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