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
Phil Cornwel-Smith, author of Very Thai
BY GREG LOWE on 28 April 2008
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
Time in Thailand
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.
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.
Very Thai – Philip Cornwel-Smith
Any indy bar with mis-matched furniture.
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.
Community events unpublicised in English. Serendipity or sleuthing required.
Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture (2005).
Time Out Bangkok guidebook (3 edns).
Travel Happy is a travel websitePosted in: Blog
Books on Thailand
By Ron Emmons
‘For help in understanding what the heck is going on around you in Thailand, pick up Philip Cornwel-Smith’s Very Thai, it’s a bit obvious in parts but does make for colourful an fun entertainment (don’t expect any deep intellectual insights). It will, however, explain some peculiar habits of the host country.’Posted in: Reviews
Thai tuk-tuks go global
by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
London has its black cabs, Venice its gondolas, and Bangkok its tuk-tuks, but Thailand’s iconic three-wheeled taxis are going global as foreigners scramble to pick up a piece of Thai culture.
The smoke-belching motorised rickshaws can now be seen plying Britain’s seaside towns, Canada’s golf courses and Tokyo’s neon-lit streets, and manufacturers have seen a surge in global sales and recognition.
“Japan they have Toyota, they have Nissan, so Thailand has a car also — a tuk-tuk,” says Anuwat Yuteeraprapa, owner of Expertise, a tuk-tuk manufacturer which exports 95 percent of its vehicles abroad. read more »Posted in: Reviews
Recorder Read: ‘Very Thai – Everyday Popular Culture’
by Laurie Osborne
Forget Lonely Planet, Very Thai – Everyday Popular Culture takes readers on a far more in-depth foray into Thai culture, one you won’t see on the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s website.
This Technicolored book is packed with explanations of modern-day phenomena, ranging from the everyday to the cosmic. For foreigners, it answers a thousand puzzling curiosities, from why tangled webs of electrical wire are proudly displayed as symbols of modernity to how whisky tables reinforce social hierarchy. Thai people themselves seem to have a more bemused attitude to Very Thai, delighted that such recognizable objects are the subject of a best-seller.
Before casting cynicism over the English author of a book called Very Thai, consider the detached and non-judgmental approach the writer, Philip Cornwel-Smith, has adopted in presenting popular Thai culture. Sometimes it takes an outsider to see value in the simple things. What better perspective than a 12-year resident of Bangkok and founding editor of Metro magazine? We sat down with the British-born Philip to discuss sex, tattoos and rock ‘n roll… read more »Posted in: Reviews
Finalmente le risposte a tutte le vostre domande riguardanti la Thailandia: perchè i taxi a bordo hanno piccoli santuari, perchè vengono annodati pezzi di tessuto intorno agli alberi.