About Very Thai & Very Bangkok

The influential bestselling book Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture is now fully updated and expanded into a new 2nd Edition. See below for details on the follow-up: Very Bangkok; In the City of the Senses.

about-the-bookThis pioneering insight into Thai pop and streetlife has been totally revised to reflect the dramatic changes in Thailand. Widely praised as one of the best books on Thailand, Very Thai delves beyond the traditional Thai icons to reveal the casual, everyday expressions of Thainess that so delight and puzzle, from floral truck bolts and taxi altars to buffalo cart furniture and drinks in a bags.

Read the Preface by Alex Kerr and the Afterword by Pracha Suveeranont


New in 2nd Edition

Four extra chapters cover the huge shifts in Thailand since the launch of the 1st edition in 2004.

  • The impacts on Thai pop from the Internet, political upheavals and the rise of Asian soft power.
  • The new genre of ‘Vernacular Thai Design’.
  • Changes in contemporary Thainess from the rise of ‘Thai Thai’ retro culture.
  • Afterword by Pracha Suveeranont, a Thai expert in visual culture, about the role of ‘Very Thai’ within Thailand.


70 Chapters on quirky topics

Philip scoured each region to show how indigenous wisdom both adapts to the present and customises imports, applying Roman architecture to shophouses, morphing rock into festive farm music, turning the Japanese motor-rickshaw into the tuk-tuk.
Thai culture wasn’t colonised, and the most mundane retain nuanced ancient meaning that can confound the outsider. The days are colour coded, lucky numbers dictate prices, window grilles become guardian angels, tattoos entrance the wearer. The author’s insights help the reader navigate various social traits, whether white-faced hi-so matrons or Red Bull-swilling workers wearing coins in their ear.

591 Colour Photographs

The vivid photographs by Philip Cornwel-Smith and John Goss reflect the scenes as found, with no staging, so the reader feels a realistic connection from their own encounters. It’s a photo album of the things that people here commonly overlook, yet which relate to their daily lives.

An Iconic Book

This trailblazing guide to Thai culture has become an influential style bible, research text, and reference for creative, especially in advertising, design and visual arts. The book has even been curated as an exhibit in several exhibitions. Very Thai is more than a book about Thai icons; it has become a cult object itself.

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.If you need writing help with that book use our link buy-cheapessay.com/essay-help and we will help you!

Original 1st Edition

about-the-book-1stThe 1st edition of Very Thai was published on 12 Dec 2004 with a launch party at Jim Thompson House . An immediate bestseller, it was reprinted in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011. An e-book version will be released in 2014. A German edition, called Typisch Thai, was launched in 2008???, reprinted in 2011???, and due out in the updated 2nd edition in 2014. A Japanese translation is also due for release in 2014.






About Very Bangkok

Comprehensive The most comprehensive book about Bangkok yet written in any language.

Exploratory The first biography of Bangkok to cover the whole metropolis, going beyond the historic core and tourist areas to draw insights and examples from the inner and outer suburbs, spanning from ethnic urban villages to peri-urban housing estates.

Innovative To escape sensational preconceptions – and standard ways of sorting by area, genre or timeline, Very Bangkok uses a tool we all share: senses. By perceiving the city through 20 senses, it reveals much more than meets the eye. We notice its cultural emphases on traits like time, colour, balance, direction or the sixth sense. Instead of listing restaurants, it tests the city’s flavour profile. 

Penetrating The book’s three sections delve ever deeper into the city’s character, opening with the experiential impressions from the senses, then investigating the social heart of this teeming metropolis, and ultimately reflecting on perceptions of the city from insiders and outsiders, experts and the arts. 

Contemporary Unlike the traditional focus of most books on Bangkok, it emphases the contemporary, putting its past in realistic context and considering the city’s phases, patterns and potential future. 

Socially aware Covers every level of Bangkok society, spanning established and hi-so elites, through the middle classes to the informal sector, slum dwellers and the homeless.

Subcultural Goes beneath the ideology of uniform National Culture to explore vibrant subcultures, from ethnic enclaves and expatriate circles, to youth culture and the creative scene.

Comparative Cites an unprecedented breadth of commentary about Bangkok. Goes beyond earlier books’ reliance on old quotes to survey current and recent impressions of Bangkok in film, documentaries, novels, non-fiction, art, poetry, theories, even comedy. It depicts 83 works of art about Bangkok.

Hi-tech Analyses hi-tech tools and big data – like digital mapping and planning programs – to reveal hidden realities, like population densities, flood risk, and the informal transit and community hubs that don’t appear on any maps or networks, yet play vital roles in daily life.

Bangkok-specific Probes the Bangkokian sense of identity, and what makes Bangkokness distinct from the default clichés of Thainess. 

Urban This portrait of Bangkok is also a book about cities, a vital topic now that over half the world is urban. This groundbreakingly varied appoach is especially relevant to informal tropical metropolises that are vulnerable to crisis and climate change, yet somehow prove resilient.

Reviews of Very Bangkok

“A brilliant and polychromatic look at Bangkok done in a way that no other writer has attempted. Philip Cornwel-Smith turns Bangkok into a vast tapestry of meditations on the nature of cities …combining whimsy, erudition, and a sensual precision of language. Since publishing Very Thai, Cornwel-Smith has become the city’s preeminent mythographer in the English language. The city is re-seen, re-imagined as a vast complex of signs which requires the informal encyclopedia which he has written. This makes for many a surprise. What one feels unconsciously, he puts into a fine and sensual prose that provides to the reader a little ‘discovery’. …This marvelous and fantastical opus on what might be called the unconscious of a city.”

Lawrence Osborne, author of Bangkok Days and The Forgiven

“The coverage is remarkable for its range and its depth… 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. Apart from anything else, this book tracks the transition from parochial to global beautifully… What comes across, and what makes this a great book, is that love.”

Chris Baker, Bangkok Post

“Philip’s much-adored Very Thai captured the essence of contemporary ‘Thainess’ with a profound depth and uncanny authenticity few books could match, whether by a Thai or a foreigner. Now his Very Bangkok does the same with an even more adventurous search for the true identity of this complex, unique and notorious capital. I am a Bangkok-born Thai, and live here, yet I’m sure Philip knows much more about it than me.”

Prabda Yoon, Thai film director & SEA Write prize-winning author

“A beautifully written book that peels back the layers. Full of unusual insights.”

Ben Davies, photojournalist, Vanishing Bangkok

“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. [He] is interested not in simply providing niche knowledge on historical landmarks but in getting under the city’s skin and making sense of its DNA. Many of the observations might not be the most flattering, 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.”

Pim Wangtechawat, Mekong Review

Very Bangkok has the answers to the paradoxes we wondered about, or hadn’t looked closely enough to even wonder about. With its thorough coverage of every aspect of Bangkok life, its wealth of detail and breadth of thought, this book on Bangkok will not be equalled for years to come.”

Alex Kerr, author of Lost Japan and Bangkok Found

Very Bangkok deftly dissects [the] Thai capital. Something between a tourist guidebook and an anthropological encyclopedia… Very Bangkok 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. It also includes invisible, undesirable, and supernatural domains.

Tappanai Boonbandit, Khao Sod English newspaper

“A follow-up to his similarly captivating Very Thai, with both of these works honing in on the details that give the Thai capital a character found nowhere else.

Mae Rosukhon, cofounder of Random Thainess, Expique.com specialist travel

“An astonishing book. This is a classic. You’ve managed to make me not even yearn for my own way of thinking about Bangkok, but to get me into the feeling of it.” — Marc Pachter, Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution, from his interview with the author at BangkokEdge festival (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRqWZlxc2Js&feature=youtu.be)