Monthly Archives: June 2012

Very Bangkok: Neighbourhoods, Networks, Tribes

Undoubtedly one of my favourite books about the real Thailand is one by Philip Cornwel-Smith called Very Thai. I always recommend it to any of my friends who want to see the country with new eyes. I thought I already knew a lot about Thailand but Philip’s book certainly opened up a new chapter for me. Now he has a new book coming out called Very Bangkok: Neighbourhoods, Networks, Tribes which is published by River Books. I just ordered an advance copy from where they say it will be published on16 July 2012.


The following information on the book comes from the publisher:

Bangkok arrests the visitor with its bewildering juxtaposition of old and new, hi-tech and impromptu, sacred and profane. While modernizing at great pace under myriad outside influences, the Thai capital draws equal vigour from its historic communities, cultural diversity and contemporary urban tribes.

The author of Very Thai and Time Out Bangkok, Philip Cornwel-Smith takes an alternative look at the subcultures of his adopted town in this practical thematic handbook. With the aid of maps, listings and references, the visitor can engage with Bangkok’s contradictory character according to their mood or interest.

Explore the city’s contrasting environments, architectural fabric, ethnic patchwork and intertwined beliefs. Encounter distinct social scenes, whether hip or hi-so, local or bohemian and see how traditional roots infuse the current Thai flowering in arts and entertainments, fashion and food lifestyle and spas. Photography by Dow Wasiksiri – selected for the prestigious 9 Days in the Kingdom project – enhances this insider’s guide to a city like no other.

UPDATE: I’ve had the follow update from the author who talks about the delay in publishing this book:-

Thanks for your interest. I really appreciate it. The Bangkok book is taking much longer than expected to write. It keeps expanding and having to be cut back. Much research I’ve done will have to go into later works. Meanwhile, I’ve needed to update Very Thai into a full 2nd edition with more pages, some new concluding chapters – and a bigger typefont! Yay! Most chapters have changes big and small, while some have been heavily rewritten to deal with Thailand’s dramatic transformations of recent years. The 2nd edition of Very thai will come out in about 3 months, along with an updated German version and a new Japanese translation, ‘Tottemo Thai’. The Bangkok book will then follow. Thanks for your patience.

How much does a meal cost in Thailand? More than you think!

I often get asked the question how much does it cost to live in Thailand. That is like asking how long is a piece of string. The answer will vary depending on what and where you like to eat. Take my meal today for example. Mega Bangna is a new shopping mall that has opened up in my province. It is the biggest of its kind outside of Bangkok. Many of the shops cater for the more well-off Bangkok citizens as do the restaurants. From our point of view, it is nice to have some city restaurants in our neighbourhood. Which is why I decided to check out the Bangkok Burger Co. restaurant. I had a very nice and filling meal there and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have a real burger. However, you do need to consider the price. Their gourmet burgers, with chips on the side, are 195-350 Baht. This one is called a Bangkok Dangerous and comes with crispy bacon, fried egg, Thai green curry sauce & jalapeños. The price was 320 Baht though I had to pay an extra 40 Baht for the curly fries instead of the regular kind. I also asked for a bottle of water that cost me 40 Baht. So, the grand total, including service charge, was 471 Baht.

For some people, that is the cost of an average meal. Maybe more if you factor in alcoholic drinks. Now, before you say that all foreigners are rich and can afford it, let me add that in the packed restaurant I was the only foreigner. Who said Thais are poor? The Bangkok ones are certainly not. Have you been on the skytrain lately? So many have iPhones and in the mall today I counted half a dozen Thai kids walking around with iPads. To go back to the original question, if someone asked me how much I spend on a meal, then I would say about 30-35 Baht and that includes the drink. The amount of money that I spent on that one meal today is about how much I spend on meals from Monday to Friday. For the three meals that I eat on an average day, I usually spend less than 100 Baht and feel perfectly content. Take the picture above of my dinner yesterday. I had khao soi gai which is one of my favourite noodle soups. It came with a succulent chicken leg. Did this meal cost 471 Baht? No, it was only 30 Baht. The drinks would have been free but they charged me 2 Baht for ice. And that is basically the kind of meal I have every day here in Samut Prakan. If I lived and worked in Bangkok then I guess the story would be a lot different. And I probably would be a lot poorer!