BANGKOK DAYS by LAWRENCE OSBORNE

Reading “Bangkok Days” whilst on holiday in Bangkok was a wonderful, border-line surreal experience, since it made me simultaneously embarrassed at how little I know the city, whilst also inspiring me to try and follow in Mr. Osborne’s steps.

Not with the drinking nor the dentistry (the original reason the author landed up in Bangkok) but for the long wanders through the city, leisurely exploring. Not the well known palaces and Wats, but everyday neighbourhoods.

This wonderful memoir was published in 2009, and although much of the city must have changed in the intervening decade, there is a timelessness to Mr. Osborne’s portrayal of a city that clearly fascinates him.

He explores Bangkok, usually on foot, and usually at night, seeing beauty in the ordinary, and finding stories in the most mundane of places:

“I preferred nights there…I grew to like the atmosphere of stale basil & exhausted marijuana which Bangkok seems to breathe out of invisible nostrils…”

The author wanders the streets, and drinks in bars, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of fellow ex-pats. He explores the city with friends, men who have washed up in Thailand and then stay on, working, pretending to work, or simply just living there. It is a raffish, down-at-heel crowd, but seen through Mr. Osborne’s generous eye, there is genuine affection in his portrayal of these often lonely, often eccentric men.

Mr. Osborne clearly loves Bangkok, warts and all, and it is a tribute to his writing that I caught myself Googling places he mentions, planning to go and see for myself how the city has fared in the last 10 years or so.

I’m inspired, truly.

A wonderful book.

A wonderful tribute to a fascinating city.

Recommended, whether you know Bangkok well, or not at all.

Here’s a link to buy the book.

You’re very welcome.

BANGKOK EIGHT by JOHN BURDETT

There is such a delight in discovering (admittedly well after everyone else) a fabulous new detective hero, and after reading “Bangkok Eight” I am a fan, a firm, verging-on-embarrassingly-enthusiastic fan of Sonchai Jitpleecheep.

Sonchai Jitpleecheep is an unusual Bangkok cop.

For one thing he is only half Thai.

For another thing, he is not on the take, which is why he knows he will pretty much always languish at the bottom of the police food chain.

And since he can see people’s past lives, he has a unique take on the people he meets as he works the streets of Bangkok. Hmm…using the word “works” makes him sound rather like the hookers who people his world – hardly surprising, given that his delightful mother, Nong, is a former whore. His father, one of her clients we learn, he has never met, but he is part of Sonchai’s thoughts. Not obsessively so, but he does wonder about his father. And his fabulously practical mother refuses to tell him what he wants to know.

His half and half status (and his excellent lingustic skills, rare in the Bangkok Police force) give this delightful man a totally different perspective on life, on Thailand, on Bangkok, on Buddhism, on morality, on prostitution, on corruption. On any and all of the many strands, in fact, that make this clever beautifully written narrative such a good, entertaining read.

The story opens with a shocking brutal murder, and the death of Sonchai’s closest friend and partner, so within a few seconds we are plunged headlong into a world of death and horror and retribution, and the pace doesn’t let up from that point onwards.

The drawback of reviewing a crime novel is that you don’t want to spoil the plot. So I won’t.

But this much I will say : be prepared for action, humour, drugs, food, sex, and a voyage of discovery into the world of Bangkok prostitution which makes these young women some of the most likeable people you will meet.

Mr. Burdett wears his obvious scholarship and deep knowledge of Thailand lightly, while letting his equally obvious love and affection for the country and her people shine through. As you read, you learn about Thai culture and manners and thought processes, but all done in such a way that it is a natural part of the narrative.

A great read. And I can’t wait to start on the next book in the series…

Published 2003 (so, yes, agreed, it took me a while to discover Sonchai).

Recommended.

Great read.

If you now feel like reading this book, it couldn’t be easier. ┬áJust click on any of the links below.

Happy reading.