Haven’t read it, but I have flicked through it. From what I saw it shows you can pick up quite a lot about “Thai culture” while perched in a bar in Soi Cowboy chatting to your leery mates. The Orient’s a very different place, for example.
I was thinking more along the lines of the Buddhist umbrella that people seem to live under…girls praying before going to work at the whore bars, cops who are monks-in-training, an acceptance of the harshness of reality but not a judgement of people…[/quote]
Sorry Surly, here’s some thoughts.
I’m sure it is a good read and indeed I have seen positive reviews, but I suspect it’s part of that whole genre of Bangkok airport fiction that caters to the Soi Cowboys who drift into Thailand for a couple of weeks a year, fall madly for (hopefully) 19 year old Issan gogo dancers wired on yaba and spend their time exclusively in the bar zones trading horror stories about the us and thems of Thailand.
Yes, most Thais are Buddhists, and so are Chinese, ostensibly, just like westerners are mostly Christians. However, most people aren’t theologians and simply follow a given religion cos that’s what they’re supposed to do, and hell, it might even give you an edge, especially in a harsh environment were superstition is the order of the day. The Thais don’t have a monopoly on that. While for you Buddhism may appear like some ideal religion, the reality in Thailand is as humdrum as Christianity and all its strange variations in the west.
I’m always reminded of an amazing scene in a David Bradbury film, Frontline, about Vietnam war photographer, Neil Davis. Davis narrates as we’re shown footage he shot of a platoon of young Cambodian government soldiers on patrol in a very barren and exposed field. A shot is heard and immediately the soldiers put Buddhist amulets into their mouths, as Davis tells it, to ward off the bullets. Now clearly while all these soldiers are hoping their magic will work, it’s clearly not going to happen. Doesn’t stop them trying.
Thailand has a long history of paid “mistresses.” This pre-dates Soi Nana and Patpong and lends some cultural credibility to the role of prostitutes. Add to this dire poverty in certain parts of the country, Issan in particular, and there’s nothing antithetical in being a good Buddhist and a bar girl. Additionally, despite the stereotypes, not all Thai hookers are thieving she-demons. Most in fact are highly moral people, as strange as that may seem.
Still, judging people is as common in Thailand as it is anywhere else. There is a middle class educated view, for example, and it is highly conservative. These are the people that pushed for the 1am closing of all bars and who wince at the thought of Thailand as the world’s biggest brothel. These folks wouldn’t spit on your average up country tramp even if she was on fire. They’re ostensibly good Buddhists, too.
This year is the 60th anniversary of the King’s reign in Thailand and on any given Tuesday you’ll see half the country wearing yellow t-shirts to celebrate this event and to show their loyalty. Don’t be surprised to be fleeced by someone wearing a yellow t-shirt though, despite how poorly this may reflect on the King and the country. A fun argument, but I wouldn’t suggest it, is to talk to a bar girl about her professed love of “her” King and how her role in Thailand’s sex industry brings the country into ill repute and thus sullies the Kings’ reputation.
Economic disparity is extreme and corruption the norm. There is a sense of the ideal Thai, but this is too lofty for most to reasonably attain in that environment. People there, like people everywhere, are simply trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Ultimately monotony doesn’t make for a good read or sell many books.
I’d say this is classic post material right here.