Bangkok Inside Out: Spicier than Tom Yam!
A few weeks before New Year I received a much-anticipated package from Thailand.
Encased within the huge envelope was not a giant pack of tom yam paste, but something much hotter and spicier: Daniel Ziv's latest book, Bangkok Inside Out!
The book cover bears a catchy picture of a Bangkokian youngster breakdancing and spinning on his head. It could be thought of as a metaphore to describe the Thai capital city: very cool though sometimes headache-inducing.
Daniel had personally delivered me his latest creation and graciously signed it thus bumping its value up by at least twice its MRSP (manufacturer's recommended selling price).
(Or at least I can dream that it did.)
Capitalizing on his previous book success Jakarta Inside Out, Daniel had collaborated with good friend Guy Sharett to bring forth this delicious quirky outlook on Thailand's capital city.
In a nutshell, Bangkok Inside Out is an "A-B-C" of Daniel and Guy's perception of Bangkok's pop culture. The book touches on everything from Thai traffic jams, farang (white foreigners), durian, sky trains, 7-11, muay Thai (Thai kickboxing), to street food and much more.
True to the authors' wacky delivery style, every chapter is subjected to some semi-serious description plus a dash of hilarity to boot.
BIO unearths and sheds light on topics and surroundings that a local would typically take for granted. I can see appreciators of Thai pop culture vigorously nodding their heads in agreement, for instance, when reading that Daniel and Guy's take on Beauty Pageants. Did you know Thailand is home to many pageants, both conventional and freaky, watched obsessedly by millions on TV across the country?
"In addition to the conventional Miss Thailand, Miss Thailand World and Miss Thailand Universe, enter Jumbo Queen Pageants, an annual contest for extra-large gals, also intended as an ode to Thailand's diminishing number of wild elephants (see "Urban Elephants"); Miss AC/DC - a contest for ladyboys in which contestants are supposedly judged for their intelligence rather than beauty..."
(Bangkok Inside Out, p.16)
Speaking of ladyboys, or kathoey, BIO is peppered with references to Thailand's famed transgenders. It is only natural that we expect to see a chapter on Bangkok's trannies and queer lifestyle.
I bet some folks will buy Bangkok Inside Out for the photos of Thailand's achingly-gorgeous drag queens alone.
Another topic in the book that highly intrigued me was of khlong, Thai rivers which are still used as means of transportation for Bangkokians too weary to use roads. The city river is so polluted that to jump into it would be fatal due to the fungi and bacteria residing in it. You're probably better off jumping into a river of molten lava and spare the agony of having to be hospitalized for brain hemorraghing as experienced by Thai superstar Big D2B when his car plunged into the river.
Each chapter in BIO is in this format, chockful of exciting trivia and witty comments handsomely paired off with a large and fabulous accompanying photo. It is this same recipe of presentation that has propelled Jakarta Inside Out to become one of Indonesia's best selling books. I have no doubt BIO will take the book sale lead in Thailand, mimicking its Indonesian counterpart's achievement and popularity.
After I was done with Bangkok Inside Out feeling satisfied and strangely high, I felt a pang of nostalgia and decided to re-read my copy of Jakarta Inside Out.
Reading Daniel Ziv's Inside Out books is like flipping between the Discovery Channel and Cartoon Network between intervals of 20 seconds. The experience, while knowledgable, is profoundly insane and highly entertaining.
Thank you Daniel and Guy for this truly wacky book!
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