Philip Cornwel-Smith has written a very refreshing book about Thailand, so true and so well illustrated with photos that have captured real life in chaotic Bangkok. One cannot suppress a smile on seeing a photo of entangled electric cables on a street corner.
From a McDonald’s plastic mannequin doing the traditional “Wai” to the white skin obsession, all is said and shown to give the reader a real grasp about what is Thailand in 2005. Among the 17 small photos on the cover of “Very Thai” are contemporary interpretations of traditional folk customs like Buddha images (in plastic), wooden bracelets (with painted Hello Kitty faces) and monk basket offerings (miniaturized). They hint at the scope of this book, which, as author Philip Cornwel-Smith explains in his introduction, “celebrates the miscellany of Thai life, whether folk or formal, pop or ethnic, homegrown or imported.” Longtime Bangkok resident Mr. Cornwel-Smith covers as much as 65 topics. “I wanted to get to the root of things rather than just write observations and anecdotes,” explains the British-born author, who from 1994 to 2002 edited the capital’s first listings magazine Bangkok Metro before moving on to edit Time Out’s hugely successful Bangkok city guide.
“Very Thai” rewards the conscientious reader with astonishing details on subjects like pink napkins, soap operas, ghost stories, truck & bus art, recycling tyres into chairs and garbage bins, and more, and more… Each chapter is its own mini-course on Thai history, sociology, anthropology and politics.
The book has plenty of interviews and quotes from a variety of sources plus 500 colorful photos taken by Mr. Cornwel- Smith and John Goss, another longtime resident.
“Very Thai” is a must for visitors, longtime residents and anyone anywhere interested in what makes Thailand “Very Thai”
**Available in the library