No idea where this fits into the site but when I was on a couple of short trips to Koh Mak recently I took a book entitled ‘Bizarre Thailand’, written by long time expat journo Jim Algie with me. My reading nowadays is confined to holidays and so although I have couple of book cases of well thumbed novels that our guests have left behind, I haven’t touched any of them since last rainy season.
But I thought I would make an effort and pick something that I could read whilst hanging around for a boat, waiting for significant other to finish tarting herself up or whilst lazing in a hammock. As such it had to be something that I could read in short chunks without taxing my brain too much trying to remember complicated plot lines. ‘Bizarre Thailand’ fitted the bill. This collection of Jim’s articles and essays catalogues weird and wonderful sides of Thai life that rarely merit a mention in any mainstream travel guide.
Many first appeared in the ‘Untamed Travel’ magazine that in the space of a few short years in the early 2000s came, saw but didnt quite conquer enough to make it a commercial success. ( Jim was one of the founders of the mag and some of my articles were in the first few editions – more on the grounds that I would do it for free, rather than on them having any journalistic merit.)
It is a bit of a cliche to say that there is something for everyone in the book, but there is. Or at least there is for anyone who appreciates learning about the darker side or more mysterious side of life behind the Land of Smiles facade. The articles are organised into chapters on crime, misadventure, sex, strange celebrities, creatures and the supernatural. Each containing a handful of articles that can be read in 10-15 minutes. It is the kind of book you just flick open and start reading from, no need to read from start to finish in any particular order.
The book opened my eyes a few times and so for anyone who hasn’t been living in Thailand for a while there is sure to be plenty of food for thought to digest as the make their way through the articles. At worst it is an entertaining read that is guaranteed to provide you with some interesting dinner table conversation topics. At best a few hours spent reading this book and you will garner far more of an insight into what makes Thailand tick than any amount of ploughing through the Culture section in your Lonely Planet will provide.
Plus you can use certain sections as an off-beat guidebook to Thailand if you wish. Although not everyone will be interested in, for example, visiting the dilapidated museum honoring the original Siamese twins in Samut Songkhram; strolling around Moobaan Tao, Khon Kaen’s turtle village; taking in the embalmed corpse of See Uey, the child eating cannibal in Bangkok or checking out the shrine to Nang Nak, the famous ghost of a woman who died in childbirth, at Wat Mahabut on Sukhumvit Soi 77.
‘Bizarre Thailand – Tales of Crime, Sex and Black Magic‘, published by Marshall Cavendish (Singapore) is available at all good book stores. See www.bizarrethailand.com for more info about the book & author.