Wednesday, 10 August 2011
I picked this book up at a fabulous bookstore in Dubai called Kinokuniya. I only bring this up because it’s almost a destination in and of itself (not to mention it’s located in the biggest mall in the world). I was just perusing the shelves actually looking for a reference book on search engine optimization (SEO) and I can never help myself…I wound up in the travel section. That’s where I spied Bangkok Days by Lawrence Osborne. It grabbed my attention, not just because the cover was a fabulous cartoon depiction of the crazy streets of Bangkok, but because my husband and I have been recently putting a plan together to retire to Thailand. Great timing to read something like this. Even though we’re targeting Phuket I envision weekend jaunts into “the city.”
Anyway, on to the book review. I have to caution you, this is not a book for someone with delicate sensibilities. Of course, neither is Bangkok. Osborne takes us on a raucous romp through the seedier back streets of the city with stops at the burlesque shows featuring the ubiquitous lady/boys and even a brief stint in a hospital that has a bar (yes, an actual bar that serves alcohol to patients dragging around IV poles…he paints a very vivid picture). On the surface, his tale is a sad commentary on some of the Western retirees who “escape” to Thailand because of the attention that’s guaranteed to be showered upon them on every corner and their ability to create whole new personas. It is escapism at it’s finest. It’s a place where everywhere you turn, there’s companionship being offered. However, he balances the melancholy with a touch of humour and poignant insight into the psyches of his neighbours in Wang Lang and the people he meets; and skilful descriptions of his surroundings as he meanders through the crowded, aromatic, streets (mostly at night).
Having travelled around Thailand myself, I often said you have to see it to believe it. But, Osborne creates a sensory overload that is overwhelming yet titillating.