bangkok von innen since I came across it for the first time.

In his now famous book, Cornwel-Smith tries, among great other reading material, to explain the way how very ordinary things can acquire and produce a common sense of “Thainess” in Thailand. You might get answers to the question how everyday goods and services can be imbued with a marketable “Thai” character during his talk on Saturday,

Quoted from the advance notice:

Thai culture has for centuries been highly porous to outside influence, yet Philip shows how Thais have maintained their culture by localising imports in distinct ways. This can be done through applying traditional materials, techniques and decoration, or by keeping the import’s form whilst replacing its original philosophy with one that resonates to Thais. Instead of direct copying, inventions from elsewhere have been riffed into hybrids that involve a shift in meaning. Thais have even turned Thai-foreign hybrids into icons of Thainess to be reprojected abroad as symbols of the country.Cultural filters that make Thai consumption of imports selective draw from instinctive cultural values. Now that Thailand faces increased global competition, the challenge is to create cultural filters that select aspects of Thainess appropriate to outside consumers.

In short, this talk is going to be about international mainstream and how to impose a Thai identity on it.

I offer a personal view on this subject or perhaps, as I probably should put it more accurately, a comment.

During history, people in Siam at times quickly lost their heads, if they were not mainstream. Still today, some may spend 18 years or more in prison and may loose everything they have including their social recognition), if they are not mainstream.

It is only my personal feeling as a foreigner, that this fact might add to various forms of  “typical” Thai behaviour (with strong foreign elements in it), that most of us would regard as outdated? Or, in some cases, even regard as undignified?

For instance, I do not believe that, 68 years after Nazi-Germany has been buried in the abyss of history, any of us youngsters under the age of 60 is capable to imagine, how a person feels while being forced by strong social constraints to stand to attention twice a day in public while listening to the national anthem which everybody is forced to hear on every public place in the country. A practice, which has been introduced in a time, when European fascist leaders’ personality cult was widely seen as a great role model für Siam.

Possibly apart from devout Christians, most Europeans also can hardly imagine how it feels to seriously “wai” a spirit house in which a strong spirit is known to stay. And very few of us can imagine to cringe in front of persons which are not more human than we are. Finally, how does it feel sharing a great love with all my friends and family for cheaply-produced plastic items that everybody simply “has to have” just to be socially recognized? Do you know? I don’t.

All these “typical” Thai habits have a very strong froreign taste, they are no typical Thai specialties or inventions, despite the fact that some people like to think so.

As for me, for instance, I simply cannot imagine how it feels to stand to attention in public places like a pillar of salt, having to listen to some extremely old-fashioned sounds, which do not really represent my favourite music style and, above all, looking statesmanlike while doing so. This is just because I never did so and I will probably never do.

However, recently at the beginning of my fourth decade of Thailand-experience, I actually started to ask myself once, how I could actually love my own country without having to stand to attention twice a day and moreover, sadly, not even having a king anymore in my country who would be like a father to me? The answer was: I love my country, for instance, precisely for the fact that I am not being urged to stand to attention at any place or to crawl in front of anyone or listening to any music that other people want to put on me.

What I can imagine, however, is this: How a schoolboy would feel if he is the only one in his class without an amulet (or any other fetish) around his neck, or a yellow (or any other) bracelet around his wrist with some magic or special formula printed on it. A magic or a formula which at the same time would be propagated in school, on TV, on public places, just everywhere.

I can imagine the feelings of such a schoolboy, because I might have been this boy myself if I had been born in Thailand. Simply because, as a matter of fact, I am medically allergic to many things, like raw hazelnuts (fortunately I can eat them after they are once heated up for cakes and chocolate…), jackfruit, cantaloupes, latex, and some pollen.

Moreover, I have been also socially allergic to things that “everybody has to do” since I was a lttle boy.

In my fifth class in school, there was a teacher who even wrote this into my school report, of course without any serious consequences except some raised eyebrows in the family. But what would have happened in a mainstream Thai school? Can we rule out that they would not have tried to beat out such a socially unacceptable behavior from me at an early time?

Enough. Please do not miss Philip Cornwel-Smith on Saturday, 8 March at the TCDC, 6th Floor The Emporium Shopping Complex, 622 Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok 10110. If his talks on Saturday are only half as interesting as his writings, it has to be a great lecture.

The talk “Very Thai Cultural Filters: How hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess” starts at 2 p.m. Admission is free, but it is recommended to register for a seat at the Online Reservation System or at TCDC Information Counter, phone (02) 664 84 48, ext. 213, 214.

 

Posted in: Blog, Events, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #culture #design #German #reviews #talks #tcdc 

Business Insider

15 Books That Will Make You Want To Visit Thailand

List includes Very Thai.

Very This is among the 15 books rated must-reads by Business Insider

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/books-about-thailand-2014-1#very-thai-everyday-popular-culture-by-philip-cornwel-smith-with-photography-by-john-goss-15

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #endorsements #international #magazine #Thailand #tourism 

‘Bangkok: Megalopolis between Order and Chaos’

Swiss NZZ TV documentary on Bangkok features Very Thai in German

NZZ Bangkok between order & chaos websiteVery Thai‘s author is interviewed in a new documentary, ‘Bangkok: Megalopolis between Order and Chaos’, which premières on 27 March 2014 on the Swiss TV channel NZZ Format, which is run by the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Presenter/producer Basil Gelpke interviewed Philip Cornwel-Smith about the state of Bangkok and its popular culture during the height of the ‘Bangkok Shutdown’ protests. The crew filmed at his house and then in the Samsen area, including the Wat In community and the hotel Phra Nakorn Norn Len, which has a very Thai-style decor theme resembling an old market.

The show will air in German speaking countries several times over 2014 and 2015. It is also viewable online at:

http://www.nzzformat.ch/108+M521944f5b87.html

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #Bangkok #documentaries #German #interviews #TV #video 

Filming Swiss documentary on Bangkok

Author Philip Cornwel-Smith to be dubbed into German

NZZ docu PCS Basil Norn Len DSC05399 copy

A Swiss TV crew from NZZ Format led by presenter/producer Basil Gelpke are in town to film a documentary about contemporary Bangkok. Among the people from different walks of life featured in the show, Gelpke and his Malaysian and Croatian crew interviewed Philip Cornwel-Smith on 1 February 2014, at his home, and in the Samsen area of old Bangkok.

Philip’s nephew Jake Moores helped with the documenting the documentary, including these photographs. While working in Bangalore in late 2013, Jake Moores  co-directed a short film entered into a competition for the Mumbai Film Festival, and which was given a theatre screening in Mumbai. He will soon intern in Kyoto, Japan, as assistant to the prominent Asian cultural expert Alex Kerr.

NZZ docu PCS Basil house DSC05307 edit

NZZ docu PCS Basil Jake DSC05416 copy

 

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #Bangkok #documentaries #German #interviews #TV #video 

The Nation (2nd ed review)

The Bangkok We Never Lost

Protesters and developers demand more, but these guides to the city and Thai culture encourage us to venture out and enjoy what we have

by Paul Dorsey

Nation 2nd ed  rev DSC01360 crop

With anger further fouling the city air and the streets a din of roars and whistles, this might not be the best time to be exploring the unknown alleys of Bangkok. But two terrific books that have just come out will have you dodging the slings and arrows of our unfortunate era to track down the history already written – as opposed to the kind that’s being written as you read this.

Kenneth Barrett’s “22 Walks in Bangkok” ranks as one of the most thorough guides yet to the city’s historically important areas – and the newly refurbished “Very Thai” can be its ideal companion in your travelling pack. The updated and extended second edition of Philip Cornwel-Smith’s popular and influential 2004 original is just as much a must-have resource, thanks to his encyclopaedic knowledge and charming explanations about all the sights and experiences you encounter in Thailand. Again, it’s replete with hundreds of great photos by John Goss, Cornwel-Smith and others.

Of course the current political demonstrations – anti-government and pro – have never come close to blanketing the metropolis. Barrett touches the fringes of a couple of hot spots, and both books allude in passing to Thaksin Shinawatra and his legacy, but there are still plenty of places free of discontent where you can poke around for evidence of Teochew civilisation (see Barrett) and perhaps a plastic bag of refreshing flavoured sugar-water with shaved ice (see Cornwel-Smith).

In fact the first few of the 22 Walks ramble through Thonburi, remote and relatively peaceful on the other side of the big water.

Barrett’s journey begins when Thonburi was anything but peaceful. Following the downfall of Ayutthaya’s King Narai in 1688, Siamese cannonballs hurled across the river to demolish the French fort he had allowed to be built in the swamp that grew up to be Bangkok. A century later Thonburi was Siam’s capital.

Three more centuries further on, you can still spot homes there that have four wooden pillars in the doorway – which can only be removed from the inside. That’s how the original Chinese immigrants “locked the door”, explains Barrett, a veteran journalist.

And completely hidden behind the Klong San District Office is a remnant of Pong Patchamit Fort, one of five that King Rama IV built to shield his capital from invaders. Still standing is a mast on which flags were once hoisted to indicate which trading vessels were present – and later to report the weather.

Not far away, down Soi Lat Ya 17, Barrett found a seven-metre-long stone sculpture of a Chinese boat called a yannawa perched among old timbered houses. With a bodhi tree as a mast, this is an ancient shrine recalling the arrival in Thailand of Buddhist monks from Japan and China.

One of the most intriguing of Bangkok’s many intriguing areas is Bang Krachao, the vast “pig’s stomach” of land around which the Chao Phraya River swirls, which continues to be a great green lung (to mix anatomical metaphors) despite covetous commercial intentions.

Barrett sets out from the Presbyterian Samray Church, a 1910 replacement for the 1862 original, chronicling the missionaries’ story as he goes, and then has a look for what’s left of venerable Chinese rice mills. He glimpses a gilded Captain Hook and David Beckham among the artwork at Wat Pariwat next to the Montien Riverside Hotel.

Just as interesting is the Mon community that since the fall of Ayutthaya has dominated this district, further down the Phra Pradaeng Peninsula. The Mon, fierce fighters in combat, came to man the forts that King Rama I built there.

To any Bangkok resident who’s never been there, it’s impossible to imagine, somewhere in among all this concrete, “a huge area of green countryside in which quiet villages snooze down peaceful lanes”. Barrett explores “orchards, jungle, mangrove swamps and hidden temples” – and with amusement comes across the more recently inaugurated Bang Nam Pheung Floating Market, a nod to tourists, but mainly Thai tourists.

“There is no police station. You will look hard to find an ATM … The modern city is only a ferryboat ride away, but there is no hurry to travel back across the water.”

In urban Thailand and in rural Thailand, you couldn’t have a better “dictionary” than “Very Thai”, and it’s easy to imagine Cornwel-Smith strolling alongside Barrett, quizzing the locals about what they’re up to. “I try to be the open-minded ‘flaneur’ – the wandering seeker of raw experience,” writes the chronically curious former editor of Bangkok Metro magazine.

“Very Thai” explains a great deal about amulets and magic tattoos, taxi altars, luk thung, beauty pageants, katoey life, ubiquitous uniforms, edible insects and the lore of the motorcycle-taxi stand. For farang, it’s magical in its own way – although, as Pracha Suveeranont, “an expert on visual culture”, points out in an afterword, the first edition of the book became a hit with Thais too, an aid in celebrating their culture for fun and profit.

But clearly it was badly in need of updating, Cornwel-Smith writes. Since 2004, Thai pop has “gone inter” and Apichatpong Weerasethakul triumphed at Cannes. Asean is about to blossom. We’ve got those plastic kitschy but undeniably purposeful hand-clappers and foot-clappers now (the whistles will have to wait for the next edition).

And virtually everyone in Thailand has “gone virtual”, not least the fashion-plate hero of Facebook, Mae Baan Mee Nuad (Housewife with a Moustache), who’s also featured here. The social media are rampant in Thailand. In 2012 there were more snapshots posted on Instagram from Suvarnabhumi Airport and Siam Paragon than from New York’s Times Square. “Digital media actually suit the Thai character,” the author says. “Local websites collide multiple diversions as discombobulating as their predecessor, the temple fair.”

Then, digging deeper, he adds, “The difference this new medium makes is that we can now see through the former taboos.” Cornwel-Smith displays a keen if subtle passion for the country’s politics, at least in the way it affects popular culture. In addressing the difficulties of nailing down the nature of Thainess, he says, “The recent politicisation of Thais at all social levels has made discussion more open, direct and heated. As censorship grows futile, we all now know so much more how this country works. The official version has lost its monopoly.”

In another informative chapter, on the rise of “Thai Thai” – which he calls “vernacular Thainess [with] a hint of both essence and exaggeration” – Cornwel-Smith tackles the vexing issue of Thai exceptionalism with his exquisite sense of balance. He cites the frequently heard insistence that foreigners can never fully understand Thai ways, and then demonstrates how “the accusation fires both ways”.

These two books serve to reassure readers, both Thai and farang, that there is nothing to fear, scorn or being ashamed about, in either stoic tradition – or in Bangkok’s immediate future.

GUIDE BOOKS

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture
By Philip Cornwel-Smith and John Goss
Published by River Books, Second Edition 2013
Available at Asia Books, Bt796

22 Walks in Bangkok: Exploring the City’s Historic Back Lanes and Byways
By Kenneth Barrett
Published by Tuttle / Periplus, 2013
Available at Asia Books, Bt396

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #newspaper #reviews #Thailand 

Where

Very Thai Second Edition Launched

Added by  on December 11, 2013

VT Where mag 2014-06-29http://wherethailand.com/thai-second-edition-launched/

Featuring fascinating explanations of various oddities from everyday Thai popular culture, from why the tissues on tables are pink to the apparent obsession with phallic objects on street stalls in Thailand, the first edition of Very Thai by Philip Cornwel-Smith has proved a real hit since its release in December 2004. Building on that success, the second edition delves even deeper with revamped chapters, extra pages and over 200 new photographs. It also includes four new chapters covering more recent developments such as the internet, the impact of the recent political crisis, the increasing cosmopolitan chic, and the hidden political context to changes in taste. It makes a great read for travelers to Thailand who want to get more from their visit and gain a better understanding of local culture.

B995, available at Asia Books.

www.verythai.com

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #e-magazine #magazine #reviews #Thailand #tourism 

Angela Savage: Writers Ask Writers

Writers Ask Writers: Tools of the trade

Posted on 27/11/2013

By angelasavage

http://angelasavage.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/writers-ask-writers-tools-of-the-trade/

I’ve developed a passion for Western Australian fiction, this year reading Simone Lazaroo’s The Australian Fiancé, Julienne Van Loon’s Harmless, and the second novels in crime series by David Whish-Wilson and Felicity Young. On my TBR pile, I have Fractured by Dawn Barker and Elemental by Amanda Curtin. I’m also keen to get hold of Sara Foster’s Beneath the Shadows, described by one reviewer as showing ‘a quiet, non-violent mystery can pack a lot of punch’. Dawn, Amanda and Sara are part of a collective of writers in WA, together with Emma Chapman, Natasha Lester and Annabel Smith, who have a monthly discussion via their blogs on a question about the writing life.

I was inspired by their posts on being another author for a day to write my own version. This month, I’m delighted to be their guest blogger as their Writers Ask Writers series considers tools of the trade: What do you need to have around you in order to be able to write? Certain music? Special notebooks? Apps? Books? Pens?

Their questions made me realise that my writing tools are so basic, they’re almost quaint. I write my first draft using a notebook. Not a notebook computer, but a genuine, old school, tree-killing notebook. I write with a pen. Or pencil. Even a texta will do and, at a push, a lip liner. I’m not fussed.

My preferred notebook is the Marbig A5 ‘Colour Hide’, vertical spiral bound with a cardboard pocket at the front. I also love Chinese-made notebooks with nonsensical English phrases on the cover like ‘Health is the thing that makes you feel that now is the best time of the year’ and ‘I know that I’m too young to be in love, but I know that I like you much.’

But if I forget my notebook, I’ll scribble notes on whatever scraps of paper I can find—receipts, envelops, train tickets, business cards.

These simple tools suit my style. I’m not a planner. Writing for me involves a lot of what Marele Day calls ‘research in the imagination’ and Barry Maitland calls ‘mulling’; I think of it as percolating a story. An idea for a snatch of dialogue, a metaphor, a character’s distinguishing feature can come at any moment, and the less rigid my writing needs, the easier it is to capture inspiration when it strikes.

My Jayne Keeney PI crime fiction series are set in Thailand in the late-1990s. Among my essential reference materials are several books on Thai language, and Very Thai by Philip Cornwel-Smith, a guide to everyday popular culture in Thailand. I rely on old travel guides to help me recreate the period, as well as journals I’ve kept of the years when I’ve lived in or travelled to Thailand.

Of course, I’m not so old school that I don’t do online research. I transfer my handwritten notes on to my Macbook Pro (aka ‘The Preciousss’) and use the internet to check facts, maps and geographic features.

But secondary sources only ever get you so far, and in my experience, to make a setting come alive, you need to do fieldwork. This leads me to my other important tool of the trade: my passport.

I’ve posted herehere and here about the value of scouting locations for my stories. That my commitment to fieldwork requires me to spend time in exotic tropical destinations is just one of many ways I suffer for my art.

Now read about what these other authors say about their tools of the trade:

‘One of the best things about writing is that it doesn’t require many tools,’ writes Dawn Barker, before making want to go out in search of the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus.
Emma Chapman‘s tools of the trade help her focus and include an intriguing ‘inspiration board’…
Amanda Curtin loves all forms of stationery, though not as much as her late cat Daisy, who ‘once famously ate all the post-it notes off the side of a manuscript.’
Sara Foster‘s writer’s toolbox turns out to be more extensive than she first imagined. I concur with her on the writer’s most precious tool of all.
Natasha Lester‘s enthusiasm for the writer’s software Scrivener borders on evangelical, though she also pines for a waterproof notebook for those ideas that come in the shower.
Annabel Smith shares my love of note taking. Using the kind of notebooks favoured by Hemingway makes her feel ‘part of a great and noble tradition’, though I wonder what Hemingway would make of her other tools like Evernote and Scrivener.

Collectively, these writers go through a hell of a lot of herbal tea and Lindt chocolate. What about you? Are there certain things you need to have around you in order to write — or to read for that matter? What are your tools of the trade?

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #culture #endorsements #international #reviews #Thailand 

Good Reads

Good Reads: Very Thai thread

 

www.goodreads.com/book/show/951616.Very_Thai

 

Michelle on Jul 26, 2011

rated it 4 of 5 stars

A far cry from most travel books’ “formal” culture debriefing, this book will show you what you will likely actually see and do in Thailand – through the pop and street culture. It had me ahh-ing in understanding at times and giggling madly at others (especially the section on those ridiculously flimsy tissue napkins that we Westerners seem to need 10 of to wipe the green curry off our faces…)

 

Kevin on Apr 23, 2013

rated it 5 of 5 stars

A friend marched me over to Asia Books after eating lunch one day at SUDA on Sukhumvit 14. He told me I must read it. More than that he said, I must buy it. I did. I am glad I did. I now know what a Garuda is, among other things. And just like that yellow sports car I once owned, I see them everywhere. Great pop culture education for anyone visiting or living in Thailand. Perfect for the coffee table as you will want to re-read it from time to time. Philip Cornwel-Smith should be listed as a Thai national treasure by the Thailand Ministry of Culture. Don’t look for that to happen anytime soon, but look for VERY THAI in your your local bookshop if, for some reason, you are living in Thailand or have an interest in Thailand and don’t own it already.

 

Somporn Karam on Oct 09, 2013

rated it 5 of 5 stars

It kind of Postmodern guide book that you should read before making your journey to Thailand! It’s about everyday Thai pop and streetlife stories with the fresh perspective. This book is now fully updated and expanded into a new 2nd Edition.

 

Sarah on Aug 01, 2009

rated it 5 of 5 stars

Quite simply the best book you’ll ever read about Thailand. It clears up the mystery surrounding almost every quirk of Thai contemporary culture – why are the napkins always pink, the water pipes blue and why yellow is always worn on Mondays. And explains the main complicated superstitions and beliefs from spirit houses to amulets. There’s also the quirks that ex-pats come to love – motorbike taxis and drinks in bags. All with lush brightly coloured photography. You can live in Thailand for years and never know the truth behind many of these oddities of daily life – especially as ask a Thai person and you’ll get a vague answer as it’s difficult for them to answer the question ‘Why?’

 

Alexis on Dec 13, 2011

rated it 5 of 5 stars

coffee table-ish book with informative stuff about Thai pop culture. I actually really liked this book and it made me sort of home-sick for Thailand.

 

Robert Oct 14, 2009

rated it 3 of 5 stars

A great post-trip read, this one explains a number of interesting cultural things we observed.

 

Johan De Herdt on Sep 09, 2010

rated it 5 of 5 stars

Read it during my first months in Bangkok. It clarified a lot.

 

Jason Sikora on Jun 04, 2008

rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: anyone interested in Thailand

A fantastic and original look into the real and current culture of a wonderful country. This is not your average look at traditional Thai culture, but rather a series of top-notch articles looking at the many curious aspects of Thailand one notices while there. It really answers the questions many visitors have. It makes for a very enjoyable read.

 

Megan on May 29, 2011

rated it 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely amazing book about Thai street and pop culture. Worth every penny.

 

Sarah Hughes on Oct 17, 2009

rated it 5 of 5 stars

you absolutely must have this book if you’re ever planning to visit Thailand

 

rated it 5 of 5 stars
We are planning a trip to Thailand and this book seemed like a good way to learn some useful things before we go. It is usually the popular culture in non-Western countries that is most puzzling when you visit, and this book seems to cover most aspects of Thai everyday life and ways. It is too bulky to take with us, but has beautiful full-color pictures, and I have the feeling will be a good reference source and souvenir when we return.

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #international #reviews 

Lomography

Very Thai in October

Lomography VT in October 2014-06-30 at 00.09.07

http://www.lomography.co.th/homes/deng/photos/11956847

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #photography #Thailand 

Very Thai Photo Exhibition

ZEN Department Store outdoor gallery, Ratchaprasong, Bangkok

Outdoor exhibition of 122 photographs on 2-metre long panels. Most by me, with invited work by Dow Wasiksiri, John Goss and Austin Bush.

24 Sept 2012-Feb 2013

12-1121 PCS at VTZen & Jim Thompson-_MG_4920 PCS RT VeryThai Key Visual sml

Literally millions of Bangkokians and visitors will have passed by and seen this exhibition, which was visible both at ground level on the plaza on Bangkok’s busiest corner, and also from passing vehicles and from the overhead walkway beneath the SkyTrain.

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #Bangkok #book #events #exhibitions #tourism 

Amazon.co.uk

2nd edition reviews

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Very-Thai-Everyday-Popular-Culture/dp/6167339376/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385709898&sr=8-1&keywords=VERY+THAI

 

informative and pretty

By Doc B on 6 Aug 2013

5.0 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It gave bite sized cultural insights that really enhanced my trip. I have advised many friends to get it for their trips as I don’t want to lend and lose my copy!

 

Very Thai Everyday Popular Culture… book

By mauza on 9 April 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars

Having been to Thailand a couple of times I saw this book when leaving Thai international Airport but didn’t purchase it at the time. It is the best honest factual book on Thai culture I have ever seen. Do recommend it for a memento or as a insight to travelling there…

 

1st edition review

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Very-Thai-Everyday-Popular-Culture/dp/9749863003/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1385722479&sr=8-4&keywords=VERY+THAI+hardcover

 

Amazing book full of photos with great written insights

By N. Reith on 30 Dec 2006

5.0 out of 5 stars

I’m a student of Thai Studies and language at Leeds University, and have lived in Thailand previously for over 4 years as an English teacher, backpacker and a student.

If you have ever been in Thailand for a length of time and fallen in love with the country, like myself, then this book is perfect for you. The authors have lived and worked in Thailand for very long periods of time and have great insights into the nuances of Thai culture, from ladyboys to folded napkins, sniff kisses to Buddha amulets, the authors have compiled beautiful pictures with insightful writings.

Great for learning about Thai culture and bringing back great memories. The only negative is the price, however it is hardback, with beautifully printed pages full of photos.

If you’ve never been to Thailand, and you are thinking of buying this book, it will give you a much broader knowledge of Thai culture than many guide books provide, thus setting you up for your trip to Thailand with a greater idea about how Thais live and act, and why.

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #international #reviews #website 

Richard Barrow

SECOND EDITION OF “VERY THAI” IS NOW OUT

 

It has been a long time coming, but the bestseller “Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture” has just come out as an expanded and fully updated 2nd edition with many new photographs. According to the author, Philip Cornwel-Smith, this is “a heavily rewritten, updated and expanded new version of the original Very Thai. Plus 4 new chapters.” The first edition came out in December 2004 and was an immediate bestseller. Since then it has been reprinted four times in July 2005, January 2006, February 2007 and January 2008.

I already have the first edition and highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in Thailand. I just bought myself a copy of the 2nd edition of “Very Thai” at Asia Books in Bangkok. The price for this hardback book is 995 Baht. I’m looking forward to learning a bit more about the real Thailand.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #blogs #book #reviews #Thailand 

Twitter

Smiling Albino Tours

By smilingalbino

20 Feb 2013

Our favorite Thai book is #VeryThai by Philip Cornwel-Smith. Quirky facts and we can arrange for him to host you: http://www.verythai.com/

 

youyou

@feiziyou

By youyou

20 Nov 2012

Very Thai exhibition at #centralworld #bangkok #verythai instagr.am/p/SQivnkTgef/

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #reviews #website 

Lonely Planet Thorn Tree

Thorn Tree Forums

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?newPost=true&messageID=21135166&

 

Has anyone read the book Very Thai: Everyday Pop Culture?

DCAdventurer

Feb 11, 2013 9:22 AM Posts: 1

Hey all,

I’m organizing a group trip to Thailand May 18-29 for travelers from the Washington DC Area. I try to choose a book, fiction preferred, for all of our trips, so that we can pass the time while traveling and enjoy a book discussion during our trips.

I couldn’t find any novels written by Thais that are in English that seemed appropriate as a first-time introduction to read and discuss during a vacation in Thailand. I’m thinking of choosing the non-fiction Very Thai: Everyday Pop Culture since it has great reviews and explains lots of fun things you will see in Thailand.

Have any of you read this book and is it an appropriate/fun read during a trip to Thailand with a group book discussion?

Thanks,

Nejla Routsong

Organizer, DC Global Adventurers

 

PhiMeow

Feb 11, 2013 1:03 PM Posts: 3,560

Sorry I have not.

However, have a look at this thread. Although it’s about books to read in general, there are quite a few gems in there regarding fiction in/about/ Thailand and SE Asia.

The one I just finished is a steampunk short story set in a future Thailand called Windup Girl.

Happy reading!

 

Krest

Feb 11, 2013 3:26 PM Posts: 412

By some strange coincidence I met the author Philip Cornwel-Smith last Wednesday, and watched a presentation on the subject of his book.

He was interesting and engaging, its surprising just how much of Thai culture is imported from overseas. or is even a fairly recent invention. Thai things that were not invented till the mid 20th century include Pad Thai, using the greeting sawatdee and also the use of the wai as a greeting.

His book is about to be printed as an updated edition, the new version will be ready in approx one month and contains lots of updates. Worth getting, but also worth holding off for the new edition.

 

Mike_N

Feb 12, 2013 2:59 AM
Posts: 233

I’ve got the book, it is interesting and will explain the inevitable WTFs when you get to the country (like “oh, money does grow on trees, or why toilet paper is on the table and not where it belongs) but I don’t think it is the sort of book you discuss before getting here

 

homrsickalien

Feb 12, 2013 5:23 AM Posts: 63

it’s good for sure, I’d also definitely recommend Robert Cooper’s culture shock: Thailand and Alex Kerr’s Bangkok found

 

PleistoceneMegaFauna

Feb 12, 2013 5:29 PM Posts: 540

It’s one of the best books on Thailand. It may be the best book on popular culture that you would run into on a trip. Enjoyable and written with affection for the country.

 

deeral

Feb 12, 2013 6:40 PM Posts: 873

IMO If not the best book it is certainly one of the best books on modern Thai culture in the English language; well informed and well researched with some references and a bibliography.

There are a lot of those who post on TT who really could do with reading it before they post.

My only criticisms are that it is published in an annoyingly small typeface and that it hasn’t to my knowledge had an updated edition published.

 

Krest

Feb 12, 2013 6:43 PM Posts: 412

The author addressed this when I met him last week. he said the new version coming out in a month will have a larger typeface.

 

deeral

Feb 12, 2013 11:42 PM Posts: 873

He may well sell me another copy then!

 

I’m the author of Very Thai. Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad you enjoy it.

The 2nd Edition of Very Thai is now out. I launched it at London’s 1st Southeast Asian Arts Festival in October.

It is 64 pages bigger, with four extra chapters (in a new section called Thaianess) and has over 200 new photos (out of nearly 600 pictures in total). I heavily rewrote it to cover the massive changes in Thailand in recent years.

This December you’ll start to see reviews and interviews coming out about the book. I’ll also be doing some talks, mainly in Bangkok. The next one will be at the National Museum, but it just got postponed due to the political rallies.

And yes, deeral, we increased the font size!

If you are interested in the subject, I’m about to relaunch the verythai.comwebsite, which will also have feeds from the #verythai hashtag threads on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And there is a Facebook page on the book at Facebook.com/VeryThaiBook. So you can interact about the book, post your own pictures and hear about upcoming events.

 

Yes-bought it last week, I’m reading the second edition right now – I noticed the font size – better,

I still believe it is the best book on vernacular Thai culture and a must for anyone visiting, living in or in any way interested in Thailand. As you say there have been massive changes in Thailand over the last decade – and I’m hoping your book has kept pace

Are you speaking anywhere near Chonburi? – please PM me if you are or would like a gig.

So done the Facebook, twitter etc….where’s my T-shirt???

 

Thai Culture books ?

by johna37

Lp’ers book recommendations for Thai culture plz…
I have some general knowledge and nit noi language skills..

What top FIVE social things have you learnt that are distinctly Thai ?

Lost in translation

1

the two most important:

  1. anything a thai wants you to do is part of thai culture
  2. anything a thai doesn’t want to do, is not part of thai culture

joking aside, the basic are well know, don’t violate the head or air space above it.

visiting a wat/house of worship, dress as you would visiting you own house of worship.

the rest is basic courtesy you were raised on, hopefully, i was. respect elders, don’t argue, talk back and basically treat people like you want to be treated.

rule to survive…………you are a guest, don’t attempt to change anything, it is their house/country.

2

2 years ago

Very Thai – Philip Cornwel-Smith and John Goss – 2005
ISBN 974 9863 00 3

Probably the standard for any EL commentary on Thai culture.
I would like to think there is a new edition on the way

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #culture #reviews #tourism 

Here I Like

“VERY THAI” นิทรรศการภาพถ่ายแบบ Thailand Only

VTZ HERE I LIKE 2014-06-29 at 23.26.29

 

http://hereilike.com/siam/home/detailnewarticle.aspx?newsId=156

นิทรรศการภาพถ่าย “ VERY THAI ” ที่ได้แรงบันดาลใจจากหนังสือขายดี “ VERY THAI:Everyday Popular Culture ” เป็นหนังสือสำหรับนักท่องเที่ยวสายพันธ์ใหม่ในสายตาของผู้เขียนฟิลิปส์ คอร์นเวลล์-สมิธ และช่างภาพ จอห์น กอสส์ ชาวต่างชาติสองคนที่เข้ามาใข้ชีวิตอยู่ในเมืองไทยมากว่าสิบปีแล้ว  เพราะฉะนั้นภาพวิถีชีวิตที่พบเห็นตามตรอกซอย ตึกแถว และสวนจตุจักร มอเตอร์ไซค์รับจ้าง ถุงพลาสติกใส่น้ำดื่ม ลูกกรงเหล็กดัด และปลัดขิกต่างหากที่เค้ารู้สึกว่ามีเอกลักษณ์หรือความโดดเด่นไม่ซ้ำแบบบ้านเมืองอื่น 

งานนี้ “VERY THAI” คือ การจัดแสดงภาพถ่ายอะไรก็ได้ที่ Popular ในหมู่คนไทย และของไทยๆ เหล่านี้มีอยู่ดาษดื่นเสียจนคนไทยมักจะมองข้าม แต่สำหรับชาวต่างชาติแล้ว ของดาษดื่นนี่แหละที่กระทบตากระทบใจยิ่งกว่า ด้วยเห็นว่ามีความโดดเด่นและไม่ซ้ำแบบชาติใดๆ ในโลกจัดแสดงภาพสวยๆ สะท้อนวิถีชีวิตในสังคมไทยแบบ Thailand Only แท้ๆ ผ่านเลนส์ของช่างภาพชื่อดัง

ใครพลาดไปมาดามขอบอกว่าวันนี้เป็นโอกาสสุดท้าย! เพราะเค้าจัดถึงวันที่ 6 ธ.ค. เท่านั้น ที่ ZEN Outdoor Arena ศูนย์การค้า CentralWorld งานนี้เข้าชมฟรีค่า

เรื่อง : M.Pineapple

ที่มา : portfolios.net

Posted in: Blog, Events, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #exhibitions #Thai language 

Bangkok 101 (2nd Ed review)

The Return of Very Thai

It’s over seven years since Very Thai, an encyclopedic guide to everyday culture, reshaped the way outsiders look at Thailand’s colourful brand of the mundane.

Bangkok 101 Return of VT 2014-06-29 at 23.54.46 Bangkok 101 Return of VT 2014-06-29 at 23.55.09

http://www.bangkok101.com/the-return-of-very-thai-river-books/

From whisky drinking etiquette to the truth about pink tissues and the inspiration for Thai truck bolts (the flower petal), this was the book that revealed the hidden logic and structure in Thailand’s freewheeling street life. That became the go-to gift for expats looking to enlighten visiting loved ones. That turned long stints in the toilet into a crash course in Thai pop academia. That, above all, captured that elusive Very Thai-ness that even those of us who live here struggle to put our fingers on.

Now, hot on the heels of the spin-off exhibition, which runs until early December in front of Zen Department store, a new edition of the candy-hued best-seller is on its way. What can we expect? Sixty four more pages, for starters, says its author, long-time resident and cultural historian Philip Cornwel-Smith. “We wanted to increase the type font and the size, which was always a bit small,” he says speaking to us at Bangkok 101 HQ. “The book is also being translated into other languages, and German is a much longer language than English, so we’ve given most chapters an extra page.”

However, the new edition is not just more spacious and easier on the eye. Rather, it’s a top-to-bottom overhaul that, as well as featuring lots of new photographs, brings Very Thai kicking and screaming into the here and now, where it belongs. “This is a genuinely new edition,” he says, “I’ve not just added in little bits and pieces. In some cases I’ve had to completely rework the chapters or rewrite large chunks of them.”

Unmistakable in the original book was the sense that this is a society in rapid transition. “In one dizzying spasm,” he wrote, “Thailand is experiencing the forces that took a century to transform the West.” During our conversation, he cites the rise of digital media, a movement towards authentic tourism and a more intrusive tabloid media as just a few examples of the cultural shifts that have taken place since its release. “Also, some of the more folky adaptations of tradition are giving way to just plain modern things,” he says.

The new edition reflects these changes but not at the expense of the old case studies. “A lot of the research for the original was done at the turn of the millennium,” he says. “So that’s over a decade of change – of extraordinary change. I wanted to reflect that transformation in the book, not just simply change the data.”

He’s also opted not to lop out topics that are fading away or nearing obsolescence. Why? Because even they, Cornwel-Smith explains, have their usefulness, offer us a conduit, a prism through which modernisation and social change can be viewed.

For example, the chapter on pleng phua chiwit (Songs for Life), a socially-consciousfolk-music movement that now seems littlemore than a quaint reminder of the deeplypoliticised and bloody seventies, has beenkept in. “Now it’s a vehicle for talking aboutpolitical changes over the past seven years,”he says, “as like much of the country themovement got split between the red and theyellow shirts.”

For other topics, the only thing that has really changed is their social context. “Thai tattoos, for example, used to be something that was looked down on and a bit improper,” he says. “But it’s been ungraded in the public perception… nowadays every second celebrity has a haa taew tattoo on her shoulder and the pronouncements are about foreigners who don’t understand traditional Thai heritage getting them.”

Changes in public perceptions of the motorcycle taxi driver are another phenomenon he singles out (“they have become a bit like the tuk-tuk – cultural emblems, safe for public consumption”). So, too, is Thailand’s beach culture, which has changed so radically that he now sees the chapter on it as a “barometer of social change”.

As well as tracing all these and many other cultural shifts, the new edition also includes an afterword by Thai visual culture pundit Pracha Suweeranont. “In the first edition we didn’t have one because there wasn’t really a question to be answered. But having looked at it over a long time, I can see certain traits and trends.” In it, Suweeranont apparently explains how Very Thai helped him, a native, look at vernacular culture in a fresh way.

During our meeting, Cornwel-Smith touches on many subjects: over-reaction to moral panics by the Ministry of Culture (“I think there is a legitimate concern that some things might be swept away in a rush to modernity”); the flattening effect of digital technology; the explosion of interest in street food. But one theme overarches them all: change.

This begs a question: has Thailand’s breakneck development washed away any of the grittiness, the allure that first led him to start writing about the place? “Short answer: yes,” he says. But he, a trained historian, also calls for long-range perspective. “I’m sure people would have given the same answer when all this western stuff was brought in by the aristocracy a hundred years ago: those awful, mutton-sleeved blouses, etc.”

“When I first released the book back in 2005, somebody said “You do realise that all this stuff will disappear? However, we shouldn’t forget that a lot of the things that we take as being traditional Thai are actually imports from other countries in the past – that Thailand has a way of making modern things its own.” In other words, the topics may transform, but the Kingdom’s ability to assimilate foreign influence in a unique and curious way – that elusive Very Thai-ness – is here to stay.

The new edition of Very Thai will be published in early December by River Books. Meanwhile, the exhibition continues in front of Zen Department Store until December 6.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #book #culture #e-magazine #magazine #reviews #Thailand #tourism 

Books about Thailand

http://books-about-thailand.blogspot.com/2008/11/very-thai-by-philip-cornwel-smith.html

Dec 2012

An interesting book for Thailand-lovers that shows and explains the small day-to-day things that make Thailand unique. The four sections Street, Personal, Ritual and Sanuk (‘fun’) each describe in colourful detail why for example those little pink tissues are pink, the Thai love for uniforms, the little altars in taxi’s and the popularity of yaa dong. Illustrated with a lot of photos. A good browse. [coffee table book]

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #reviews 

Culture Ministry: Office of Contemporary Art

นิทรรศการภาพถ่าย “VERY THAI”

 

VTZ CULTURE MINISTRY 2014-06-29 at 23.48.55

http://www.ocac.go.th/calendar-detail-471.html

Posted in: Blog, Events, Reviews,

Tags: #art #Bangkok #blogs #culture #exhibitions #photography #Thai language 

ArtBangkok

VERY THAI : Everyday Popular Culture

by  on OCTOBER 15, 2012

http://www.artbangkok.com/?p=8320

ArtBangkok 2014-06-29 at 21.30.54

นิทรรศการภาพถ่าย “VERY THAI” ที่ได้แรงบันดาลใจจากหนังสือขายดี “VERY THAI: Everyday Popular Culture” จัดแสดงภาพสวยๆ สะท้อนวิถีชีวิตในสังคมไทย ผ่านเลนส์ของช่างภาพชื่อดัง

 

นิทรรศการภาพถ่าย “VERY THAI” จัดแสดงตั้งแต่วันนี้-6 ธ.ค.นี้ ที่ ZEN Outdoor Arena ศูนย์การค้า CentralWorld ชมฟรี

จัดโดยสำนักพิมพ์ River Books, Serindia Gallery และ ZEN

รายละเอียดเพิ่มเติมเว็บไซต์ : http://www.facebook.com/ZENMegaStore

 

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Events, Reviews,

Tags: #art #Bangkok #blogs #book #culture #exhibitions #Thai language 

A Woman Learning Thai… and some men too ;-)

Very Thai Photo Exhibition: Bangkok

By  • October 1, 2012

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 19.53.37 Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 19.53.49 Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 19.54.03 Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 19.54.24 Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 19.54.46 Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 19.55.01

 

as PDF: A Woman Learning Thai… and some men too ;-)Very Thai Photo Exhibition: Bangkok | Women Learn Thai

http://womenlearnthai.com/index.php/very-thai-photo-exhibition-bangkok/#ixzz362CEpoTn

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture…

As a tourist to Thailand I enjoyed experiencing a country so very different from where I was living at the time, Brunei Darussalam. Being able to buy booze without leaving the country was also an attraction.

But when I finally moved to Thailand I switched from a carefree tourist mindset to expat mode. The country around me, previously a kaleidyscope of sounds, smells, and clashing colours, started to come into focus.

Along with the focus came questions. Like, why do Thai taxis have those dangly bits hanging from their mirrors? And why do beggars crawl face first along the sidewalk? And why are Thai police uniforms so darn tight?

When I asked other expats their answer was always the illuminating (not) “I dunno”. Being me, I needed more, so I started my own search into the why’s of Thailand. Hit and miss, the answers to a few Thai quirks are discussed in posts on WLT.

Then I found Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture, by Philip Cornwel-Smith. Very Thai answered many of my “why” questions, and some I hadn’t thought of yet. And now I hear there’s a Very Bangkok in the works. Excellent!

These days, when a new expat breezes into Thailand, I don’t arrive at their housewarming party with the obligatory bottle of wine and chocolates. I gift them with a copy of Very Thai instead.

Very Thai Photo Exhibition…

On Sunday I jumped into a taxi to view the Very Thai Exhibition in front of ZEN in Bangkok.

You really can’t miss it as the presentation is well placed.

It’s a small exhibition with larger than life-sized photos from Very Thai.

I wasn’t the only one curious, a stream of viewers kept popping in front of my camera.

Many found it easy to walk along the exhibition slowly, savoring the eyecandy as they went.

This photo was my favourite eyecandy of all.

While there it came to me that the photos from the exhibition would be the perfect backdrop for smartphone snappers in Thailand. Because, except for in grocery stores (where it’s off-limits to take photos of veggies) you’ll find people posing in front of just about anything. And I still don’t know why that is.

To get all the lastest news about Very Bangkok and Very Thai, follow Philip on Facebook at VeryThaiBook or on twitter @verybangkok, or bookmark his website: Very Thai.

Sidenote: the editor of Very Thai is Alex Kerr. You might remember the review I wrote of Alex’s excellent Bangkok Found awhile back. And seriously, if you want to know more about Thailand, you couldn’t go wrong with both Very Thai and Bangkok Found on your bookshelf.

 

10 Responses to “ Very Thai Photo Exhibition: Bangkok ”

  1. Disclaimer: The last photo has been doctored. The lovely Thai lass generously posed in front of a different set of photos but I felt driven to move her back a bit (all the way to the beginning of the exhibition).

  2. Danyelle Franciosa Oct 2nd, 2012 at 6:29 am

    That was extremely beautiful and great photo exhibition in Bangkok. The place are great and good for relaxation. Thanks a lot for sharing this!

  3. Thanks for stopping by Danyelle 🙂 The exhibitions is so colourful and fun, I’m expecting to see photos on FB with different people posing in front of the posters.

  4. Love that exhibition! I have not yet read the book, though I really REALLY would love to get my hands on a copy. I plan to buy one when we visit again.
    Another book with great photos is Bangkok Inside Out by Daniel Ziv and Guy Sharett, but I think it is out of print. It caused a stir with Thailand’s Ministry of Culture with the photos of some of the sex workers in the red-light district.
    Amy recently posted…Modifying food choices even furtherMy Profile

  5. Hi Amy. It if you enjoyed Bangkok Inside Out, you are going to be blown away by Very Thai. Philip has a passion for hunting down the tiny details of the popular culture and history of Thailand and it shows in the book. You can get Very Thai on amazon.com but if that’s what’ll take you to get back here, even for a visit, then I’m all for it 🙂
    Catherine recently posted…Thai Navy Dances Gangnam Style: Youtube SensationsMy Profile

  6. Catherine – Thailand has many strange ways and many unanswered questions including the one shown in your bottom photo. Why do Thai women make the Thai two finger salute when posing for photos and what does it mean? I tried to answer that one myself a couple of years back and came to the conclusion it dated back to Siam’s war with Burma in 1767 and their(Siam’s) soldiers index and middle fingers used to draw a bow. If taken prisoner the Burmese would cut them off. However, right or wrong there’s still many answers to Thais strange quirks I’d like to know.

    Nice post.
    Martyn recently posted…The Sea Side 2 Restaurant in Udon ThaniMy Profile

  7. Thanks Martyn. I remember when you wrote the article about the two fingered salute. When I went to Burma early this year I took a photo of a Burmese girl who gave the same. As soon as I pointed my camera at her, just like the gal in the photo above, she whipped out those two fingers. So perhaps it’s doesn’t have anything to do with Burma vrs Thailand? Or… it could be that she knows nothing of the history behind the finger salute. An unsolved mystery.

  8. Catherine – Perhaps the Burmese archers made the same sign back to the Siamese. Here’s the link to the post;

    http://www.thaisabai.org/2009/09/the-thai-two-finger-salute/
    Martyn recently posted…The Sea Side 2 Restaurant in Udon ThaniMy Profile

  9. Martyn, that could be it. Back then armies fought mostly close together (unlike now). So both sides taunting each other makes sense. I need to reread Very Thai to see if there was a mention anywhere (it’s been years).
    Catherine Wentworth recently posted…Review: Language Learning LogMy Profile

  10. I bought this book as a present for my parents on my first stay in Thailand. Disappointingly, they never gave it more than a cursory look. Such a shame as I think it still holds up as one of the best insights into Thai culture available in printed form. Your idea of using it as a housewarming gift, Cat, is a magnificent one too. Here’s hoping Very Bangkok is out by the time I make my next trip!

    Also if anyone’s still reading this thread, Alex Kerr is the author of a couple of excellent books on Japanese culture (Lost Japan is one, the other slips my mind just now (maybe it’s called Dogs and Demons… not sure). Highly recommended if Japanese culture interests you.

Posted in: Blog, Events, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #blogs #book #events #exhibitions #international #reviews #Thailand 

Richard Barrow: Thai Travel Blogs

Very Thai Exhibition in front of ZEN in Bangkok

by   on September 29, 2012

VTZ Thai Travel Blogs 2014-06-30 at 00.27.01 VTZ Thai Travel Blogs 2014-06-30 at 00.27.14
One of the best books about Thai culture and life, Very Thai by Philip Cornwel-Smith, now has a photo exhibition in front of ZEN in Bangkok. The exhibition runs from now until 6th December 2012. ZEN is part of the CentralWorld complex and has easy access from BTS Chidlom. The free exhibition is outside so check the weather report first. For more information, check out the Facebook page for Very Thai.

Posted in: Blog, Events, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #exhibitions #Thailand #tourism 

Richard Barrow: Paknam Web Forums

Thread: Very Thai Photographic Exhibition in front of ZEN in Bangkok

VTZ Paknam 2014-06-29 at 21.59.55 VTZ Paknam 2014-06-29 at 22.00.06

http://www.thailandqa.com/forum/showthread.php?42816-Very-Thai-Photographic-Exhibition-in-front-of-ZEN-in-Bangkok

One of the best books about Thai culture and life, Very Thai by Philip Cornwel-Smith, now has a photo exhibition in front of ZEN in Bangkok. The exhibition runs from now until 6th December 2012. ZEN is part of the CentralWorld complex and has easy access from BTS Chidlom. The free exhibition is outside so check the weather report first. For more information, check out the Facebook page for Very Thai.

Mahindrasarath's Avatar

Mahindrasarath at 06-10-12, 02:59 PM
That’s the beauty cover of the book! Good perception.

Posted in: Blog, Events, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #blogs #book #events #exhibitions #reviews #Thailand #tourism 

Pramool

SK. หนังสือ “ Very Thai ( ภาษาอังกฤษ ) ”

Pramool 2014-06-29 at 23.06.28 Pramool 2014-06-29 at 23.06.41

http://www.pramool.com/cgi-bin/dispitem.cgi?10114796

SK. หนังสือ “ Very Thai ( ภาษาอังกฤษ ) ” No : 10114796 
  ราคาปัจจุบัน 209 บาท (ไม่มีราคาขั้นต่ำ)
ราคาเริ่มต้น : 199 บาท
  เวลาที่เหลือ การประมูลยุติแล้ว
จำนวนการเสนอราคา : 1 (ประวัติการเสนอราคา)
  เริ่มประมูล ศ. 29 มิ.ย 2555 13:30:18
ที่อยู่ของผู้ขาย : กรุงเทพฯ 10520
  ปิดประมูล อ. 24 ก.ย 2556 14:30:18
  ผู้ขายสินค้า Sk2511 (347300-up 
(กดดูคำติชม)   (สินค้าทั้งหมดของผู้ขาย)
ชื่อในบัตร ปชช : สุรั.. คง..(กทม)
ลงทะเบียนเมื่อ : พ. 25 ก.พ 2552 22:48:18
การชำระเงิน : ดูในรายละเอียดสินค้า
  ผู้เสนอราคาสูงสุด Bargain (481300-up  กดที่นี่เพื่อติดต่อผู้ขาย

สินค้าที่ประกาศขาย เป็นของสมาชิกนำมาปิดประกาศ ทางเว็บประมูลดอทคอมไม่มีส่วนเกี่ยวข้อง
หากพบเห็นสินค้าละเมิดลิขสิทธิ์ ผิดกฏหมาย รบกวนแจ้งทางเว็บ กดที่นี่เพื่อดูรายละเอียด

[ ร่วมรณรงค์ซื้อสินค้าจากผู้ขายที่มีรูปสินค้า และชื่อ Login บนกระดาษวางคู่สินค้า หากไม่มีผู้ขายอาจไม่มีสินค้าในรูป ]
โปรดระวัง ช่วงนี้มิจฉาชีพระบาด ถ้าผู้ขายต้องการให้โอนเงินให้ก่อน (ถึงแม้จะส่งสำเนาบัตรให้ทางเว็บ ) ควรโอนเงินผ่านเว็บมาสเตอร์ (รับเฉพาะสินค้าถูกกฏหมายนะครับ กดที่นี่เพื่อดูรายละเอียด) โดยเฉพาะสินค้าที่มีราคาแพงกว่า 500 บาท ! เสียดาย ดีกว่าเสียเงินครับ
ถ้าผู้ขายไม่ยอมโอนเงินผ่านเว็บ และเขียนคำติให้สามารถแจ้งให้ลบออกให้ได้ครับ
* ในกรณีที่ต้องการโอนเงินให้ก่อน ควรขอเบอร์โทรศัพท์บ้านของผู้ขาย และโทรเช็ค (เพราะถ้ามีปัญหาสามารถติดตามได้ดีกว่ามือถือ) 


ชื่อหนังสือ SK. หนังสือ “ Very Thai ( ภาษาอังกฤษ ) ”
ผู้เขียน / ผู้แปล สนพ.Silver
สรุปโดยย่อ หนังสือเกี่ยวกับประเทศไทยที่จัดพิมพ์ด้วยภาษาอังกฤษทั้งเล่ม
ทุกอย่างของไทยหาได้ในหนังสือเล่มนี้ ภาพถ่ายสวยงามมาก
*** พิมพ์ด้วยกระดาษมันอย่างดี สี่สีทั้งเล่มสวยงามมาก ***
จำนวนหน้า 286 หน้า ( หนังสือปกแข็ง – เล่มใหญ่ )
ราคาตามปกหนังสือ 995.- บาท ( ขายต่างชาติโดยเฉพาะ )
สภาพหนังสือ 90 %
ค่าจัดส่ง 30.- บาท
ชำระเงิน โอนเข้าบัญชีธนาคารกรุงเทพ ชื่อ นายสุรัตน์ คงจันทร์
เลขที่บัญชี 157-0-35330-8 สาขาพระโขนง
ระยะเวลา โอนเงิน ภายใน 3 วัน นะครับ
หมายเหตุเพิ่มเติม กรณีปิดหลายรายการและปิดไม่ตรงกัน ระยะห่างจากรายการแรกไม่เกิน 3 วัน
ยินดีสำหรับลูกค้าที่ต้องการสินค้าทันที สามารถบิดนอกรอบได้ ตามราคาที่บิด
โทรศัพท์ติดต่อ นายสุรัตน์ คงจันทร์ ( 089 ) 2331516

Added by the Seller on Fri Jun 29 13:31:15 2012:

Added by the Seller on Thu Sep 19 09:06:20 2013:
ปิดประมูลให้คุณ Bargain แล้วครับ / ขอบคุณครับ 

 

 

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #reviews #Thai language #website 

Globetrotting Gourmet

Review by Robert Carmack

http://globetrottinggourmet.com/books/all.htm

This is an insightful look into one of our favorite destinations. Brand new and profusely illustrated, its written by Philip Cornwel-Smith, an English expat with many years’ residence in this Kingdom of Smiles. Indeed, Very Thai is so good, it’s already heading into translation. Highly recommended.

– Robert Carmack, Globetrotting Gourmet, author of Thai Cooking & The Burma Cookbook

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #international #reviews #tourism 

Les Guides d’état du monde: Thaïlande

Review in French guidebook by Arnaud Dubus.

Bibliographie

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture. Un ouvrage superbement illustré sur l’univers thaï-thaï (typiquement thaï) avec de longs textes explicatifs.

Translation: A superbly illustrated book on the Thai-Thai universe (typically Thai) with long explanatory texts.

Published in 2011 by La Découverte.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #French Guidebook 

Tingtongbear’s Blog

ความเป็นไทย Very Thai

POSTED BY  ⋅ 
http://tingtongbear.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/ความเป็นไทย-very-thai/
PDF: Tingtongbear’s Blog
Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 20.01.35

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #photography #Thai language 

Siam Voices, Asian Correspondent

Thai Culture Ministry to crack down on religious tattoos on foreign skin

By Saksith Saiyasombut

http://asiancorrespondent.com/56307/thailands-culture-ministry-to-crackdown-on-religious-tattoos-on-foreign-skin/
Tattoos have a very special place in Thailand. They’re more than just permanent fashion statements, not unlike amulets they are regarded as spiritual guardians. Tattoos with religious or spiritual motives, called Yantra tattoos, are yet another sign that Thais take their beliefs skin-deep. Philip Cornwel-Smith dedicated a whole chapter in his excellent book Very Thai.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #features #reviews 

Thailand Footprint

Featured Footprint:
Artist Chris Coles – Bringing it to the Bangkok Night

http://peoplethingsliterature.com/tag/chris-coles-thailand/

2011

“Meetings with Chris are always memorable. There was a mid-day meal at SUDA restaurant years ago where Chris informed me at our lunch table, “You need to buy, Very Thai.” A book written by Philip Cornwel-Smith and now in its second edition, with additional photographs by John Goss. After we finished eating we walked to the Time Square Building on Sukumvit 12 and went up the escalator to Asia Books on the second floor. That Asia Books store is now gone. But I still own Very Thai thanks to Chris Coles. It is a great book about everyday popular culture in Thailand.”

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #blogs #book #reviews 

Planet Asia Podcast Series

Thai Culture & Quirks: Phillip Cornwell-Smith, author of Very Thai

<iframe src=”http://www.podbean.com/media/player/audio/postId/1694329/url/http%253A%252F%252Fsmilingalbino.podbean.com%252Fe%252Fthai-culture-quirks-phillip-cornwell-smith-author-of-very-thai%252F/initByJs/1/auto/1″ width=”100%” height=”100″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”></iframe>

http://smilingalbino.podbean.com/e/thai-culture-quirks-phillip-cornwell-smith-author-of-very-thai/

Planet Asia podcast 2014-06-29

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #culture #interviews #podcast #Thailand 

Engaging Thailand Tips

Recommended Books

By Trevor Bide on January 7, 2011

There are some things that are very Thai and knowing about them will greatly help your understanding of Thai ways and popular Thai culture. What is Hi-So? The love affair with red bull and energy drinks, ghost stories, amulet collectors and fortune tellers. Thai Massage, What is a sniff kiss? These are just a few of the things you will read about in the excellent 256 page book with fantastic photographs called “Very Thai“.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #reviews #Thailand 

Bangkok Design Festival

Very Thai

This week i’ve got the illustration assignment called ” VERY THAI” project.I have to answer the given questions into loog-toong (ลูกทุ่ง) style of illustration 🙂 Which one do you like or dislike just let me khow!I’d appreciate your comments! 🙂

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 00.21.41 Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 00.21.59 Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 00.22.07

 

 

http://happygraff.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/very-thai/

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #art #blogs #endorsements #Thailand 

Flickr Groups

Very Thai

One picture/day. Inspired by Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith & John Goss

https://www.flickr.com/groups/verythai/

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 23.37.22 Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 23.37.34 Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 23.37.46 Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 23.37.54 Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 23.38.04 Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 23.38.14

Posted in: Blog, Media, Photography, Reviews,

Tags: #book #culture #international #photography #reviews 

Mundo Exchange

Books and Readings for Mundo’s Thailand Interns, Friends, Visitors and Travelers

Books and Information on All Things Thai

 

http://mundoexchange.org/2010/10/books-readings-for-thailand-volunteers-and-travelers/

Mundo Exchange volunteers and interns in Thailand have created a list of books and reading about Thailand and Thai culture. Some of the works included are fiction, others are about history, the arts, and the cultural ways of this Thai society. Travelers, tourists and armchair anthropologists may enjoy some of these writings. Our goal is to include more, so if you want to recommend other Thai related readings let us know at info@mundoexchange.org. Enjoy they reads! (*Other books and readings, not listed here, will be available for Mundo Exchange volunteers during your cross-cultural training and orientation.)

Thai Culture:

Very Thai by Philip Cornwel-Smith, 2005

An endlessly entertaining book full of photo essays explaining the simple yet fascinating quirks of modern Thai culture: from toilet paper napkins to ghost stories, and from drinks in a plastic bag to temple carnivals, this book brilliantly sheds light on the everyday popular culture in Thailand that is so mystifying to its visitors.

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #academic #blogs #book #culture #international #reviews #website 

Chiang Mai University

Very Thai เวรี่ไทย

 

http://photoartcmu.com/sites/default/files/medifoto.pdf

I don’t have a date of this exhibition and posting. If you know, please contact me. Thanks.

CMU VT show 2014-06-30 at 00.13.50 CMU VT show 2014-06-30 at 00.13.56
CMU VT show 2014-06-30 at 00.14.02 CMU VT show 2014-06-30 at 00.14.09

การวิพากษ์ถึงความล้มเหลวและความผิดพลาดของคนอื่นคงเป็นเรื่องสนุกสําหรับปถุชนคน ทั่วไป คล้ายกับคนในอดีตชอบดูถูกคนอื่นถูกลงโทษ ถูกตัดคอประหารชีวิตในที่สาธารณะ ณ จัตุรัส กลางเมือง ถือเป็นความบันเทิงของคนในยุคนั้น

ผู้ที่มีสิทธิ์วิพากษ์คนอื่นได้ น่าจะเป็นคนที่มีความประพฤติและจิตใจอยู่เหนือกว่าคนที่เขา วิพากษ์ เช่น ไม่เคยทําผิดเลย ไม่เคยล้มเหลว ไม่เคยโกหกตอแหล หรือเคยน้อยที่สุด ผลงานชิ้นนี้ต้องการนําเสนอให้ความผิดพลาดเป็นครู เพราะ ขึ้นชื่อว่า “คน” คนเรามันพลาดกันได้ ตัว ข้าพเจ้าเองก็เคยพลาดตั้งหลายอย่าง “กิ้งกือยังสะดุดเท้าตัวเอง”

ภาพบรรยากาศภายในนิทรรศการ

Posted in: Blog, Events, Reviews,

Tags: #academic #art #book #culture #exhibitions #Thai language #Thailand 

Books Are Me

Fascinating But A Little Dense

This insight into contemporary Thai culture delves beyond the traditional Thai icons to reveal the casual, everyday expressions of what it is to be Thai that so delight and puzzle outsiders. Never colonised, Thai culture retains ancient meaning in the most mundane things – over 200 colour images.

My Personal Review:

I finally finished Very Thai and I enjoyed it very much. If you have been to Thailand a time or two it certainly helps explain a lot of things you wondered about.

The book is basically organized like a series of magazine articles on all sorts of topics. The tiny font takes some getting used to. Of course some articles are more interesting than others and there is a bit of repetition between and among some of the articles. The book is well-organized, thoroughly sourced, and lavishly illustrated with tons of photos.

I see there are some copies available now that are quite reasonably priced. I paid a ton more for this book, but I certainly don’t regret. If you love Thailand and wished you could better understand the Thais and the things they do this book is essential.

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #reviews 

Thai Food & Travel Blog

Thai Napkins

by Michael Babcock, June 5th, 2010

http://thaifoodandtravel.com/blog/thai-napkins/

One of the more common Thai napkin is a flimsy, pink sheet. The one I measured was 14 cm (or 5-1/2 inches) square and about the consistency of flimsy, 1-ply toilet paper. I often wondered about these and was able to find out a bit about them in one of my favorite books about Thailand: Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith, with photographs by John Goss. The pink napkins are made from recycled paper and are less expensive; they are died pink to cover up blemishes from recycling. The dye is made from extracts of tomato and cinnabar.

 

caption: Napkins at My Choice restaurant in Bangkok

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #reviews #Thailand #tourism 

ArchmaniaC :: BLESS ME, I’m in CRISIS!

posted on 06 May 2010 14:48 by archmania  in What-a-Life

http://archmania.exteen.com/20100506/the-very-thai-1

 

Archmania 2014-06-29 at 23.16.15 Archmania 2014-06-29 at 23.16.26 Archmania 2014-06-29 at 23.16.35 Archmania 2014-06-29 at 23.16.47 Archmania 2014-06-29 at 23.16.58

โอ้ยยยย

โมโหวววว์ โกรธาาาาาาาา

อยากจะปี๊ดดดดดดดดดดดดดดดดดดดดดด!

.

เฮ้อ…

เมื่อไหร่จะมีฟังก์ชั่นกดแล้วมีเสียงกรี๊ด -*-

.

.

ช่างเถอะ…คงได้แต่บ่นกระปอดกระแปดไปอย่างนั้นแหละ

เหนื่อยใจ… แต่เดี๋ยวก็จะผ่านไป

.

เคยเห็นเพื่่อนถือ Text book ของฝรั่งชื่อ “The Very Thai” เป็นรวมภาพถ่ายองค์ประกอบต่างๆ ที่เค้าเห็นว่า เนี่ย…ไท๊ยไทย…ไม่มีที่อื่นแล้ว เช่น รถตุ๊กๆ  ไรงี้….

ไม่เคยอ่านหรอก แต่จริงๆ แล้วมันยังมีมิติอื่นๆ นอกจากที่จะเห็นได้ด้วยเลนส์กล้องอีกเยอะที่เป็น Very Thai..ในสายตาคน “ไทยแท้ๆ”อย่างเราๆ ท่านๆ

.

.

1. สติกเกอร์กู้ภัย อุ้มหญิง แก้ผ้า

พยายามหารูปในเน็ตแต่ไม่ยักกะมี ทั้งที่เราเห็นออกจะง่ายตามท้ายรถกระบะ รถตู้ และรถกู้ภัย!

ที่เห็น บ่อยๆ แบบนี้

เอ่อ……

ผู้หญิงที่อุ้มน่ะ..ตายไปแล้วป่ะ …มาสลบคออ่อนแบบนี้

แล้วมันจะอุ้มได้เหรอคะเธอ ท่านี้อ่ะ -..-‘

มัน very Thai ตรงที่คงดูเท่มากนะ แมนสุดๆ …..อุ้มหญิงสาวหมดสติ ช่วยชีวิต

.

แล้ว หลังจากนั้นล่ะ?

 

อัน นี้ก็เห็นบ่อย

ผู้หญิงโป้เปลือยถอดน้ำเจี็ยกคาขาขวา…  เห็นหน่มน้มอูมๆ จากด้านหลัง

-..-‘ ที่ช่วยตามรูปบน นี่มันหวังผลที่รูปล่างชิมิ?

แสดงว่าชายไทย…. ชอบแบบวับแวม…(จะฮัดช่าอ่ะ แต่เห็นเต็มๆ แล้วไม่ตื่นเต้น….แต่ยังยืนยันนะว่าต้องฮัดช่า!)

.

นี่ลงทุน วาดเองเลยนะ…คงนึกกันออก ไอ้สติกเกอร์ 2 รูปนี้..

ตามมาติดๆ คงไม่พ้นสติกเกอร์รูกระสุน …

ไม่รู้ว่าฝรั่ง ญี่ปุ่น ชาติอื่นๆ ฮิตติดลมบนอย่างเราหรือเปล่า

VERY THAI

.

 

.

2. แก้ปัญหายากด้วยวิธีง่าย!

เทพเนอะ…พี่ไทย… ทำเรื่องยากให้เป็นเรื่องง่าย! ถือว่าต้องใช้ควยามฉลาดเฉพาะตัวในการเลือกวิธีแก้ปัญหา

แล้วมัน Very Thai ตรงไหน? ที่ไหนๆ เค้าก็คิดอย่างงี้

.

คือเง๊…. บ้านเราอ่ะ แก้ปัญหาโลกแตกด้วยการปอกกล้วย!

เช่น… หวยใต้ดิน…(การพนันเป็นสิ่งผิด) .. มันผิดชิมิ…แก้ปัญหาก็ไม่ได้ ยังไงก็ยังเล่นหวยอยู่ดี…งั้นงัดเอาขึ้นมาไว้บนดินซะ…นี่งายยยยย….. ประเทศชาติไทยก็จะมีแต่เรื่องที่ถูกต้องงงงงงง

เช่น… บุหรี่ เป็นอันตรายต่อสุขภาพและส่งผลต่อชีวิตผู้อื่น….ก็ใส่รูปฟันเหลือง ปอดแตกซะ……

เช่น… ห้ามดื่มเกินวันละสองขวด และโปรดอ่านสลากก่อนดื่มทุกครั้ง…..พูดจบใน 0.03 วินาที -..-‘

เช่น… ยุบสภา.. ตามใจคนประท้วง..เพราะกลัวคนดีเดือดร้อน -..-‘…อ่า….เรื่องนี้ ผ่านไปละกัน -..-‘

VERY THAI

.

.

3. สื่อสารกันด้วยป้าย

ให้ตาย……. อ่านไม่ออกไม่นับเข้าพวกนะคะคู๊ณณณณ

.

รถคันนี้สีชมพูดอกบาน เย็นปลูกที่เชียงใหม่

บ้านนี้ไม่มีคนชื่อ ส ห ล ว ฮ ฏ ไปหาที่อื่นเถอะค่ะพี่ผีแม่หม้าย

ที่หมาเยี่ยว คนห้ามเยี่ยว

สงบ สันติ อหิงสา ยุบสภา (ตู้มมมมมมม! สงบกันมากกกก)

VERY THAI

.

.

4. หยวนๆ

ไม่ใช่สกุลเงินจีนนะคะคู๊ณณณณ  หมายถึง หยวนๆ อ่ะๆ ยังไงก้ได้

จะประนีประณอมกันไปไหน? บางทีอะไรมันก็ต้องชัดบ้าง เช่น ภาระงาน

มีที่ไหนวะ…ปฏิคม…มานั่ง ทำโปสเตอร์ มานั่งตัดตัวหนังสือโฟมติดเวที -..-‘  (ส่วนตัวและอันนี้)

คือ… งานมันชิ้นใหญ่แบ่งเป็นหลายส่วน หมายความว่า จะมารวมหัวกันทำไม่ได้ เดี่ยวจะไม่เสร็จ

แต่เพราะแบ่งกันไม่ชัด แล้วทุกคน ก็เลยต้องทำทุกงาน แล้วงานก็เลยซ้ำซ้อน แล้วคนก็เหนื่อยหลายที แล้วสุดท้ายก็ไม่มีอะไรเป็นระบบ

น่าเบื่อมากกกก…..

VERY THAI

.

.

พยายามมากที่จะจัดให้ได้ 5 ข้อ

.

5. นิสัยขั้นกว่า

แบบนี้ไง…

“การดำรงบทบาทเป็นผู้นำที่ต้อง ตัดสินใจนั้นน่าหนักใจ แต่การดำรงบทบาทเป็นผู้ตามของผู้นำที่ไม่ตัดสินใจนั้นน่าหนักใจกว่า”

“การ ทำตัวให้เป็นคนดีน่ารักนั้นดี แต่การทำตัวให้เป็นคนดีน่ารักโดยไม่เด่นนั้นดีกว่า”

“ข้าราชการที่ ซื่อสัตย์สุจริตนั้นเป็นที่พึงประสงค์ของผู้ใหญ่ แต่ข้าราชการที่ซื่อสัตย์เฉพาะกับผู้ใหญ่นั้นน่าพึงประสงค์กว่า”

“การ เรียนในมหาวิทยาลัยที่ใดก็มาตรฐานเดียวกันทั้งนั้น…แต่ถ้ามหาวิทยาลัยของ รัฐก็จะได้งานทำง่ายกว่า” (อ้าว)…

VERY THAI

.

.

.

จบ และ….

ซื่อๆ ….

เบื่อๆ เลยเขียนเล่นซะเลย

.

หงุด หงิดๆ

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #culture #Thai language #Thailand 

Bangkok University: Contemporary Issues in Communication Design

Bangkok University 2/2010 ทุกวันอังคาร เวลา 8.40-11.10 น. ห้อง 722.

2010 CD371 Contemporary Issues in Communication Design

วันอังคารที่ 22 กุมภาพันธ์ พ.ศ. 2554

Very Thai > วิถีความเป็นไทยที่แฝงอยู่ในชีวิตประจำวัน

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 20.09.22Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 20.09.04Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 20.09.12

2010 CD371 Contemporary Issues in Communication Design: Very Thai > วิถีความเป็นไทยที่แฝงอยู่ในชีวิตประจำวัน

 

ลองพิจารณาถึงการแบ่งหมวดหมู่ความเป็นไทยในด้านวิิถีชีวิต ความเป็นอยู่ประจำวัน วัฒนธรรมต่างๆ ทีึ่อยู่รายรอบตัวเรา

  • ไทยเดิม – Thai Classical – Thai Traditional = High Arts

เช่น วัดพระศรีรัตนศาสดาราม งานจิตรกรรม ปฏิมากรรม ช่างสิบหมู่ งานศิลปาชีพ ดนตรีไทยเดิม หนังเรื่อง ตำนานสมเด็จพระนเรศวร สุริโยไท ฯลฯ

  • ไทยท้องถิ่น – ชนบท – ต่างจังหวัด – Thai local

สามารถแบ่งแยกย่อยออกเป็น อดีต – แผลเก่า, ลูกอีสาน / ปัจจุบัน – แหยม, วงศ์คำเหลา ฯ

  • ไทยเมือง – Thai Metropolis – Thai Urban

สามารถแบ่งแยกย่อยออกเป็น อดีต – บ้านทรายทอง, เก๋าๆ / ปัจจุบัน – รถไฟฟ้ามาหานะเธอ, พลอย,​ เป็นต่อ, บางรักซอย 9

  • ไทยร่วมสมัย – Contemporary Thai

เกาหลีร่วมสมัย, Cosplay, พารากอน, ฯลฯ

เขียนโดย ที่ 

 

http://2010cd371.blogspot.com/2011/02/very-thai.html

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #academic #Bangkok #blogs #reviews 

The Independent (feature)

Bangkok: Real Thai tranquillity

Escape the heat and noise of Bangkok with a trip around the city’s green hideaways, says Andrew Spooner

 

It’s early on a bright tropical Thai Sunday morning and I‘m standing at what many Thais consider to be the centre of Bangkok: Victory Monument. It is here – where a dramatic single-pronged monument rises out of the swirling cacophony of buses, tuk-tuks, mini-vans, noodle stalls and thousands of rushing Thais – that Bangkok reaches its fierce crescendo.

Even during the so-called winter season – which runs from now until March, with temperatures averaging 26C – Bangkok’s sensory overload of noise, rush and heat can be unbearable. Burning concrete, brain-melting humidity and the constant fumes of traffic coagulate into one long exhausting throb. So what do visitors do when the Thai capital overwhelms? Most take the easy way out, get back to their hotel rooms and switch on the air conditioning. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #features #international #interviews 

New Mandala

A classic popular culture blog

By Andrew Walker – 23 October 2009

‘…the fabulous book, Very Thai, by Phillip Cornwel-Smith which explains all those wonderful and wacky details that make Thai pop culture so interesting and so much fun.’

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #academic #blogs #book #culture #endorsements #international #reviews 

Shiryu

Very Thai วิถีความเป็นไทยที่แฝงอยู่ในชีวิตประจำวัน

http://visut2005.blogspot.com/2009/11/very-thai.html

Shiryu 2014-06-29 at 23.29.03
Print Print

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #culture #design #reviews #Thai language 

Life in Phana

Very Thai

11 June 2009

http://phanathailife.typepad.com/thai-life-phana/2009/06/a-book-which-gives-me-particular-pleasure-especially-when-i-am-far-from—thailand-as-now-is-very-thai-by-philip-cor.html

 Life in Phana 2014-06-29 at 21.41.03 Life in Phana 2014-06-29 at 21.41.13 Life in Phana 2014-06-29 at 21.41.21 Life in Phana 2014-06-29 at 21.41.33

    A book which gives me particular pleasure, especially when I am far from Thailand as now, is Very Thai by Philip Cornwel-Smith. I have a hardback copy here and a paperback version in Phana. I have actually bought about five copies altogether, but envious friends and relations have taken the others. On the whole I am pleased to let them have a book which I enjoy so much.

 

    Very Thai is one of those books you can dip into anywhere and always find something interesting. The topics are all familiar to anyone who has been in Thailand even for a fairly short time with their eyes open, but Cornwel-Smith always has an informed take on every subject and he makes good use of knowledgeable Thai experts who add native authenticity and depth to his own observations. For example, we all notice the gaudy decorations on trucks, tuk-tuks and songthaews, but Cornwel-Smith reveals the traditional and even mythical origins of the designs. He points out that “Looking beautiful may be important but meaning matters as much. With spirits underwriting any accident, drivers pay extra premiums for divine protection through décor. Chassis metalwork plays shrine, cabins act as altar, talisman-shaped bolts physically hold the trailer together.”

    Cornwel-Smith reports what he sees and digs down beneath the surface to cast new light on everyday objects and customs. He touches on some topics that come up on the Bangkok Post letters page (Soi Animals, Street Vendors, Motorcy Taxis, Hanging Wires) but he observes without whingeing. His mission is to explain and not to criticise or make cross-cultural comparisons. He certainly touches on things which are not normally regarded (especially by Thai officialdom ie Thai Tourist Authority) as ‘culture’. So we have the McDonalds clown wai-ing, the sniff kiss, the beckoning lady, whisky mixer tables, and so on. What this wonderful book does above all else is to celebrate what makes Thailand so unique, what makes it such a joy to live in, what makes it so different despite the seeming universality of shopping malls, expressways, and high-rise buildings.

    And the photographs are a delight. The only thing I have against them is that I didn’t take them myself. I wish I had. Maybe if I had, I would have included these next four pictures, which illustrate a couple of things which give me and many people in Isan a lot of pleasure.

Very Thai

Everyday Popular Culture

Philip Cornwel-Smith

Photographs: John Goss

River Books

Bangkok 2005

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #culture #reviews #Thailand 

UsedTravelBooks

Book Review: Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture

Apr 2009

By Shawn Gowans

http://www.usedtravelbooks.com.au/book-review-very-thai-everyday-popular-culture-by-philip-cornwel-smith.html

As a professional bookseller I have had around 15,000 books pass through my hands over the last few years. Out of all those books there are just a couple that I found too precious to part with. The one book I will never ever sell is “Very Thai” a lovely hardcover book explaining all the unexplainable facets of Thai popular culture from men dressed as ladies to tuk tuk art to the ingenious use of plastic blue pipes to those tiny tiny pink tissues they give you at streetside food stalls. It is a celebration of everything that makes Thailand wonderful. And more importantly, it is a detailed snapshop of Thai culture at 2005. For instance that ‘legal services’ shopfront shown in the first photo below is no longer there.

There are more glamorous subjects but my favourite chapter is the one covering Blue PVC pipes and Hanging Electrical Wires…

Uniting the Thai architecture, roads and vistas, two things snag they eye: hanging wires and the blue PVC pipe. You can’t miss these contributions to probably the world’s most cluttered streestcape. Wires old, new and redundant tangle our surroundings in brutal, slashing lines or whimsical knots, severed ends swinging like electic eels at head-height. Defying the logic and memory as to what connects what, cables tangle into garlands several dozen thick. Blue pipes meander over teak house, temple and waterfall. The eye may bypass them to dwell on beautiful details behind, but the camera doesn’t lie. Taking a wire-free photograph defies all but the deftest lensman. the most photographed sight in Thailand is the hanging wire.

Published 2005 by River Books Thailand. 256 pages. Alas we don’t have a copy to spare but last time I looked there are revised 2009 paperback editions in stock at Asia Books

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #culture #endorsements #international #reviews 

Baan Jochim Phuket

Ya Dom: The Thai Nasal Inhaler

By Mark Jochim, Jan 2009

http://baanjochim.com/?p=1342

Visitors to Thailand are sometimes taken aback by seeing so many people constantly sniffing from small plastic canisters. Occasionally, one even sees Thais walking along with two of these inhalers stuck in their nostrils at the same time. This isn’t a case of the entire population suffering from nasal congestion, nor are people participating in some strange kind of a mass drug high. What you are seeing is a popular form of samun phrai (สมุนพราย), or traditional herbal medicine, known as yaa dom (ยาดม), which literally means medicinal inhaler. The most common of all Thai accessories, one can find these for sale next to cash registers in pharmacies and convenience stores throughout the Kingdom. Millions of Thais sniff yaa dom inhalers to clear congestion from pollution, mask odors, and make their nose feel cool. The little white nozzle plugs into both the nose and the national psyche.

The inhalers come in various shapes and sizes, from more commercial brands, such as Poy Sian, to more traditional versions featuring actual herbs. The latter were once more prominent in the provinces, but are now becoming increasingly popular in Bangkok. The roots of yaa dom, along with other traditional Thai medicine, can be traced back 2,500 years to the time of Gautama Buddha and Shivago Komaraphat, the physician for the original Buddhist order of monks and knows and known as the “father” doctor of Thai medicine.

According to writer Philip Cornwel-Smith, in his book Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture, “Fashion, tradition and hypochondria may play a part, but a breathing problem exists. They way the Thai now live traumatizes the nasal passages, causes constant chills and dulls the immune system. Constant ducking in and out of ice-cold air-conditioning isn’t the sole culprit; millions wake up wind-dried from sleeping through the gusts of a fan. Then throughout the day, stress-induced over-breathing gets the chairbound urbanite panting through his mouth. Respiratory illness is gagging Thailand. The capital’s fumes and cement dust permeate the Central Plains, while smoke from burning forest and fields choke Northern valleys throughout the hot season.”

It’s also important to remember how important scent is in the Thai subconcious. “Perfume powers the culture, from tangy shrimp paste and aromatic jasmine rice to the floral water tincture nam yaa uthai. Scent’s ability to transport the mind has religious uses, as with incense, garlands and nam ob, a pungent, powdery liquid used in rites as well as grooming. Constant bathing and clothes washing ensures one’s personal bouquet makes the ‘sniff kiss‘ a mutual pleasure. ‘If you do smell, you have the chance of having it pointed out to you,” Kat’s column in The Nation points out. But there is a popular remedy: “Mentholated” powders leave your body feeling like one gigantic breath mint for hours.’

According to Wit Sukhsamran, a practitioner of traditional Thai medicine there aren’t any addictive ingredients in the inhalers, although there are some specific physiological effects which could lead to addiction. “The combination of camphor and menthol can have an effervescent effect, which can lead to an addiction among some users. Since the membrane between the nasal passage and brain is thin, it allows for quick absorption and nourishment of the brain. So, it’s a more immediate effect. It is also this phenomenon that results in [unwholesome] acts, such as sniffing glue, becoming so addictive among users.” Yaa dom works by stimulating nerve endings, which allows improved blood flow, which subsequently counters conditions of fatigue, nasal congestion, nausea, and vertigo.

Royal Thai mandated yaa dom inhalant mixtures are taught at the temple of Wat Pho in Bangkok, while literally thousands of other forms, in addition to commercial brands, can be found throughout the country. There are probably as many versions as there are practitioners of herbal medicine and healers. Broadly speaking, there are chemical-based or herbal forms of commercial yaa dom available on the market. The Poy Sian brand is a popular form of chemical-based yaa dom, featuring a mix of the oils of broneol, camphor, eucalyptus, and menthol.

Of the commercial herbal inhalers, Jarungjit is a popular brand, featuring pommelo and several other herbs, which are ground together. The most popular ingredients in homemade mixtures or those produced in rural areas, are various chopped herbs. A common form includes a base of black pepper, camphor oil, citrus peel/pommelo, cloves, and mace. These are commonly packaged in a small jar or glass bottle.

So while at first glance it could easily be assumed that the widespread use of yaa dom is a kind of society-wide addiction, it might be more accurate to conclude that its popularity is due to a combination of factors: a long-held cultural tradition (traditional Thai medicine); a counter to rapid industrialization (its use for countering foul urban smells, such as those generated by pollution); along with a fashionable consumer-driven trend towards “health consciousness”.

To learn more about Thai herbal medicine, a fabulous resource is the website for Tao Mountain.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #culture #reviews 

National Geographic Traveller

Places of a Lifetime

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/places/places-of-a-lifetime/bangkok-books.html

A must-have for anyone interested in scratching beneath the surface of modern Thai culture and its origins. For almost every question about modern Bangkok, the answer is here.

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #international #magazine #reviews #tourism 

Thai Visa

‘Must Have’ Books on Thailand and Thai Culture

Post by Desi

I’m here permanently (unless something strange happens). But like others here, I have friends visiting as well as moving to Thailand for work.

Before I moved to BKK, I knew about the Bangkok Guide because I was a member of this forum before arrival (googled to find out the best place to learn about living in Thailand and this was it). I bought other books on the advice of this forum.

A group of my friends/work colleagues (three families + a single) are arriving in the spring for work. They do not utilize the internet (as far as I know), so I wanted to compile a reading list from those on the ground.

This is the list so far…

101 Thai Forms

A Child of the Northeast, by Kampoon Boontawee

Atomised

Bangkok, by William Warren

Bangkok 8, by John Burdett

Bangkok Inside Out, by Daniel Ziv and Guy Sharette

Bangkok Blondes

Bangkok Haunts, by John Burdett

Bangkok People, by James Eckardt

Bangkok Tattoo, by John Burdett

Bangkok Then and Now, by Steve Van Beck

Buddha in the Landscape

Culture Shock Thailand, by Robert Cooper

Do’s and Don’ts in Thailand, by Kenny Yee and Catherine Gordon

Elephants in Thai life and legend

Firm Plus Focus on your Health

Four Reigns, by Kukrit Pramoj

Genders and Sexualities in Modern Thailand

Good Food Guide Bangkok, by Roseline NgCheong-Lum

Heart Words, by Christopher Moore

Inside Thai Society, by Niels Mulder

Knofs Thailand (guidebook)

Lady Boys, Tom Boys, Rent Boys, Male and Female Homosexualities in Contemporary Thailand, by Peter A Jackson/Gerard Sullivan

Letters from Thailand by Botan

Lonely Planet Bangkok

Losing the Plot, by Chuck Wow

Money Number One, by Neil Hutchison

Monsoon Country, by Pira Sudham

My Thai Girl and I, by Andrew Hicks

Phra Farang, by Phra Peter Pannapadipo

Private Dancer, by Stephen Leather

Reflections on Thai Culture, William J. Klausner

Siam Mapped, by Thongchai Winichakul

Siam Smiles, by Hugh Watson

Spiritual Abodes of Thailand, Barry Broman and William Warren

Thai Hawker Food, by Clive Wing

Thailand, a Short History, by David Wyatt

Thailand Confidential, by Jerry Hopkins

Thailand Fever

Thai Ways, by Denis Segaller

The Bangkok Guide (Australian New Zealand Women’s group)

The “Falcon of Siam”

The Spirit Houses of Thailand, by Peter Reichart and Pathawee Khongkhunthian

Vatch’s Thai Kitchen

Very Thai, everyday popular culture, by Philip Corawel-Smith

Who am ‘I’ in Thai?, by Voravudhi Chirasombutti and Anthony Diller

Working with the Thais’, by Henry Holmes

World Food Thailand, the Food and the Lifestyle, by Judy Williams

For moving to Thailand (BKK as a base), these are my top picks to get into the flow of the country quickly…

Inside Thai Society, by Niels Mulder

Thailand, a Short History, by David Wyatt

Thai Ways, by Denis Segaller

The Bangkok Guide (Australian New Zealand Women’s group)

Very Thai, everyday popular culture, by Philip Cornwel-Smith

Working with the Thais’, by Henry Holmes

Agree? Disagree? More to add?

And even though I haven’t read either, I believe Thailand Fever or Private Dancer would also be advised (?)

All, thank you for your help (and please keep them coming). I’m not sure about my friends, but my bookshelf is going to get quite full…

https://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/217017-must-have-books-on-thailand-and-thai-culture/?page=2

 

Very Thai, everyday popular culture, by Philip Corawel-Smith

This book rocks! Easily in the top 3 books to pick up if moving to Thailand. I don’t know what the other two are. Seems to be hard to get a hold of these days. MAKE THE EFFORT

[note: it’s still easy to get hold of. The poster was writing while a new printing was being done.]

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #blogs #book #culture #reviews #Thailand 

Virtual Tourist

Thai literature or literature about Thailand

http://forum.virtualtourist.com/Bangkok-1445238-6-3476604/Thai-literature-or-literature-about-Thailand.html

 

By schmechi Jun 8, 2009 at 7:04 AM

I’ll stay in Bangkok and Phuket next turn of the year and I wonder wether you can recommend me some Thai literature (or literature about Thailand) to get into the mood for my holidays…

Btw I’m talking about prose literature, not travel books… For example I’d recommend everybody visiting Vienna to read Stefan Zweig’s “World of Yesterday”…

 

Re: Thai literature or literature about Thailand

By Tina-Perth Jun 9, 2009 at 2:57 AM

Hi, there is a book which I really like called “Very Thai” – Everyday popular culture, written by Philip Cornwel-Smith. It explains a lot of things you may wonder about when you get to Thailand.

 Take a look here; http://www.verythai.com/

 Enjoy your trip!

 

Re: Thai literature or literature about Thailand

By aberacadabra Jun 10, 2009 at 1:24 AM

Bangkok Inside Out by Daniel Ziv.
 Very Thai by Cornwel-Smith is excellent.

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #culture #international #reviews #Thailand #tourism 

Travel Happy

Thailand Writers:
Phil Cornwel-Smith, author of Very Thai

BY  on 28 April 2008

TRAVEL HAPPY INTV 2014-06-29 at 23.59.42 TRAVEL HAPPY INTV 2014-06-29 at 23.59.52 TRAVEL HAPPY INTV 2014-06-30 at 00.00.07

http://travelhappy.info/thailand/thailand-writers-phil-cornwel-smith-author-of-very-thai-everyday-popular-culture/

In the first of Travelhappy’s Thailand Writers series, Philip Cornwel-Smith, author of the bestselling Very Thai, a guide to understanding everyday street life in Thailand, describes why he loves the Land of Smiles

 

Name
Philip Cornwel-Smith

Age
42

Nationality
British

Time in Thailand
14 years

What brought you here?
A backpacker bored with touring, I studied meditation and massage before staying in Bangkok with an ex-Time Out pal. Within four days, I was hired as founding editor of Bangkok’s first city magazine, Metro. A typical Thai tale of reinvention.

What do you most love about the place?
Unpredictability. Flexibility. Vibrant streetlife. General pleasantness. Tolerant acceptance of human nature.

Where do you live in Thailand? Why did you choose to live there?
At a house opposite where I first stayed, in a close-knit central soi dubbed Sesame Street, though it can evoke Melrose Place.


Phil Cornwel-Smith

What irks you?
Obstacles to people flourishing: impunity, censorship, monopolies, philistinism, the education system.

Thailand is the Land of Smiles. Discuss.
The plural doesn’t mean uniform happiness; there are different smiles for every emotion and motive. To learn Italian you begin with gestures; here you must learn how to smile.

Cultural recommendations (ie getting over culture shock)
Learn how to smile.

Explain the passion and idea behind your latest book in 100 words
Exoticised presentations of Thai culture ill-prepare visitors for reality. Thai streetlife fascinates, but goes mostly unexplained. In ‘Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture’ I identified patterns amid the chaos, investigating things like grooming and ghosts, blind bands and truck art, which intrigue outsiders, and which Thais often overlook as familiar or déclassé. Happily I hit a zeitgeist. Thais increasingly find inspiration from street culture as they develop a new pop aesthetic in movies, advertising, design. ‘Very Thai’ captures a transitional phase when traditions still affect how Thais express modernity. My next book spotlights the emergent creative culture.
Buy from Amazon
Very Thai – Philip Cornwel-Smith

Buy from Amazon.co.uk Buy from Amazon.com

See all books by Philip Cornwel-Smith at
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com


Favourite hangout
A circuit of places depending on people, event or scene.

Favourite bar
Any indy bar with mis-matched furniture.

Favourite restaurant
Many. Frequent standby: Greyhound Café.

Favourite Thai getaway
Koh Samet, and festivals in Isan or Lanna.

Favourite Thai meal
Spiced herbal soups like tom yum or tom khlong, crab fried rice, stir-fried bitter gourd vines, grilled squid with seafood sauce, char-grilled pork dipped in jaew, and any laab with aromatic leaves.

Hidden gem
Community events unpublicised in English. Serendipity or sleuthing required.

Books published
Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture (2005).
Time Out Bangkok guidebook (3 edns).

Travel Happy is a travel website

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #culture #e-magazine #international #interviews #Thailand #tourism 

Bloggang

Design+Culture

http://www.bloggang.com/viewdiary.php?id=a-wild-sheep-chase&month=04-2008&date=16&group=1&gblog=120

– – – ดีไซน์ +คัลเจอร์ ความหมายและเบื้องลึกของงานออกแบบ – – – 

ดีไซน์+คัลเจอร์ ประชา สุวีรานนท์ เขียน
สำนักพิมพ์ฟ้าเดียวกัน พิมพ์ ( 2551 ราคา 300 บาท)

เป็นหนังสือที่พออ่านถึงบทสุดท้ายแล้ว ต้องร้องว่า เฮ้ย อย่าเพิ่งจบ ยังอยากอ่านอีก
( คาดว่าคงมีเล่ม 2 เพราะคุณประชา สุวีรานนท์ยังเขียนคอลัมน์ชื่อเดียวกับหนังสืออยู่ในมติชนสุดสัปดาห์)

หนังสือเล่มนี้คือ ” การสามารถย้อนกลับมาอ่านให้แตกว่า งานดีไซน์หนึ่งๆ มีรากที่มาอย่างไร ถูกหยิบใช้เละส่งผลสะเทือนอย่างไร จึงไม่ใช่อะไรนอกจากการอ่านประวัติศาสตร์ที่ถูกบันทึกไว้อย่างลุ่มลึก แยบคาย ทว่าอาจตรงไปตรงมา และปราศจากการครอบงำเสียยิ่งกว่าการอ่านตำราประวัติศาสตร์วัฒนธรรมฉบับทางการก็ได้” ( จากย่อหน้าสุดท้ายของคำนำสำนักพิมพ์)

ถึงแม้นชื่อหนังสือจะมีคำว่าดีไซน์ แต่มันไม่ใช่หนังสือที่จะทำให้คุณดีไซน์เก่งๆ หรือข้อมูลทางโปรแกรมคอมพิวเตอร์ แต่มันคือสิ่งที่อยู่ลึกลงไปในงานดีไซน์ บางที่สิ่งที่อยู่รอบๆ ตัวเรา ( ซึ่งล้วนแล้วแต่เป็นผลผลิตของงานออกแบบ) มันบอกว่า เราเป็นใคร หรือเรารสนิยมแบบไหน ตัวอย่างง่ายๆ เช่นหลายคนคงเลือกตัดสินใจซื้อข้าวของเครื่องใช้ต่างๆ เพราะการออกแบบอันแสนเก๋ไก๋ของมัน บางบทในหนังสือเล่มนี้มันอธิบายว่าการดีไซน์มันเข้าไปอยู่ในระดับจิตสำนึกได้อย่างไร แต่หนังสือเล่มนี้ก็ยังไม่หยุดอยู่แค่นั้น ตัวอย่างเช่นในบทที่ว่าด้วยเก้าอี้ ชื่อตอนความสบายกับความ(โม)เดิร์น คุณประชานำเสนอว่ามีงานวิจัยของอาจารย์ทางสถาปัตยกรรมแห่งมหาวิทยาลัย ยู.ซี.เบิร์กลีย์ ชิ้นหนึ่งบอกว่าการนั่งเก้าอี้เป็นผลผลิตของตะวันตก และยังเป็นเครื่องหมายทางชนชั้น เช่นเก้าอี้แบ่งแยกความแตกต่างระหว่างเจ้ากับสามัญชนหรือแบ่งแยกเจ้านายกับลูกน้อง และการนั่งเก้าอี้แบบมีพนักพิงที่เรานั่งกันมาจนทุกวันนี้ เป็นความผิดพลาดอันมหันต์ในเชิงสรีรศาสตร์ของวัฒนธรรมตะวันตกด้วย เพื่อความถูกต้องทางสุขภาพ เราควรยกเลิการนั่งเก้าอี้แบบตะวันตกหันมาสนใจการนั่งกับพื้น และผ่อนคลายกล้ามเนื้อหลังด้วยเก้าอี้นอนแทน ( โอ นี่มันตะวันออกชัดๆ การนั่งกับพื้น แต่อ่านถึงบทนี้แล้วก็สะท้อนใจเราต้องรอให้ฝรั่งมาบอกว่าที่คุณทำน่ะมันเป็นผลผลิตที่ผิดพลาดของวัฒนธรรมบ้านชั้นนะ)


บทที่ตัวเองชอบมากที่สุด น่าจะเป็น สำนึก มุมมอง และอุดมการณ์ของแผนที่ ที่คนเขียนร่ายยาวตั้งแต่งานดีไซน์แผนที่ชิ้นคลาสสิกของลอนดอนอันเดอร์กราวด์ มาจนถึงงานศิลปะของ
วิชญ์ พิมพ์กาญจนพงศ์ If there is No corruption ที่ใช้แผนผังระบบเครือข่ายรถไฟฟ้าของกรุงเทพมหานครมาเทียบเคียงกับงานศิลปะของตัวเอง และบท ภูมิศาสตร์ของความรู้สึก ทั้งสองบทนี้พูดถึงวาทกรรมเชิงพื้นที่ที่ปรากฏอยู่ในแผนที่อย่างหฤหรรษ์ เพราะแผนที่ทั้งหมดที่ถูกยกมาอ้างถึงในบทแรก ไม่ได้เป็นแผนที่ที่ช่วยหาพิกัดถูกต้อง แต่มันคำนึงถึงความสวยงามอย่างมากด้วย ตัวอย่างเช่นเส้นบางเส้นในแผนที่ของลอนดอนอันเดอร์กราวด์ แทนที่จะเป็นเส้นโค้งตามความเป็นจริงแต่เพื่อความสวยงามมันถูกทำให้กลายเป็นเส้นตรง หรือร่นระยะทางบางเส้นเพื่อให้สวยงามมากยิ่งขึ้น ซึ่งคนลอนดอน“รับได้” กับความไม่ถูกต้องตรงนี้ แต่พอนำหลักการนี้มาใช้กับแผนที่นิวยอร์กซี้ตี้ ซับเวย์กลับล้มเหลวอย่างสิ้นเชิง คนนิวยอร์กประท้วงแผนที่ฉบับนี้อย่างฉับพลันทันใด อะไรที่ทำให้คนลอนดอนรับได้ และอะไรที่ทำให้คนนิวยอร์กรับไม่ได้ คุณประชาให้ภาพไว้อย่างสนุกสนาน

ส่วนบทภูมิศาสตร์ของความรู้สึกนั้น มันคือการบอกว่าการเขียนแผนที่ ต้องมีอุดมการณ์การสร้างชาติมารองรับด้วย บทนี้คุณประชาใช้แผนที่อุปมามาแสดงตัวอย่าง ( คือแผนที่ที่มีการตกแต่ง ดัดแปลง หรือบิดเบือนรูปทรงจนกระทั่งกลายเป็นคน สัตว์ สิ่งของ) อุปมาที่ใกล้ตัวที่สุดคือ “ขวานทอง” เป็นอุปมาที่ที่ช่วยสร้างภาพของประเทศซึ่งเป็นพื้นที่มีขอบเขต เขตแดนขึ้นในใจเราทำให้กลายเป็น“รูปร่างหน้าตาของชาติ” ในสำนึกของชาวไทยมาเนิ่นนาน นั่นคือแผนที่กลายเป็นอุดมการณ์การสร้างชาติที่เป็นรูปธรรมนั่นเอง (อันนี้แค่การเริ่มต้นบทนะคะ ยังสนุกขนาดนี้)

อีกบทที่ชอบมากคือบทที่พูดถึงหนังสือ Very Thai ซึ่งเป็นหนังสือที่เขียนโดย ฟิลิป คอร์นเวล สมิท และถ่ายภาพโดย จอห์น กอสส์ ฝรั่งสองคนที่มาใช้ชีวิตในเมืองไทยมากว่าสิบปีแล้ว หนังสือเล่มนี้บอกว่า มอเตอร์ไซค์รับจ้าง ถุงพลาสติกใส่น้ำดื่ม ลูกกรง เหล็กดัดและปลักขิก ฯลฯ ต่างหากที่เป็นเอกลักษณ์ของคนไทย วิถีชีวิตที่อยู่ตามตรอก ซอก ซอย ตึกแถวและสวนจตุจักร อาจจะ Very Thai มากกว่าสิ่งที่อยู่ในวัดวาอาราม หรือพระราชวัง Very Thai ไม่ยึดติดที่มาหรือรากเหง้า ไม่สนใจว่าสิ่งกำเนิดจะเป็นภูมิปัญญาหรือความมักง่าย ลอกเลียนหรือสร้างใหม่ อิมพอร์ตหรือไพเรต มันอาจจะเป็นประดิษฐกรรมของคนไทยที่ใช้ประกาศฐานันดรใหม่และปลีกตัวออกห่างจากประเพณี อาจจะเกิดจากการหยิบฉวยอะไรก็ได้ไม่ว่าจะเป็นแฟชั่น เพลงป๊อป ลัทธิบูชาผู้คน ฯลฯ หรือคุณประชาใช้ประโยคภาษาอังกฤษ อธิบาย Very Thai ว่า essence lies not in invention but transformation ทำให้คิดถึงสิ่งที่เคยได้คุยกับวิชญ์ พิมพ์กาญจนพงศ์ วิชญ์อธิบายความเป็นคนไทยว่า ถ้ามีการตัดถนนแล้วไปเจออุโมงค์ คนญี่ปุ่นหรือฝรั่งอาจจะขุดอุโมงค์ใต้ดิน ทำทางเจาะทะลุผ่านอุโมงค์ไปจนได้ แต่คนไทยจะไม่ทำอย่างนั้น คนไทยจะเดินอ้อม แล้วหันกลับมาบอกเพื่อนๆ ว่าไม่ต้องขุด อ้อมไปทางนี้ก็ได้ ซึ่งพออ้อมไปแล้วอาจไปชนกำแพงก็ได้นะ แต่คนไทยก็ขออ้อมไว้ก่อน -อันนี้เป็นความสนุกของวิธีคิดของคนไทยแบบหนึ่ง

 ดีไซน์+คัลเจอร์ พยายามจะบอกเราว่าในการทำงานสร้างสรรค์นั้น วิธีคิด วิธีมองโลกที่อยู่เบื้องหลังย่อมมีความสำคัญอย่างยิ่งยวด สำคัญเสียยิ่งกว่าการรู้เทคนิควิธีการที่ดี หรือการเข้าถึงเทคโนโลยีที่พร้อมสรรพเพียงใด” (จากหลังปกของหนังสือ)

จริงๆ แล้วหนังสือเล่มนี้มันสนุกทุกบทเลย มันทำให้เรารู้สึกว่าทุกอย่างล้วนถูก Construct ขึ้น เพราะฉะนั้นถ้าเราจะมองหาความหมายของสิ่งเหล่านั้นเราควรจะ Deconstruct มันเสียก่อน

และมันทำให้เราสำนึกว่า แผนที่ รูปภาพ ไอคอนต่างๆ เสื้อยืด กราฟิก
โลโก เก้าอี้ แปรงสีฟัน รถถัง บลา บลา บลา มีคัลเจอร์ของคนทำและอุดมการณ์ของคนในประเทศที่ใช้สิ่งของเหล่านั้น ซุกซ่อนอยู่เสมอๆ

Comment No.1
พี่เข้ามาทักทายจ้า
โดย: อินทรีทองคำ  วันที่: 16 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:10:58:05 น.
Comment No.2
โอ๊ะ พี่อินทรีฯ หายไปนานเลย
กลับมาแล้ว ดีใจๆ
โดย: grappa IP: 58.9.204.214 วันที่: 16 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:12:11:59 น.
Comment No.3
เมื่อวันที่ไปดูแสงศตวรรษ
เจอบล็อกเกอร์คนนึงถือหนังสือเล่มนี้มาด้วย
และคนข้างๆ บล็อกเกอร์คนนั้นก็บอกว่า
พี่แอมอ่านเล่มนี้สิๆ
ก็เลยบอกไปว่า อ่านอยู่ในมติชนสุดสัปดาห์จ้ะ
^^
โดย: I am just fine^^  วันที่: 16 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:15:53:29 น.
Comment No.4
อ่านรีวิวแล้วอยากอ่านโดยฉับพลันค่ะ หุๆๆ

สงกรานต์ไปไหนมาหรือเปล่าคะพี่? 

โดย: สาวไกด์ใจซื่อ  วันที่: 16 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:18:08:47 น.
Comment No.5
อ่านแล้วนึกถึงอาจารย์แสงอรุณเลยค่ะ

Happy belated Songkran’s Dayนะคะ

โดย: haiku  วันที่: 16 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:18:16:59 น.
Comment No.6
 น่าอ่านๆๆๆ
โดย: แพนด้ามหาภัย  วันที่: 16 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:19:29:10 น.
Comment No.7
เป็นหนังสือที่พออ่านถึงบทสุดท้ายแล้ว ต้องร้องว่า เฮ้ย อย่าเพิ่งจบ ยังอยากอ่านอีก

^
^

เด็ดนักล่ะคะประโยคนี้ อ่านหนังสือแล้วอยากให้มี
ความรู้สึกอย่างนี้บ่อยๆ เพราะถ้ามีเมื่อไหร่
หมายถึงว่าอ่านหนังสือเรื่องนี้ได้อินสุดๆ เลยนะคะ 

โดย: JewNid   วันที่: 16 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:22:59:28 น.
Comment No.8
อ่านจบแล้วเช่นกันครับ

ชอบมากๆๆๆ

เอาไปขึ้นหิ้งคู่กับหนังสือ แล่เนื้อเถือหนัง มาสเตอร์พีซของคุณประชาอีกเล่มนึงได้เลย

โดย: ฟ้าดิน  วันที่: 17 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:3:51:52 น.
Comment No.9
อ่านอย่างช้าๆ คืบคลานไปทีละบท
โดย: visuallyyours IP: 58.8.101.203 วันที่: 17 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:6:57:15 น.
Comment No.10
ง่า พี่แป็ดต้องชอบจริงๆนะเนี่ย

อยากที่เขียนในบล๊อกแหละค่ะ ว่าชื่นชมข้อมูลและเรื่องราวที่มาร้อยเรียงกัน แต่ว่าพอรวมๆแล้วว่ามันขาดเสน่ห์ไปนิด ซึ่งมันอาจจะเป็นเพราะว่าเรื่องที่คุณประชาเขียนมันเป็นเรื่องที่ส่วนตัวพอมีข้อมูลอยู่แล้วไม่รู้ เลยพยายามจะหาส่วนอื่นมากกว่าในงานเขียนที่เกี่ยวกับดีไซน์

แต่ดีใจอ่ะพี่ที่หนังสือขายดี(ไปอ่านในเวบสนพ.มา)

โดย: DropAtearInMyWineGlass  วันที่: 17 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:7:30:24 น.
Comment No.11
อ่า จะมีตามร้านเช่ามั้ยครับเนี่ย
(อยากอ่าน แต่ขี้เกียจซื้อ ฮา)
สงสัยต้องขอยืมจากอายซะแล้ว 
โดย: getterTu  วันที่: 17 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:7:49:52 น.
Comment No.12
– DropAtearInMyWineGlass

ข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับงานดีไซน์ พี่เฉยๆ นะ มันหาอ่านที่ไหนก็ได้
แต่จะตื่นเต้นตรงที่แกใช้ทฤษฎีมาวิเคราะห์ ราวกับว่าไม่มีทฤษฏี คือแกใช้ทฤษฎีได้เนียนมากน่ะ

โดย: grappa IP: 58.9.186.229 วันที่: 17 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:8:41:40 น.
Comment No.13
มาแอบอ่านรีวิว
โดย: Untrue  วันที่: 17 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:13:00:47 น.
Comment No.14
ขี้เกียจอัพบล็อกด้วยแหละครับ กลับมาก็เหนื่อย
โดย: pick IP: 202.41.167.246 วันที่: 17 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:20:38:12 น.
Comment No.15
ฟ้าเมืองไทย ผมหยิบๆวางๆมาอยู่หลายฉบับแล้วครับ ชอบแอบคิดว่า

“มันจะหนักไปสำหรับเราไหมนิ .”

โดย: เด็กผู้ชายที่ไม่เตะบอลตอนกลางวัน (kanapo ) วันที่: 18 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:0:20:06 น.
Comment No.16
สำนักพิมพ์ชื่อ “ฟ้าเดียวกัน” จ้า
โดย: grappa IP: 58.9.189.64 วันที่: 18 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:7:10:47 น.
Comment No.17
แวะมาทักทาย…
โดย: kiimujii  วันที่: 19 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:10:58:52 น.
Comment No.18
ผมก็ชอบเล่มนี้มากๆ
เหมือนกันครับพี่
ได้มาปุ๊บอ่านรวดเดียวจบเลย

โดย: จี้ IP: 125.25.40.111 วันที่: 19 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:18:56:25 น.
Comment No.19
– จี้
เมื่อไหร่จะอัพบล็อก คิดถึงบล็อกจี้มากๆ เลยนะ 
โดย: grappa IP: 58.9.197.238 วันที่: 19 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:21:57:58 น.
Comment No.20
หนังสือน่าสนใจอีกแล้ว 

แต่เดี๋ยวนี้ขี้เกียจอ่านหนังสือจริงๆ รู้สึกหมดพลังงาน

ปล. ไปแล้วชอบไหมคะ อยากมีห้องสมุดแบบนั้นมั่งอ่ะ

โดย: rebel IP: 203.155.129.130 วันที่: 21 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:8:19:44 น.
Comment No.21
อ่านที่เขียนแล้วน่าอ่านค่ะ ชอบที่เค้าบอกว่า “มอเตอร์ไซค์รับจ้าง ถุงพลาสติกใส่น้ำดื่ม ลูกกรง เหล็กดัดและปลักขิก ฯลฯ ต่างหากที่เป็นเอกลักษณ์ของคนไทย”

จริงๆน่ะคิดถึงชาดำเย็นในถุงพลาสติกทุกวันนี้ใช้ zip bag ใส่กับข้าวยังคิดเลยกลับบ้านคราวหน้าจะพกเอาถุงพลาสติกใส่แกงกลับมา

โดย: Special Ed.  วันที่: 22 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:0:01:19 น.
Comment No.22
รูปบนหัวบล็อกท่านได้แต่ใดมา น่ารักแต๊ๆ

อ่า..ร้านอยู่จ.สุโขทัยค่ะพี่ แหะๆ

ข้าวเกรียบปากหม้ออร่อยสุดๆ ค่ะ เชียร์ๆ 

โดย: สาวไกด์ใจซื่อ  วันที่: 22 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:10:57:01 น.
Comment No.23
เป็นภาพจากงาน แฟต เฟสติวัลที่เชียงใหม่เจ้า
โดย: grappa  วันที่: 22 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:13:36:30 น.
Comment No.24
รูปหัวบล็อกแนวมาก 
โดย: merveillesxx  วันที่: 22 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:17:32:29 น.
Comment No.25
อ่าน ” สำนึก มุมมอง และอุดมการณ์ของแผนที่ ” ในมติชนสุดฯ ชอบเหมือนกันค่ะ

ส่วนคอลัมน์เดียวกันในเล่มอื่นๆ ได้แต่เปิดผ่านๆ แหะๆ 

โดย: Mutation  วันที่: 22 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:22:25:21 น.
Comment No.26
อยากอ่านนิยายไทย พี่พล็อตทันสมัย ไม่ได้ดูเป็นละครหลังข่าวเท่าไหร่
^
^
นิยายพล็อตทันสมัยมากเล่มล่าสุดที่อ่าน คือ “เรียลลิตี้โชว์ ไฮโซปลอดสารพิษ” ของคุณชาครียา สนพ. พิมพ์คำค่ะ

ถ้าแนวรักอ่านแล้วสบายใจ ก็ต้อง “ฝากฟ้าเคียงดิน” ของคุณ yayoi ค่ายแจ่มใส (มีอีกเรื่องที่น่าจะชวนยิ้มพอกัน แต่ยังไม่ได้อ่าน เลยไม่กล้าแนะนำ)

แต่เอาแบบเขียนดีและไม่น้ำเน่าชัวร์
เล่มล่าสุดของคุณดวงตะวัน “ณ ที่ดาวพราวพร่างรัก” ก็น่าสนนะพี่


แนะนำคนอื่นดิบดี แต่ตัวเองหันกลับไปอ่านนิยายป้าวลัย 

โดย: ยาคูลท์   วันที่: 23 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:10:07:49 น.
Comment No.27
ไว้จะไปหามาอ่านมั่งครับ น่าอ่านจัง

ที่บ้านมีแล่เนื้อเถือหนังทั้งเล่ม 1 และ 2
เล่ม 1 อ่านตั้งแต่ตอนเด็กๆ ย่อยยากแต่อ่านสนุกมาก ตื่นตาตื่นใจมากสมัยนั้น

โดย: เอกเช้า IP: 124.122.152.136 วันที่: 23 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:22:21:09 น.
Comment No.28
แวะมาเยี่ยมเยีนยน ครับพี่
โดย: Travis IP: 125.24.223.67 วันที่: 24 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:2:14:52 น.
Comment No.29
หนังสือน่าอ่านดีจังครับ
ชอบหนังสือแนวนี้แต่หาอ่านยากจัง

ว่าแต่ที่ไหนมีขายบ้างครับเนี่ย

แวะมาทักทายนะครับ

โดย: experimental  วันที่: 28 เมษายน 2551 เวลา:9:10:33 น.
Comment No.30
แพงไปหน่อย บ้านจนอ่ะ 200 ก็พอแย้ววววววววววววววววว
โดย: ชอบน่ะ IP: 125.25.40.80 วันที่: 4 พฤษภาคม 2551 เวลา:14:41:18 น.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #culture #design #reviews #Thai language 

Vagabonding

The Trouble With ‘Smile When You’re Lying’

thread post by Caron Dann

16 Jan 2008

To find out about Thai popular culture, read Very Thai by long-time expatriate Bangkok resident Philip Cornwel-Smith.

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #international #reviews #tourism 

Sorry 061

Very Thai

 

SORRY 061 2014-06-30 at 00.31.39 SORRY 061 2014-06-30 at 00.31.50

 

http://sorry061.wordpress.com/2008/01/08/very-thai/

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #design #Thai language #Thailand 

Nujai

 Very Thai by Jai

ธันวาคม 24, 2007 โดย nujai

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 19.59.46 Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 20.00.00

http://nujai.wordpress.com/2007/12/24/very-thai-by-jai/

PDF: Very Thai by Jai | Nujai’s Weblog

เคยเปิดดูหนังสือเรื่อง Very Thai : everyday popular culture
ผลงานการเขียนของ Philip Cornwel-Smith  และผลงานการถ่ายภาพโดย John Goss

ความยาวของหนังสือ 256 หน้า พิมพ์ด้วยกระดาษอาร์ตมัน 4 สีทั้งหมด
จริงๆ ใจอยากได้มาครอบครองเหมือนกัน
แต่ราคาเหยียบพัน ทำให้เอาได้แค่แอบเปิดของคนอื่น และยืนอ่านที่ร้าน B2S

หากใครมีโอกาสไปร้านหนังสือก็อยากให้ลองไปดูหนังสือเล่มนี้
ภาพก็สวยดี ไม่ถึงสวยเวอร์ แต่ก็สวยระดับช่างภาพ
และแม้จะเป็นภาษาอังกฤษทั้งหมด ตั้งแต่ชื่อเรื่องจนกระทั่งคำลงท้าย
แต่ก็เป็นภาษาอังกฤษที่ไม่ยากจนเกินไป
ใครไม่ถนัดยืนอ่าน แบบว่ากลัวคนขายเพ่นกบาล
ก็ให้แอบเปิดดูภาพ ก็พอจะเดาได้ว่าเขาต้องการจะสื่อถึงอะไร

ฝรั่งมาเมืองไทย แล้วเขาเจออะไรบ้าง…ใจคิดว่าเขาอยากจะบอกแบบนี้
เมื่อเขาเห็นเขาก็คิดว่านี่แหละ โคตรไทยเลย หรือ very thai แต๊ๆ น้อ

ใคร ๆ ก็มักจะพูดว่า เราจะชินกับสิ่งที่เราเห็นและเป็นอยู่
แต่คนที่เขาไม่เคยเห็นและเคยเป็น เขาจะไม่ชินและไม่เป็นในสิ่งที่ไม่เคยเป็นมาก่อน
ฝรั่งก็เหมือนกัน มาบ้านเราเขาเห็นอะไรที่ไม่เคยเห็น
เขาก็งง นี่อะไร และทำไมเป็นเช่นนั้น
หยิบเก็บเป็นเรื่องราว เอาไปขายเป็นหนังสือเป็นเล่มหน้าปึ้ก ขายดีเสียด้วย

Philip Cornwel-Smith มาเจอวินมอเตอร์ไซด์บ้านเราใส่เสื้อกั๊กสีส้ม สีเขียวสะท้อนแสง
ด้านหลังใส่เบอร์ ใส่ชื่อร้านผู้สนับสนุน หรือแม้แต่ชื่อสส. สว. เขาก็เก็บเอาไปเขียน และถ่ายภาพประกอบ

เมืองไทยยังมีมีรูปลิเก มีมวยไทย มีทิชชูสีชมพูที่หาดูที่ไหนไม่ได้
(หนก่อนใจไปเห็นที่กัมพูชา แต่ว่าเป็นสีชมพูแบบม้วนอยู่ในส้วมเฉยเลย แต่ยังไม่เคยแบบเป็นแผ่น)
เหยือกพลาสติกใส่น้ำหวาน เขียนแปะชื่อบอกว่า ชาเขียว ชานมเย็น นมเย็น กาแฟเย็น
เขาก็ไม่เคยเห็นที่ไหน นอกจากประเทศไทย
ศาลพระภูมิ ตุ๊กๆ แท็กซี่ติดอะไรไม่รู้ในรถสารพัด จำพวกพระ ยันต์ และลายอักขระที่บอกว่าขลัง…
รถเข็นขายของปากซอย ห้อยกระทะ หม้อ ข้างผนังและกำแพง … เพียบ …
เนี่ยแหละ ของแบบไทยๆ ที่คนไทยเอง เห็นเป็นเรื่องเคยชิน

วันนี้ใจไปเห็นของไทยๆ เหมือนกัน มันชินตา แต่ฝรั่งมาเห็นก็คงว่าแปลกดี
ใจไปซื้อส้มตำร้านป้าในซอยแล้วพบว่าแกบูชาเจ้าที่ บูชาสิ่งศักดิ์สิทธิ์ อะไรก็ตามแต่

โดยปกติเรามักเห็น จานพลาสติกสีชมพู มีข้าวใส่ถ้วยเล็ก กับข้าว ของหวาน
อาจจะมีผลไม้ และน้ำแดงใส่หลอดปักไว้ให้เจ้าใช่ไหมละ

โอ้…มีธูปด้วย 3 ดอกด้วยลืมไป ประมาณว่าจุดบอก มาทานอาหารด้วยนะเจ้า

ร้านป้าแกมาแปลก ไม่ยักกะเป็นแบบที่ใครๆ เขาทำกัน
ป้าแกเอาธูปปักบนมะลอกอลูกเบ้อเร่อ
ข้างๆ มีขวดยาคูลท์อยู่ด้วย แล้วก็เอาทั้งหมดวางบนหลังตู้ใส่มะละกอสับของแก

ใจเห็น ใจก็สงสัย เป็นคนไทยนี่แหละ แต่งง … ทำไมถึงเป็นมะละกอกับยาคูลท์
หรือว่าเจ้าแทนนี้ชอบแบบนี้…เอามือถือขึ้นมาถ่ายรูปก่อน แล้วก็ถามป้าแกซะเลย
แกหันมายิ้มแล้วก็ไม่บอกอะไร เงียบ ใจเลยเงียบ ไม่รู้จะทำยังไงต่อ
ทำเอาใจงงๆ … ไม่บอกใจจะรู้ไหมเนี่ย…
พอไม่รู้ก็เลยสงสัย แกก็ไม่ตอบ แต่ใจคิดว่าแกคงตอบไม่ได้…
ให้เดาก็คงประมาณว่า มีอะไรก็บูชาเจ้าไปแบบนั้น…เป็นไงละ very thai ไหม?

ว่าแต่…ถามแล้วเอาแต่ยิ้ม นี่ very thai ไหมนะ???

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #culture #reviews #Thai language #Thailand 

Live Arts Bangkok

Wayang Buku

Performance by Fahmi Fadzil using Very Thai as one of his book puppets.

Held at MR Kukrit Pramoj House, Bangkok. Curated by Tang Fu Kuen.

Fahmi Fadzil performs Wayang Buku at LIB

Fahmi Fadzil performs Wayang Buku at LIB

07-0818-Live arts Bkk DSC02912

 

Azmyl Yunor and Fahmi Fadzil developed Wayang Buku in 2006 as a means to investigate the performance and performativity of books.

Each book represents a character in a version of traditional Malay puppet theatre, in a performance that works on multiple levels. Each static book cover represents one of the static images of a shadow puppet character from a classical epic like the Ramayana or Mahabharata. Then the interaction of the covers-as-characters provides another layer of interpretation onto the traditional story. Like a traditional dalang puppet-master, Fahmi both narrates the story and voices the characters as he manipulates the books so that their covers resemble the moving shadow puppets. The book covers are not shown in shadow, but visible to the audience in the same way as shadow puppets are often performed in front of a screen so that their coloured decoration is visible to the audience.

Fahmi chose Very Thai to represent the Tree of Life character, what the Thais call Kalapapruek, due to the multiple images in its cover design.

The production was staged by the curator/dramaturg Tang Fu Kuen in the sala pavilion built by the late author, performer and statesman MR Kukrit Pramoj in his home for the staging of khon masked dance of the Ramayana epic – a suitable location of this reinterpretation of traditional Southeast Asian performance.

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #Bangkok #events #international #Malaysia #Performance #tradition 

Schvoong

**** (four stars)

7 Jul 2007

http://www.shvoong.com/books/1630580-Very Thai

So you think the term “Thai logic” is an oxymoron? Perplexed by the tiny PINK tissues at local eateries? Can’t think of any reasons why older Thai women (“khun naai”) just loooove to wear retina-searing Thai silk outfits and shellack their hair into unmoving, frightening tower of ‘do?

You can stop scratching your head. Read “Very Thai” by Philip Cornwel-Smith. A longtime expat of Thailand, he has written an exhaustive record (and explanations) of Thai idiosyncracies that make the people charming, lovable and yes, sometimes frustrating and illogical.

Why do Thais “sniff kiss”? For those who don’t know what this is, a “sniff kiss” isn’t really a kiss per se. Instead of planting a wet one on their beloved’s cheek or lips, the Thais basically just come close enough to sniff your cheek. This is a deep sign of affection that foreigners find “weird”.

It’s actually not weird at all, and here Cornwel-Smith displayed his genius of observation and understanding of the culture. Thais value cleanliness very much, so if someone dares to come close enough to actually take in your scent into his/her nostrils, that means you are very hygienic and thus truly desirable~!!

That is just a small sample of what amazing tidbits of pricelss information Cornwel-Smith has in his book. Beautiful colored photographs (by John Goss) help to illustrate the points and make this book a must-have for any foreigner (either just visiting or a longtime expat) who gets confused by “Thai ways”.

Review is also available at Street Smart Sukhumvit at http://streetsmartsukhumvit.multiply.com/reviews/item/6

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #culture #reviews #Thailand 

Street Smart Sukhumvit

**** (four stars)

7 Jul 2007

http://streetsmartsukhumvit.multiply.com/reviews/item/6

So you think the term “Thai logic” is an oxymoron? Perplexed by the tiny PINK tissues at local eateries? Can’t think of any reasons why older Thai women (“khun naai”) just loooove to wear retina-searing Thai silk outfits and shellack their hair into unmoving, frightening tower of ‘do?

You can stop scratching your head. Read “Very Thai” by Philip Cornwel-Smith. A longtime expat of Thailand, he has written an exhaustive record (and explanations) of Thai idiosyncracies that make the people charming, lovable and yes, sometimes frustrating and illogical.

Why do Thais “sniff kiss”? For those who don’t know what this is, a “sniff kiss” isn’t really a kiss per se. Instead of planting a wet one on their beloved’s cheek or lips, the Thais basically just come close enough to sniff your cheek. This is a deep sign of affection that foreigners find “weird”.

It’s actually not weird at all, and here Cornwel-Smith displayed his genius of observation and understanding of the culture. Thais value cleanliness very much, so if someone dares to come close enough to actually take in your scent into his/her nostrils, that means you are very hygienic and thus truly desirable~!!

That is just a small sample of what amazing tidbits of pricelss information Cornwel-Smith has in his book. Beautiful colored photographs (by John Goss) help to illustrate the points and make this book a must-have for any foreigner (either just visiting or a longtime expat) who gets confused by “Thai ways”.

Review is also available at schvoong.com at http://www.shvoong.com/books/1630580-Very Thai

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #culture #reviews #Thailand 

Thai360

any other good thai books?

 

http://t2.thai360.com/index.php?/topic/33515-any-other-good-thai-books/

 

Fidel 3094 posts

Posted 28 October 2006

Very Thai” is the book about Thailand I’m most glad I bought.

500 or so great photos of daily Thailand life: katoeys, truck art, motorycle taxi drivers’ vests, phallic symbols, the tiny pink tissues on all the tables and on and on, with excellent written explanations! A great coffeebook table to remind you of Thailand and shed light on Thai culture. A steal at under 1000 baht!

A review from the net:

For newcomers or old hands Thailand poses a plethora of questions: Why the gaudy paintings on the sides of buses? What are those strange tattoos supposed to do? How about the national obsessions with soap operas, fortune-tellers, and comedy cafes? And what’s up with those blind street musicians anyway?

In the book Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture (River Books, 2005), writer Philip Cornwel-Smith and photographer John Goss attempt to answer many of these puzzling questions that usually go unasked in books about traditional Thai culture and most travel guides.

The book is divided into four different sections â?? “Street”; “Personal”; “Ritual”; and “Sanuk,” â?? which examine everything from security guards to beauty queens and the philosophy behind all those ornate gates.

At first glance some of the essays such as “Dinner on a Stick” might seem like their regurgitating the banal: Bangkok has thousands of restaurants and stalls serving up sustenance-on-wheels. But one of Philâ??s primary strengths as a writer is his meticulous research. Even some younger Thais might be surprised to learn that the real restaurant boom in the capital began in the 1960s when, after getting a taste of Western restaurateur capitalism, “wealthy Thai wives in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit district converted buildings fronting their compounds into outlets for their cooks”.

So it goes with many of the essays. Quite a few readers will know that the mythical Garuda (an almighty hybrid of bird and human) is a symbol of Siamese Royalty, but may not realise that King Rama V once “had a man-sized Narai riding a man-sized Garuda’s shoulders on the bonnet of a motorcar.”

This is the kind of book that makes for a great companion in the streets, or on the road, often times literally, as it veers off on detours through the history of the tuk-tuk (originally a Japanese invention, but given a Thai spin), explains the Buddha images and yantras in taxis, and looks at some of the splashes of inspirations, like northern-style umbrellas and Japanese manga, that animate the bright murals on public buses.

Philip also offers up plenty of original insights. In trying to explain the sometimes erratic driving styles of Thais, he looks back into history’s rearview mirror to the Kingdom’s waterborne culture: “Weaving between lanes, Thai cars slip through gaps as if they were a canoe that would glance not crash. Touting taxis and tuk-tuk hover freely rather than stop at reserved ranks. Cars park up to three metres deep, rather like tethered boats.”

The book’s overriding theme, how past and present, East and West, are on a collision course in the Thailand of today is captured by photographer John Goss in a number of eye-riveting juxtapositions: like a 7-11 behind a spirit house and a temple dwarfed by a Western-style high-rise, or a sign that reads “Nice Palace” next to an ad-hoc, sidewalk kitchen.

But Very Thai is also a very versatile read and photo collection. For the real or couch-bound traveler, the creators whisk you off to the racy Phi Ta Khon, or Ghost Mask Festival in Loei; and there are stopovers at a wild tattoo festival on the grounds of Wat Bang Phra in Nakhon Chaisri, as well as the “Illuminated Boat Procession” in Nakhon Phanom province.

They also take you behind the scenes of high-society parties, where, surprisingly enough, gatecrashers are not barred. Says one lady from the upper echelon, “Door policies will never happen in Thailand, believe me. If you’re not invited, they’ll let you in anyway, but maybe talk behind your back.” With all the business deals being sealed at these glitzy functions, Phil believes “hi-so is the new golf.”

Popular entertainment is also spotlighted, and the fickleness of fame is mocked by Thais as maya (the Sanskrit word often used in Buddhist terminology for the illusory nature of life.) But the author also sings the praises of the “Songs for Life” genre of Thai folk music, Modern Dog (the indie heroes who put the bite into Thai alternative music), and local rapper Da Jim.

Another fault-line running through Very Thai is that, in a book which purports to be about everyday culture, very few ordinary Thais are quoted. Most of the quotations are taken from Thai academics. In places this gives the book a scholarly tone that clashes with the subject matter. It should be an easy enough flaw to fix in what will most likely be a series, and John Goss’s images manage to bring some of the Ivory Tower asides back down to street level.

One of the most overused travel writer’s clichés about Bangkok and the country’s markets and festivals is “chaotic”. What may seem shambolic on the surface, however, reveals depths of order moored in ancient traditions. Such is the case with the essay entitled “Day Themes: a colour-coded guide to surviving the eight-day week.” Seemingly random and merely aesthetic to the Westernized eye, the brilliantly hued sashes wrapped around sacred trees, chedis, and spirit houses are actually auspicious colours associated with different days. Another photograph reveals that even 7-11 has used these colours for an advertisement.

Not one to make light of the country’s dark side – as is the case with so many Western writers – the essays on “Fortune Tellers,” “Ghost Stories,” and “Lucky Number 9” reveal that Thailand may have some of the fashions and facades of the West and Japan, but has retained its very Thai spirit.

All in all, this groundbreaking work strikes me as one of the few books written in English to come out of the country in recent years that will still be of interest to readers, students, and pop culture historians in a century from now.

 

#3

Pailin on 10 July 2008

Re: Very Thai

I have this book and enjoy it. It has great snippets into Thai life.

 

#4

guava on 10 July 2008

ไอแอมฝาหรั่ง

Re: Very Thai

I too can recommend this book, it was first published in 2005. I have just pulled out my copy and forgot how good it was!

 

#5

yeows on 10 July 2008

Re: Very Thai

I can’t wait to get my hands on the other 2 books.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #culture #reviews #Thailand 

Flickr

Hartfried Schmid

Very Thai cover photographed

Taken on September 7, 2006

VT Hartfired Schmid on Flickr 2014-06-28

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hschmid/280477758/

A real cool book about Thailand. The single best book about Thailand. By far.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #German #international #photography #reviews #website 

Uniglobe Red Carpet Travel

Thailand Resources: Interesting Books: Culture

 

http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:aBKp3FNTqtwJ:www.unigloberedcarpettravel.com/site/viewhome.asp%3Fsit%3D21%26vty%3DWTG%26sect%3DResources%26a%3DThailand%26c%3D1%26sessionid%3D+%27very+thai%27+cornwel-smith&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=50&client=safari

Very Thai: Everyday Thai Culture By Philip Cornwel-Smith

A fun, informative book with eye-catching photographs by John Goss. Makes a great souvenir.

 

Posted in: Blog,

Tags: #blogs #book #reviews #Thailand #tourism 

i am saved by the buoyancy of citrus

literary thievery

http://iwillreachforalime.blogspot.com/2006/07/literary-theivery.html

by Raych, 19 July 2006

I wish I could take credit for this paragraph but I can’t. I stole it out of a book on Thai culture… but it’s just so APT. Read, and know that it’s all true.

‘Powered by technology, the habits of slower times turned lethal… in the past, the limits of human strength prevented a boat or rickshaw from speeding, and the watery highway meant collisions harmlessly glanced, with no lanes determining their course. Taxis behave as if nothing’s changed. They tailgate and overtake at high speed with inches to spare; they blithely straddle white lines without indicating, or cut across three lanes and screech to a halt at the merest hint of a hand politely beckoning palm down. With driving lessons an affront to face and licenses easily bought, many Thais intuitively steer their cars as if on water.’

Thanks, Philip Cornwel-Smith.

 

1 comment:

Nater said…

Ok, so from what I have been told about boating on the river (is there only one?) in Thailand: Long canoe like boat with a Toyota Corolla engine mounted on the back with a super long shaft leading to a propeller that is lifted out of the water to stop. Stats say that there is one casualty per week on these flying umbrellas. Can you verify?
8:01 AM

 

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #international #reviews 

Jeffrey Miller

Books on Thailand — Very Thai

By Jeffrey Miller on July 16, 2006

http://jeffreymillerwrites.com/books-on-thailand-very-thai/

Having traveled to Thailand many times since 1992 when I first visited “the Land of Smiles” I have always been intrigued and fascinated with Thai culture on many levels. While I have been impressed with Thailand’s trove of cultural attractions from the magnificent Wat Phra Kaeo and ancient cities like Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, as well as the country’s breathtaking natural beauty, I have been equally fascinated with more everyday expressions of Thai culture.

Exploring and understanding these “everyday expressions of Thai culture” is at the heart of Very Thai, Everyday Popular Culture. More than a guidebook, this book is a window on Thai culture which “delves beyond traditional icons to reveal the everyday expressions of Thainess that so delight and puzzle.” To be sure, the book explores some of Thailand’s “alternative sights” from tuk-tuks and taxi altars to Thai magical tattoos and drinks in a bag.

Even if you have lived in Thailand for any length of time or have traveled there for holiday or business, this book offers fresh insights into Thai popular culture, customs, and traditions. Likewise, if you are planning to travel to Thailand in the near future, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book. One thing is for certain, after reading this book, you will never look at Thailand the same way again.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #international #reviews #Thailand 

Unique Trails

Biking in Thailand: Further Reading

http://www.uniquetrails.com/country.php?Country=Thailand&InfoType=Further%20Reading

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture, by Philip Cornwel-Smith and John Goss.

A very fun book that covers pretty much every quirky area of Thai culture and society – great pictures too.

 

Posted in: Blog,

Tags: #blogs #book #reviews #Thailand #tourism 

Mark Joachim

A Book Recommendation

13 Jan 2006

http://markjochim.blogspot.com/2006_01_01_archive.html

Of the stack of books I purchased in Thailand earlier this month, the best so far is Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith, photographs by John Goss. This is a collection of essays with accompanying photos of all sorts of things that the Thai people take for granted but the farangs (foreigners) often ponder about. I just began reading the book a couple of nights ago and have already learned why virtually every drink served in the Land Of Smiles contains salt (it’s to rehydrate the body in the hot climate) and I’ve read about the drinks served at the food stalls in plastic bags (I had a Coke like this one day), about the unique Thai deserts (I had a tray of “mystery” deserts at the Baiyoke one night — I just knew many had sticky rice and bean paste in them and now I know I was right), and about the tiny tissues that pass for napkins at virtually every food stall or restaurant in Thailand. The next chapter is about those insect “snacks” that Tim and her friends so enjoyed and which so grossed me out during our last night partying in Patong.

 The book is so good that I’m thinking about purchasing a few extra copies for a couple of friends and family members as it seems to sum-up all I find fascinating about the country and it’s people. Amazon.com does carry the book, for around $21, which is more than I paid for it at Asia Books on Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok (their website has it for $25.51, however, so who knows?). At any rate, it would make a great birthday or Christmas gift — it’s attractive hardcover makes it a good coffee table book and the format allows for browsing rather than reading it from cover to cover (although I’m reading it all the way through).

 If you’re interested, here are some (better) reviews of this remarkable bookRiver Books (publisher of Very Thai), Circle Of AsiaThe Irrawaddy News Magazine (May 2005)

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #international #reviews #Thailand 

Natalie Bennett: Philobiblon

Book Review: Very Thai – Everyday Popular Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith

 By Natalie Bennett (now leader of the UK Green Party)

 

VT Natalie Bennett Philobiblon a VT Natalie Bennett Philobiblon b

View as PDF: http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/12/11/135518.php

New arrivals in Bangkok are easy to spot; after a day or two in the city they’ve got a dazed, bemused look, and move slowly, hesitantly. This Bangkokitis is an extreme form of the culture shock that many tourists experience in foreign lands.

There are two factors that make it particularly acute in the Thai capital. First, so much of the environment seems familiar – glass-and-steel office blocks, modern cars, familiar fast food restaurants. Yet it is also so foreign. Underneath the office blog might stand a baby elephant, its owner begging for funds. Amidst the modern cars zip scores of death-defying motorcycle taxis, their riders’ bright jackets clashing with the mini-skirts of the high-heel-shod women perched precariously side-saddle behind them. Then they’ll be the shrine on the corner thronged with fortune-tellers.

Bangkok is where east meets west, modern meets traditional, the past meets the future. And while often they’ll stand in stark opposition, they’ll also blend to produce astonishing new hybrids.

The visitor who seeks easy answers might turn to a guidebook, and for some of the more obvious sights get a sentence of two of explanation. Or they might turn to a scholarly historical study, explaining temples and sculptures. But Philip Cornwel-Smith’s Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture is the first book that I know of to try to explain Thailand as it is today.

This is a prodigiously illustrated (by the photographer John Goss) text, accessible, but informative enough that even people who’ve lived in Thailand for decades will find plenty they didn’t know.
Of course I was aware, having lived in Thailand for almost five years, that trucks were usually heavily decorated, particularly in their upper parts. But I didn’t know that these works were designed to placate the journey spirit, Mae Yanang, or that each cab represented the sacred Mount Meru. The frequent inclusion of Western film stars in these images in no way interferes with this.

But it might take the first-time visitor a while to notice these, being too distracted by more disconcerting sights, such as the kathoeys (lady-boys) who can be seen at work and play around the capital without the locals batting an eyelid. (I used to live in the African rag-trade district of Bangkok, Pratunam. A kathoey was an otherwise entirely ordinary staff member on one of the stalls. When Africa met Asia at work, there was frequently some cultural confusion.)

Cornwel-Smith explains the understanding of gender and sexuality – so different from the West’s – that underlies the phenomenon:

Thais make a distinction between gender – a public identity to be kept riab roi (proper) – and sexuality, which remains undiscussed, unrestrained. Thai society tends to regard sexual urges – at least for males – as natural and requiring plentiful, but private outlets. Hence polygamy, once banned, resurfaced through minor wives and the fancifully themed playgrounds of the sex industry. With women’s virginity still a commodity to be guarded, kathoey have offered a non-disruptive outlet for single males.”

This acceptance has helped to encourage Thailand as a destination for medical tourism of a specific king – gender-reassignment surgery. Up to 1,000 operations are thought to have been done on foreigners each year. And many kathoeys have taken up the practice.

Yet after centuries of a place in Thai society, new conflicts have emerged. Following the recent morality crackdown by the Shinawatra government, the rights of kathoeys have become a political issue, Cornwel-Smith reports, quoting Thanyaporn Anyasri, 2002 “Miss Queen of the Universe”, who said: “I want to be the world’s first transexual prime minister so I can legislate laws that promote homosexual people’s equality.” He then quotes a representative of a Buddhist foundation saying that since every person has gone through innumerable reincarnations they are likely to be kathoeys at some point in the future, so should think about equality now.

After contemplating all of that, the first-time visitor might need a drink and a nice meal. If they’re very brave, that might include the “prawns of the air” (grasshoppers), deep-fried whole and sold from street stalls, and some Red Bull – one of the few Thai traditions to really make it big inter (internationally). Cornwel-Smith will explain too why there might be tiny pink tissues on table, and for afters a pudding so sweet it will set your teeth on edge.

Many more aspects of Bangkok, from the skin-tight police uniforms (the government was keeping up with Western fashion in the Sixties, but then got left behind) to the numbers of dogs roaming the streets. There are also sections on Thai music, festivals, decor, gardens and much more.

If you’re the sort of visitor to Thailand who just wants to swan down Khao San Road and then lie on the beaches, you won’t need to buy Very Thai. But if you want some great stories to tell about the country – not just accounts of what you’ve seen but explanations for the curiosities and complexities – then this is an essential book.

Declaration of interest: The author used to commission writing from me when he was editor of Metro (then Thailand’s answer to Time Out) and I was a writer there. Online from that time I have an article about Khunying Supatra Masdit (billed by some as most-likely to be Thailand’s first female prime minister) and a piece about the Maldives. They’re not the paradise you think.

 

This review was also published at Blogcriticshttp://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/12/11/135518.php

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #culture #gay #international #reviews 

Noodles Forever

By Mike, 17 Nov 2005

http://noodlesforever.blogspot.com/2005/11/book-review-very-thai-everyday-thai.html

Hardbound and tastefully organized with lotsa cool photos, this book’s got all the vital data on street-level Thailand. All questions regarding bagged coffee, Red Bull-swilling motorcycle taxi drivers, and other curious aspects of the Bangkok streetscape are answered within its pages. A must read for anyone who’s ever visited Thailand and thought twice about urban elephants and phallic key chains.

Basically, these dudes stole my thunder. This is freestyle anthro-journalism at its flaneuring best.

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews, Uncategorized,

Tags:

Thai Oasis

The Expat Experience

http//:www.Thaioasis.Com

Perhaps the finest book we’ve yet seen on popular Thai culture is viewed from an expat perspective by writer Philip Cornwel-Smith and photographer John Goss in the fascinating Very Thai (2005, ISBN 974-9863-00-3). Here, the authors take a madcap romp through everything from spirit houses to soi animals, explaining in detail the behind-the scenes stories behind many of the icons you’ll see on the streets and back-sois of Thailand. The book is extremely well researched, and a fun read.

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #blogs #book #reviews #Thailand 

Street Corner Siam at Siam Society

Street Corner Siam: Exploring Thai Popular Culture

A  talk at Siam Society on 15 September 2005 by Philip Cornwel-Smith

The author will give an insight into the value of everyday contemporary things in building a more inclusive, up-to-date picture of Thai culture, society and history. Exploring his passion for all things Thai, Philip Cornwel-Smith  traces the origins of what you find in the street, the home, the shop and the bar and on TV.

Admission B150, or free to Siam Society Members.

VT Nation SiamSoc talk 05-0828

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #academic #Bangkok #culture #events #SiamSociety #talks 

Fodors

Fodors Forums: Very Thai

http://fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=27&tid=34669559

By tanuki

29 Aug 2005

A wonderful book is “Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture,” by Philip Cornwel-Smith and with 500 photographs by John Goss. I picked up a copy in the gift shop of the National Museum in Bangkok, but it is available on Amazon.com. The pictures are incredibly evocative, and there are essays on everything from vendors to transportation to soi animals to alphabet tables to fortune tellers to monk baskets to soap operas to temple fairs. Rough Guide says “Answers and insights aplenty in this erudite, sumptuously photographed guide to contemporary Thai culture.” The book is a manageable size.

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #guidebooks #international #reviews #tourism 

The Nation (preview)

Something Very Thai

Preview of a talk at Siam Society on 15 September 2005 by Philip Cornwel-Smith on ‘Street Corner Siam: Exploring Thai Popular Culture’

VT Nation SiamSoc talk 05-0828

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Events, Reviews,

Tags: #academic #Bangkok #culture #events #newspaper #talks 

‘Bangkok, Bangkok: A Documentation’

About Photography Bar Gallery, Bangkok

A documentation of art exhibitions by Bangkok based artists in Barcelona and Brussels.

25 June – 28 August 2005

Installation by Prapon Kumjim, with montage including images from Very Thai. A copy of Very Thai was also displayed as an exhibit on the table in the exhibition.

 

VT Bkk Bkk exhib001 copyVT Bkk Bkk exhib002 copy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #art #Bangkok #culture #international #Thailand 

Dulwich Diary

Dulwich College magazine, Thailand

By Miss Diane, 13 May 2005

Focusing more on the “What Is” rather than the “How To” of life in Thailand, “Very Thai” is a celebration of the amazing Thai life, mind and heart.

Philip Cornwel-Smith has written a very refreshing book about Thailand, so true and so well illustrated with photos that have captured real life in chaotic Bangkok. One cannot suppress a smile on seeing a photo of entangled electric cables on a street corner.

From a McDonald’s plastic mannequin doing the traditional “Wai” to the white skin obsession, all is said and shown to give the reader a real grasp about what is Thailand in 2005. Among the 17 small photos on the cover of “Very Thai” are contemporary interpretations of traditional folk customs like Buddha images (in plastic), wooden bracelets (with painted Hello Kitty faces) and monk basket offerings (miniaturized). They hint at the scope of this book, which, as author Philip Cornwel-Smith explains in his introduction, “celebrates the miscellany of Thai life, whether folk or formal, pop or ethnic, homegrown or imported.” Longtime Bangkok resident Mr. Cornwel-Smith covers as much as 65 topics. “I wanted to get to the root of things rather than just write observations and anecdotes,” explains the British-born author, who from 1994 to 2002 edited the capital’s first listings magazine Bangkok Metro before moving on to edit Time Out’s hugely successful Bangkok city guide.

Very Thai” rewards the conscientious reader with astonishing details on subjects like pink napkins, soap operas, ghost stories, truck & bus art, recycling tyres into chairs and garbage bins, and more, and more… Each chapter is its own mini-course on Thai history, sociology, anthropology and politics.

The book has plenty of interviews and quotes from a variety of sources plus 500 colorful photos taken by Mr. Cornwel- Smith and John Goss, another longtime resident.

Very Thai” is a must for visitors, longtime residents and anyone anywhere interested in what makes Thailand “Very Thai

**Available in the library

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #academic #blogs #reviews 

‘Bangkok, Bangkok’ (Brussels)

Kunsten Festival des Arts, De Markten, Brussels

6-28 May 2005

Installation by Prapon Kumjim, with montage including images from Very Thai. A copy of Very Thai was also displayed as an exhibit on the table in the exhibition.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

05-0506 Kunsten Fest catalogue BkBk 01 05-0506 Kunsten Fest catalogue BkBk 2 05-0506 Kunsten Fest catalogue BkBk 3 05-0506 Kunsten Fest catalogue BkBk 4 05-0506 Kunsten Fest catalogue BkBk 5

FROM ASIAN ART ARCHIVE:

Bangkok Bangkok: De Markten, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts in Brussel | Asia Art Archive

‘Bangkok, Bangkok’ is an exhibition which sketches out the contours of an incomplete and imperfect city. The Asian metropolis is known as a gateway or transit zone for travellers in South East Asia, but Bangkok is rarely their end destination. Eight Thai artists brought together in Brussels are using cinema, photography and video either live or online to evoke the decline and renaissance of this international city, with humour and sarcasm. The artists will each be giving their personal vision of the many changes that have disfigured Bangkok but celebrating its chaotic charm at the same time.

Thailand began to suffer from economical turbulence since the mid 1990s. Its urban landscape changed drastically due to economic breakdown. Urban ghosts emerged and remained as incurable scars of the city. A “self-organized” city dreamed up by William Lim, a Singaporean architect, as a post-modem city, Bangkok takes its charm from its chaotic disorganisation, its accessibility to both local and overseas visitors. Rarely a destination in itself for visitors, Bangkok enjoys its status as a gateway, and a transit zone for those who want to mooch around the Southeast Asian Countries. The city lacks of completeness and perfection. We all have something to complain about, from the sewer system and the streets, to the sky train and the authority that runs it.

‘Bangkok, Bangkok’ is an attempt to introduce contemporary art by Bangkok-based artists whose work deals with this city, people, lifestyle, mentality, from various approaches. As citizens of this city, and witnesses to its fast paced growth, collapse, and revival, young artists portray their point of view towards such changes. They investigate the urban condition and lifestyles in the city and its surrounding area through photography, video and film imbued with humour, satire and critique. They also seek proximity and interaction with Brussels audiences by working with local people.

The exhibition consists of two parts: urban landscape and cultural landscape. In the section on urban landscape, images of Bangkok from the economic crisis to the present day will be represented by photography in Manit Sriwanichpoom’s Dream Interruptus and in his publication, Bangkok in Black and White. Manit, who began his career as a photojournalist, has always been interested in social and political issues at both local and international level. This series is one of his most important if obscure works, though it is overshadowed by his famous Pink Man photographic series. For its part, Vanchit Jibby Yunibandhu’s video work shows us images of the city from different viewpoints. About Bangkok that I think I know deals with her personal experience with the city whilst also embodying an attempt to re-orientate herself after the rapid changes of the last ten years. In stark contrast to Vanchits work, in ‘If there is no corruption’ Wit Pimkanchanapong creates a pseudo-Bangkok Metropolitan subway system to pour critique and satire on the existing system and its mass transport infrastructure in this megacity, as well as its urban planning, and administration. Kamol Phaosavasdi, on the other hand, explores Bangkok urban situation differently. He juxtaposes rush hour of Bangkok by using video installation with other real time ambient of his exhibition in Bangkok, ‘Here and Now’, with the recreated fluxes of unknown scripts. In his ‘techno temple’, Kamol juxtaposed the time based video of three images, turning Bangkok chaotic atmosphere into a temple.

Kornkrit Jianpinidnan, a young fashion photographer, will present a wide range of portraits of Bangkok’s younger generation, both Bangkokian and expatriates, in their most intimate moments. Kornkrit asked them to call him up when they were ready to be photographed. The idea was to capture the point of transition between the public and the private, as decided by each individual, and to highlight the sense of alienation. Prapon Kumjim will work with Brussels audiences to complete their projects, which they began in Bangkok. Prapon Kumjim is a lens-based artist who explores his nomadic experience and our media-centred society in an attempt to blur the divide between art and film. As part of his cultural interaction project, he will ask people from Brussels to take pictures of their everyday activities. Prapon will finally re-photograph and edit these as in a storyboard format. Thasnai, on the other hand, approaches the community in a different way. As an artist actively taking part in a social, anthropological and research-based project, his works explore cultural misinterpretation and its idiosyncrasy, creating an interesting dialogue between the different cities in the world and their perception of Thailand. The project in Brussels will address the idea of cultural translation and their perception of each nation/ narration from multi-cultural background.

To sum up with both part of the show, Vasan Sittikhet, a social oriented artist, and performance artist, will perform the puppet show parodying the political situation in Thailand. This project will be an interesting metaphor for audience, to rethink about what’s really going on behind the land of smiles.

 

Curator: Grithiya Gaweewong

Artists: Manit SRIWANICHPOOM(มานิต ศรีวานิชภูมิ)Wit PIMKANCHANAPONG(วิชญ์ พิมพ์กาญจนพงศ์)Jibby YUNIBANDHU,Kornkrit JIANPINIDNAN(กรกฤช เจียรพินิจนันท์)Prapon KUMJIM(ประพล คำจิ่ม)Thasnai SETHASEREEGridthiya GAWEEWONG(กฤติยา กาวีวงศ์)

 

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #art #Bangkok #culture #events #exhibitions #international 

Metro Blogging Bangkok

Very Thai = very insightful

By Paul, April 08, 2005

http://bangkok.metblogs.com/archives/2005/04/very_thai_very.phtml

A few weeks ago, I happened across an intriguing article in Time Magazine about Very Thai, a new book of photos and essays about Thailand and its culture. The next time I passed through the Emporium on personal business, I made it a point to stop by the Kinokuniya Bookstore to pick up a copy.

Unlike your standard coffee table fare that shows many postcard-pretty photos touting lush tourist destinations, Very Thai delves into the mundane: the day-to-day sights, smells, rituals, and idiosyncracies that define exactly what it means to be Thai. The book is divided into major sections such as street life and entertainment, which each section containing numerous essays on individual topics as varied as food on a stick to tuk-tuks to hi-so hair-dos. Each essay is accompanied by a rich array of photographs, many of them candid, spur-of-the-moment, man-on-the-street snapshots.

Written by an expatriate and longtime resident of Thailand, the book is a detailed, meticulously-research reference into the little nuances of Thai behavior and philosophy, and explores how Thai culture has evolved into its present-day incarnations as it is assaulted and influenced by both modern and foreign influences. For me, it has proven to be a fascinating explanation for all the local quirks whose logic has puzzled and eluded me; for my wife, it has been an eye-opening introduction to how outsiders perceive Thailand, and the things that puzzle them. We would highly recommend this book to anyone who has visited and loves Thailand, including its own citizens. It don’t come cheap though: mine cost me almost a thousand Baht.

Below is a transcript of the article that appeared in Time magazine about the book:

 

The Thais That Bind

A new, encyclopedic book relishes Thailand’s embrace of all things un-Thai

By Andrew RC Marshall (Pullitzer-Prize winning journalist and author of The Trouser People)

The publication of Very Thai, a unique guide to Thai pop and folk culture, coincides with the country’s biggest debate about national identity in more than half a century. In the World War II era, the military Phibunsongkhram regime rallied under the slogan “Thailand for the Thais.” Today, the country seems mesmerized again by nationalism. Schools and colleges have been ordered by the Ministry of Education to display the flag more prominently and play the national anthem at a higher volume.

“Thai-ness” is once again a useful political concept: in early February, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s populist nationalism lifted his party — Thai Rak Thai, or Thais Love Thais — to a landslide election victory, and made criticism of his policies seem unpatriotic.

Yet as Philip Cornwel-Smith argues, one defining quality of Thais is their embrace of all things un-Thai. The country is a cultural fusion of East and West, old and new, all effortlessly assimilated. The Thai horoscope, for example, is a baffling hybrid of Chinese, Indian and Western systems. Thai beauty queens still scoop their hair into a style called a faaraa, as in Farrah Fawcett. One of the most beloved singers of Thai country music is a Swede called Jonas. This ability to digest foreign influences is sometimes literal: villagers plagued by Bombay locusts 10 years ago solved the problem by frying and eating them.

This adopt-or-perish attitude helps explain how Thais have survived three decades of breakneck development. “In one dizzying spasm,” writes Cornwel-Smith, “Thailand is experiencing the forces that took a century to transform the West.” How does a nation modernize this fast without eroding the traditions that define it? In Thailand, “traditional” is now often a pejorative term, meaning low-class or old-fashioned. Many of the temple’s social functions have been replaced by the mall, where, the author notes, “the principal rite is the right to shop.” What matters most is looking dern. Yes, that’s Thai for “modern.”

But looking dern and being it are entirely different things. Clues to Thailand’s recent rural past are everywhere — witness motorcycle-taxi drivers in Bangkok sewing fishing nets as they wait for their next fare. This is still very much a society in transition, a place where the National Buddhism Office in 2003 felt obliged to warn monks not to use mobile phones in public. Very Thai is a compendium of fast-disappearing folklore: fortune-tellers who divine omens from rat-bitten clothes; apothecaries who make herbal aphrodisiacs so strong that they “could make a monk leap over the temple wall in search of romance”; fetus worshipping, spirit channeling, and other not-in-front-of-the-tourists activities.

With the country this year hoping to attract a staggering 15 million visitors — one for every four Thais — one definition of “Thai-ness” is simply “whatever tourists want.” Cornwel-Smith rightly condemns plans to demolish old Bangkok neighborhoods to create “Paris-style open vistas” to accommodate both tourists and convenience-store chains. Very Thai? Hardly. But however tourist-oriented Thailand has become, Cornwel-Smith’s exhaustive research suggests that perhaps foreigners don’t know the country as well as they assume. Despite its freewheeling reputation, Thailand surpasses even Japan in its adherence to stifling social hierarchies — note the national obsession with uniforms. It is also, considering Bangkok’s sexual notoriety, a surprisingly prudish place. Soap operas are so straitlaced that they cannot broach the topic of “minor wives,” as mistresses are euphemistically known. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture (a Thaksin-era invention) pesters young women who wear skimpy clothes during the annual Songkran water-splashing festival, even though “traditional” Thai women wore even less. This public puritanism explains the enduring popularity of the demure “sniff kiss,” which Cornwel-Smith terms “the Thai way to reach first base.”

A longtime Bangkok resident myself, I find the author too charitable at times. Is the city’s Chatpetch Tower really a “post-modernist pastiche” of the ubiquitous Greco-Roman style? Or is it just rubbish, like so much urban Thai architecture? Sometimes, too, the urge to be exhaustive is just plain exhausting, although future social historians will thank Cornwel-Smith for recording how you toughen up a Siamese fighting fish before a bout. (Rather meanly, you “just stir the water.”) Encyclopedic in scope, Very Thai is an unapologetic celebration of both the exotic and the everyday, and an affectionate reminder in these flag-waving times that perhaps Thais care less for state-mandated notions of national identity than their politicians think. They’re much too busy being themselves.

Andrew RC Marshall is a Pullitzer Prize-winning journalist for for Reuters, previously wrote for Time and is the author of The Trouser People.

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #blogs #book #reviews #Thailand 

Morning Talk

Magazine program on Thai Channel 11 TV

Interview with Philip Cornwel-Smith about Very Thai.

VT Morning Talk 001 copy

 

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #book #interviews #Thailand #TV 

Sticky Rice

Review: Very Thai – Everyday Popular Culture

By Ms. Connie Lingus

Sticky Rice review of VT

http://www.stickyrice.ws/?view=very_thai

As the Rough Guide to Thailand observed this guide on contemporary Thailand is well-researched, knowledgeable, and lavishly photographed. Its not a guide book per se. It can’t fit in your pocket, but it is of a size to pop in your packsack. But it should grace your coffee table and be readily at hand when you want to reference some cultural phenomenon that suddenly confronts you in your wanderings through the Land of Smiles. This could be when a street vendor passes your gate yelling that he has brooms for sale. It could be when another goes by selling ice cream sticks. Or it could be when you have just turned on the television and cannot figure out what your boyfriend finds so uproariously funny about this game show.
The author of this review did know that one piece of information, regarding the tailless cats which seem ubiquitous in Thailand, are commonly seen because somehow a tailless cat must have entered the feline gene pool in the Kingdom at some point. But in pointing this phenonmenon out to an acquaintance, realised that many people living in Thailand still think the cats without tails in Thailand have had their tails lopped off by some evil feline haters.

 

(more…)

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #gay #magazine #metromagazine #reviews #timeout 

Time Magazine (Asia)

The Thais That Bind

A new, encyclopedic book relishes Thailand’s embrace of all things un-Thai

By Andrew RC Marshall (Pullitzer-Prize winning journalist and author of The Trouser People)

VTW Time article 7842The publication of Very Thai, a unique guide to Thai pop and folk culture, coincides with the country’s biggest debate about national identity in more than half a century. In the World War II era, the military Phibunsongkhram regime rallied under the slogan “Thailand for the Thais.” Today, the country seems mesmerized again by nationalism. Schools and colleges have been ordered by the Ministry of Education to display the flag more prominently and play the national anthem at a higher volume.
(more…)

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #features #international #magazine #PullitzerPrize #reviews 

Asia Books magazine

Literary events: Very Thai book launch

River Books publishing and Asia Books, Thailand’s leading English-language publisher and distributor, welcome guests at the launch of Very Thai at Jim Thompson House.

VT AsiaBks mag 05-02004

Posted in: Blog, Events, Reviews,

Tags: #book #endorsements #features #launch #magazine #parties #Thailand 

Travel Indochina

Recommended Reading

http://www.travelindochina.co.uk/NewsFeature.asp?NewsFeatureID=46

Jan 2005

 

This fantastic read delves behind the façade of Thai culture and explains why the Thais do what they do, say what they say, watch what they watch, and are who they are. And Very Thai does so in such an engaging fashion that it is hard to put down. Well researched and accompanied by 500 quirky photos, Very Thai is an essential for anyone navigating Thai life. Whether you are curious about the origins of the tuk-tuk, the bouffants preferred by those in the social pages, ladyboy culture or the thousands of superstitions observed in the Land of Smiles, Very Thai will give you the answer, along with several laughs and poignant insight.

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #book #international #reviews #Thailand #tourism 

Rough Guide to Thailand

Books: Culture & Society

By Lucy Ridout

“Why do Thais decant their soft drinks into plastic bags, and what lies behind their penchant for Neoclassical architecture? Answers and insights aplenty in this erudite, sumptuously photographed guide to contemporary Thai culture.”

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #guidebooks #international #reviews #Thailand #tourism 

Very Thai book launch

Themed party and photo exhibition held at Jim Thompson House to celebrate publication day.

SPEECH 041220 064 w narisa & Klausner251_5185 book team251_5167 Narisa w Hugo251_5169 PCS w Hugo
252_5209 khunyings252_5220 PCS w Nancy Chandler252_5225 PCS with Bay252_5219 gampler 251_5197 pcs sign251_5190 PCS signing

A huge crowd turned out for the official launch of Very Thai, held on 20 December 2004 at Jim Thompson House Museum.  The event ran all evening from dusk till 11pm, with a couple of hundred guests from the media, arts, Thai society, expat circles and celebrities.

The themes of the entertainment and decoration – and even some costumes – drew from chapters in the book in a ‘temple fair’ concept. Guests ate streetfood from vendor carts and drank shots of yaa dong herbal whisky and all other drinks from bags – wine and beer included – served by staff from bags slung by elastic bands from nails in blue pipes carried through the throng. Books hung in bags from the trees along with multi-colour fluorescent tubes like a temple fair. Candle stands and flower displays were also handmade for the event from blue pipes. A blind band serenaded the crowd all night, and a clairvoyant read fortunes. Among the guests in ‘theme’ were appearances by celebrities (Hugo Chakra, Pop Areya Jumsai), hi-society ladies (notably Khunying Rose), the reigning Miss Jumbo Queen (beauty pageant winner for women over 90kg  with the grace of an elephant), and the motocycle taxi vest worn by author Philip.

The official host, William Klausner, President of the James HW Thompson Foundation, presided over the event, introducing publisher Narisa Chakrabongse of River Books, the author Philip Cornwel-Smith and principal photographer John Goss.

On exhibition in Ayara Hall were a selection of photographs from the book by John Goss & Philip Cornwel-Smith. John had these printed onto translucent stickers affixed to shiny aluminium plates for a shimmery, pop effect. Around the displays, which were painted in the bright hues of the book was an installation of tiny plastic chairs. The exhibition continued for several days after the party. The event drew several rave reviews.

Reviews of Very Thai Launch

Thailand Tatler magazine

Nima Chandler (Publisher, Nancy Chandler Maps)

‘As a former travel trade journalist and as a frequent freeloader at parties in Bangkok hosted by both the big and small of luxury hotels, big business, pr companies, etc, I am still in awe. Your party last night was simply the best, most well conceived and delivered, truly original theme party I have been to … ever. Only two others could compare, both organized by big money with professional event planners. To all those involved in last night’s event, a standing ovation. Well done.’

(more…)

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #Bangkok #book #events #parties