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

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
March 14, 2005

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.
read more »

Posted in: Blog
February 26, 2005

The Australian

Bangkok inside out

Andrew RC Marshall shares his 10 top tips for an intimate view of Thailand’s city of angels

 

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ALL THE ANSWERS: Why do Thai truck drivers hang pictures of Al Pacino on their mud flaps? Where did the fume-belching tuk-tuk originate? What exactly is a sniff kiss? And why are Thais such terrible drivers? You’ll find the answers and much more in Very Thai (River Books, 2004) by long-time Bangkok resident Philip Cornwel-Smith. An absorbing guide to popular culture, Very Thai shines a loving light on the minutiae of everyday life. A chapter on names explains that Thais are often called Frog, Pig or Ant to confuse evil spirits, or choose memorable nicknames such as Man-U, Nokia, and even God. The book is equally fun and authoritative on subjects as diverse as bulletproof tattoos, high-society hairdos, beetle fighting, folk music, soap operas and the all-consuming Thai concept of sanuk – fun.

 

Andrew RC Marshall is a Pullitzer Prize-winning journalist for  Reuters, who previously wrote for Time and is the author of The Trouser People.

Posted in: Reviews