All reviews and features are listed in full chronologically below the 'Select Review Quotes'. For individual reviews click on a quote or a media listing on the right.

Select Review Quotes

  • ‘This is the book I wish I’d had when I first came to Thailand.’
    — Alex Kerr, author of ‘Lost Japan’
  • ‘A unique guide to Thai pop and folk culture. Future social historians will thank Cornwel-Smith.’
    — Andrew Marshall, Time magazine
  • ‘An entertaining and provocative look at Thai culture.’
    — John Burdett, author of Bangkok 8
  • ‘Philip Cornwel-Smith is writing in a way that I like, with an electric eye for the streets.’
    — Lawrence Osborne, author of ‘Bangkok Days’
  • ‘A thrilling, trail-blazing book of cultural history… A work of astounding breadth and erudition. Very Thai has few, if any, English-language equals.’
    — Nick Grossman, Bangkok Post
  • ‘A more sophisticated guide to the country’s contemporary culture’
    – Conde Nast Traveller
  • ‘A brilliant book-length photo-essay… Cornwel-Smith writes with astute animation.’
    — Donald Richie, Top 3 Books on Asia 2005, Japan Times
  • ‘Required reading for visitors, residents and anyone anywhere interested in what makes Thailand tick.’
    — Jennifer Gampell, Asian Wall Street Journal
  • ‘With a wit that suits the Thai spirit, Very Thai explains with delicateness things that Thais regard as indelicate. An important source that reflects modern Thai consciousness.”
    — Pracha Suweeranont, Matichon Weekly
  • ‘It was about time that somebody wrote something worth reading about the Thai culture. Philip Cornwel-Smith does that, and does it well. Read Very Thai. You’ll be glad you did.
    — Bertil Lintner, The Irrawaddy
  • ‘It is truly so much better than any other “guide”.’
    — Paul Dorsey, The Nation
  • ‘Very Thai is the first in-depth examination of Thai popular culture.’
    — Jason Gagliardi, South China Morning Post
  • ‘Answers and insights aplenty in this erudite, sumptuously photographed guide to contemporary Thai culture.’
    — Lucy Ridout, Rough Guide to Thailand
  • ‘Very Thai shines a loving light on the minutiae of everyday life. The book is equally fun and authoritative.’
    — Andrew Marshall, The Australian
  • ‘Pick of the Picture Books. Very Thai is an attempt to capture the complex realities of Thai culture, a blend of finesse and fun which fuses folk tradition with hi-tech and bling. Here are fascinating glimpses of high life, low life, street life and, er, Honda life.”
    — The Independent newspaper (UK)
  • ‘The publishing sensation of 2004. This book is a revelation of all those things we thought we’d never understand.’
    — Vaudine England, Dateline, Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand
  • ‘A delightful read and a wonderful roadmap to diverse elements of Thai Popular Culture.’
    — Gerald W Fry, Historical Dictionary of Thailand
  • ‘No other author has delved so deeply into the subconscious of Thai popular culture in such an intriguing, eye-opening way. You’ll love the insights gained from reading this best-seller. Wonderful photography too!’
    — Nancy Chandler Map of Bangkok

Reviews in Full

May 1, 2005

The Irrawaddy

What Makes Thais Tick?

Cornwel-Smith provides some entertaining insights

By Bertil Lintner

A crash course in cultural orientation is the first introduction to Thailand that American Peace Corps volunteers get when they arrive in the kingdom. High-society ladies of noble standing teach them that Thai girls are very shy and conservative.
They spend their entire adolescence cooking food, cleaning their houses, and, for relaxation, painting umbrellas. Every young woman is a virgin until she gets married to a hardworking man, who is deeply devoted to traditional Asian family values. The reality confronting the young Americans when they arrive in a small village in the Northeast, therefore, comes as a shock. Half the teenage girls are either single mothers or pregnant, and their boyfriends have escaped their responsibilities and fled to Bangkok. Every married adult, man or woman, seems to be having an affair with somebody else. Family relations in rural Thailand can, in fact, be even more confused and bewildering than in America’s inner cities.

read more »

Posted in: Reviews
April 17, 2005

Svenska Dagbladet

New book about Thailand behind the façade

by Bertil Lintner

VT SvenskaDag 002 copy

Superficially, Thailand may appear more Westernised than most other countries in Asia. Jeans, T-shirts, Coca-Cola and hamburger joints belong to the youth culture here, like English football and American pop music. But there’s something very Thai behind the façade not only in the indigenous culture but also in the way in which the Thais absorb outside influences. All those phenomena are explained splendidly in a new book, Very Thai: Everyday Popular Thai Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith, a Bangkok-based English journalist. Beauty contests, astrology, taxi altars, belief in ghosts and spirits are all put in their proper context in this very readable book.

Svenska Dagbladet is a Swedish newspaper

Bertil Lintner 
is the author of Blood Brothers: Crime, Business and Politics in Asia;Burma in Revolt; Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korea Under the Kim Clan

Posted in: Reviews
April 1, 2005

Britain in Thailand

Visions of Thailand

British author Philip Cornwel-Smith talks to John Ramsay about his journey from Time Out London to Bangkok’s first city listings magazine and his new book Very Thai, an in-depth celebration of Thai popular culture.

By John Ramsay

VT intv Britain in Thailand VT intv Britain in Thailand2

Eleven years ago, on his way home to the UK, author Philip Cornwel-Smith landed in Thailand on a three-day stop-over little knowing it would change his life. In those three days he had an offer he couldn’t refuse: to become the founding editor of Metro, Bangkok’s first city listings magazine. He’s been here ever since.

“I’d previously worked on Time Out guidebooks in London,” he says. “And for a listings agency that supplied newspapers such as the Guardian, Daily Mirror and Daily Telegraph.

“The Time Out London guide was the first publication I worked on, so things have come full circle, because I‘m now editing the Time Out Bangkok guidebook.” read more »

Posted in: Reviews
March 20, 2005

The Nation (1st ed review)

Thank you, your Thai-ness

Mysteries of the Siamese landscape marvellously revealed, with all due affection – and affectation
By Paul Dorsey

 

Alex Kerr, earning his accreditation herein as an “Asia pundit”, says it best in the foreword to Very Thai: “This is the book I wish I’d had when I first came to Thailand.” It is truly so much better than any other “guide” (once you’ve got all the maps and hotel listings in your pocket).

A pair of aliens who upon landing fell in love with Thailand, Bangkok Metro magazine’s former British editor Philip Cornwel-Smith and American artist -photographer John Goss have, with genuine affection, put together 256 pages of endearing text with 494 colour photos of instantly recognisable social signatures. read more »

Posted in: Reviews
March 19, 2005

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.

 

read more »

Posted in: Blog