Media Review: Asia Street Food by Heike & Stephan Leistner

Today’s media review is about asia street food by Heike & Stefan Leistner (ISBN: 978-3862448050). This book was published in September 2015 by Christian Verlag, Munich. This book is in German language, comprises 224 pages and 300 colour photographs. It costs 24,99 EUR and is available in the German bookselling trade and on Amazon.

Asia Street Food

Cover Asia Street Food (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Cover Asia Street Food (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

The book asia street food combines a cookbook with a (culinary) journey of discovery through the Southeast Asian countries Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. Hence, the authors Heike & Stephan Leistner present 70 authentic street food recipes from these countries, thus inviting the reader to try these special recipes at home.

Since 2004, the authors have been travelling regularly to Southeast Asia collecting wonderful streetfood recipes. Heike Leistner is a passionate food and travel photographer and Stephan Leistner is a cook and author. Thus, in 2011 the couple also launched their website asiastreetfood.com in order to make Asian streetfood recipes known in the German-speaking world.

Rice noodle soup with chicken from Vietnam (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Rice noodle soup with chicken from Vietnam (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

The book starts with an introduction and a brief history and background of streetfood in Asia. The first chapter is about Vietnam. Thus, the authors first introduce Vietnamese cuisine poiting out its specialities. A very prominent and well-known dish in Vietnamese cuisine is the Pho Bo. Hence, there is a recipe for this kind of noodle soup with beef. Other specialities are different kinds of spring rolls, like for example springrolls with tumeric and banh mi which is a kind of Vietnamese sandwich. In addition, the authors introduce prominent cities of Vietnam like Hanoi and Saigon and also present a family restaurant from Phu Quoc.

Spring rolls with tumeric from Vietnam (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Spring rolls with tumeric from Vietnam (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

The second chapter deals with Cambodia and begins with an introduction of the characteristics of Cambodian cuisine. A first recipe the authors present is mango salad with fish. Other prominent recipes in Cambodian streetcuisine are fish and rice soup and the Khmer baguette. In-between the recipes, the authors present important Cambodian cities like Phnom Penh and Battambang.

Mango salad with fish from Cambodia (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Mango salad with fish from Cambodia (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

The next chapter is about Laos and starts off with an introduction about Laotian cuisine, the history of the county and its specialities. This is followed by popular recipes from Laotian streetcuisine, among them for instance fish curry with Lao whiskey. In this chapter, the authors also present a section about ‘sticky rice’ and how it is prepared as well as an informative section about the use of lime and its different kinds.

Fish curry with Lao whiskey from Laos (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Fish curry with Lao whiskey from Laos (photo: ©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

The fourth chapter is about Thailand and begins with introducing Thai cuisine emphasizing its regional cuisines and their characteristics. Thus, the presented recipes come from the different regions of Thailand. For instance, there is curry noodle soup and sausage from Northern Thailand, fried chicken from Isaan but also classic recipes found throughout the country like Pad Thai, Som Tam and Tom Yum. In the sections in-between the recipes, the authors deal with different topics like monasteries and night markets in Chaing Mai, the cultivation of rice, floating markets, curry shops, streetfood in Bangkok, usage of the coconut & Bangkok in general.

Pad Thai from Thailand (photo:©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Pad Thai from Thailand, a popular street food (photo:©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

The last chapter deals with the cuisine of Myanmar. It starts with an introduction and then presents the most popular streetfood recipes like Burmese noodle soup (mohinga), chicken curry, noodlesalad & the Burmese milk tea, for example. The sections in-between are about popular cities in Myanmar like Yangoon and Bagan.

Shan noodle salad from Myanmar (photo:©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Shan noodle salad from Myanmar (photo:©Christian Verlag / Heike Leistner)

Finally, I think that asia street food by Heike and Stephan Leistner is a well-made book that offers more than a simple cookbook. Indeed, it is an invitation for a journey of discovery. What catches the reader’s eye immediately are the numerous and colourful photographs. In short, I find the book appealingly illustrated. I particularly like that the authors also introduce and present some streetfood vendors. Thus, I can recommend this book to all those who love Southeast Asia and its multifaceted cuisine.

Yours, Sirinya




Media Review: Atman by Bernd Kolb

The soul is an infinite ocean of just beautiful energy and presence made manifest in human form (Panache Desai)

Today’s media review is about Atman by Bernd Kolb (ISBN: 978-3724310570). This book was published in September 2015 by terra magica /Reich Verlag. This book is in German language, comprises 192 pages, hardcover. It costs 50 EUR and is available in the German bookselling trade and on Amazon.

Atman by Bernd Kolb

The book Atman is a picturebook which invites the reader or rather the ‘viewer’ to realize and ‘see’ Atman, the divine spark, in the extraordinary pictures that Bernd Kolb took on his journeys through Asia. Bernd Kolb is known as an internet pioneer and German entrepreneur of the year 1998. The first station in his journey was Marrakesh (2007) where he restored a traditional city palace with centuries-old methods.

Atman by Bernd Kolb, terra magica 2015

Atman by Bernd Kolb, terra magica 2015

In 2012, he went on his journey to Asia in order to find out more about traditional sources of wisdom. Hence, soon the idea for comprising the book ‘Atman’ was born. The photos are predominantly portraits of people whom he encountered during his wisdom journey through Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia. However, there are also a few stunning pictures of landscapes like the Mae Hong Son province in Northern Thailand and an amazing picture of an elephant’s eye.

Padaung woman from Cambodia, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

Padaung woman from Cambodia, the Padaung belong to the tribes of the Karen who also live in Thailand, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

Atman may also be described as ‘soul’ or ‘essence of life’. In the 3000 years old Vedas, ‘Atman’ is called the divine spark in every (human) being. Thus, it can also be understood as the truth behind all appearances. Hence, the photographer tries to capture the ‘soul’ or ‘divine spark’ of his counterpart in his pictures. Thus, it is the authors aim to show that all beings are connected to each other through ‘Atman’.

A nun from Myanmar, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

A Buddhist nun from Myanmar, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

The book starts with a foreword by Jane Goodall followed by the author’s introduction in which he tells the reader about his motivation, intentions and his wisdom journey through Asia. The main part of the book consists of the photos followed by the caption in which the author tells us who the people photographed are. He tells the reader something about their story, where he met them and what they mean to him.

A dancer from Bali, Ubud in contemplation, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

A dancer from Nusa Penida, a small island near Bali, in contemplation before his performance, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

Old Soul, Bali, Ubud, Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

Old Soul, a 5 year old girl from Ubud, Indonesia Copyright (c) Bernd Kolb

I think that ‘Atman’ by Bernd Kolb offers the viewer an emotional journey to discover the ‘soul’ of human beings. Hence, the book is very inspiring and even like a meditation to me. When I look at the photos for some minutes, it seems that the pictures come alive. Bernd Kolb truly shares magical moments of presence. Thus, I can feel a connection to the people in the pictures.

In a nutshell, I find ‘Atman’ by Bernd Kolb truly precious and an amazing book. Thus, it is also a great gift for people who like photography, the extraordinary and the magical. The book invites the viewer to take his time and to dwell on the portraits and the impression that they give.

Yours, Sirinya




Das (Baan) Thai Kochbuch/ The Thai Cookbook by Chainarong Toperngpong

Today’s media review is about Das (Baan) Thai Kochbuch by Chainarong F. Toperngpong (text & layout) and Gisela Goppel (illustrations) (ISBN: 978-3941087477). The second edition of this book was published in 2014 by Jacoby & Stuart, Berlin. This book is in German language, comprises 140 with colour illustrations throughout, flexible hardcover. It costs 19,95 EUR.

Das (Baan) Thai Kochbuch

In ‘Das (Baan) Thai Kochbuch / The Thai Cookbook’ the author Chainarong Toperngpong presents the reader his most popular Thai family recipes and the classic recipes of his father’s Baanthai restaurant (1982-2011) in Germany. What is more, he makes the reader familiar with Thai table manners and also shares personal, amusing and hilarious anecdotes from the Baanthai restaurant. The book is beautifully illustrated with colourful and exotic paintings by Gisela Goppel.

Das (Baan) Thai Kochbuch/ The Thai Cookbook

Cover, ‘Das (Baan) Thai Kochbuch/ The Thai Cookbook’ by Chainarong Toperngpong

Thus, the cookbook starts with an introduction (Herzlich Willkommen) and some basic information about the structure of the book and the recipes concerning portions, options for vegetarians and the glossary. The cookbook has nine main chapters which are about ‘Basic Recipes’ (Grundrezepte), ‘Soups’ (Suppen), ‘Appetizer’ (Vorspeisen), ‘Stir-Fries’ (Wokgerichte), ‘Fish & Seafood’ (Fisch & Meeresfrüchte), ‘Currys’, ‘Recipes/Menus for Families’ (Familienessen), ‘Desserts’ (Nachspeisen) and stories about the ‘Baanthai’. The book closes with a glossary, menu suggestions and an alphabetical register.

012-013 Baan Thai Kochbuch

012-013 Baan Thai Kochbuch, Thailand illustration

The first chapter about ‘Grundrezepte’ (Basic Recipes) seems to be the largest chapter of this book. It presents the most important Thai basic recipes like those for making curry pastes, dips, roasted chili powder and information about how to prepare Thai sticky rice and steamed Jasmin rice for instance. The following chapter about ‘Suppen’ (Soups) presents popular Thai soups like Tom Yam Gung (Sauer-scharfe Suppe mit Garnelen) and Tom Kha Gai (Kokossuppe mit Hühnerbrust und Galgant). These are all time favourite soups among Thai people as well as Westerners.

070-071 Baan Thai Kochbuch

070-071 Baan Thai Kochbuch, Hoi Pad Samun Prai recipe

The next chapter about ‘Vorspeisen’ (Appetizer) presents recipes for preparing well-known and loved Thai snacks and appetizers like Tord Man Pla (Thailändische Fischtaler), spring rolls, glassnoodle salad and green papaya salad (Som Tam), for example.The following three chapters about ‘Wokgerichte’ (Stir-Fries), ‘Fisch und Meeresfrüchte’ (Fish & Seafood) and ‘Currys’ sum up the essence of Thai cuisine and also point out the importance of seafood and different kinds of curries in Thailand.

102-103 Baan Thai Kochbuch

102-103 Baan Thai Kochbuch, Gluai Tood recipe

The chapter ‘Familienessen’ introduces recipes for ‘families’ and is the most interesting section in my view. These are the author’s most beloved Thai family recipes and are those Thai dishes that the Baanthai restaurant staff liked to eat. These were recipes that were not included in the restaurant’s menu. Hence, some of these recipes might appear unfamiliar and exotic. An example is ‘Muu Palo’ (Schweinshaxe Thai-Art) which is Thai style pork leg. The author points out that many of these dishes are of Chinese origin.

Das Baan Thai Kochbuch, Glossary

Das Baan Thai Kochbuch, Glossary

For all sweet tooths ‘Nachspeisen’ (Desserts) offers a small but mighty selection of the most popular Thai desserts like sticky rice with mango (khao niaow mamuang) and fried bananas (gluai tood). Finally, the last chapter offers personal and amusing stories about the Baanthai restaurant.

Summing up, I really like and appreciate ‘Das (Baan) Thai Kochbuch’ for several reasons. Firstly, I find it very useful that the author gives additional tipps and tricks on how to prepare the dishes. I also appreciate that he describes the preparation of the dishes concisely. Secondly, I like the selection of Thai recipes in this cookbook since they are the most popular and well-known. Finally, this cookbook seems special to me because it includes many personal experiences of the author in his father’s restaurant. Last but not least, the beautiful illustrations by Gisela Goppel are a treat to the reader’s eye 🙂

Yours, Sirinya




Media Review: Thailand The Cookbook by Jean-Pierre Gabriel

Today’s media review is about Thailand: The Cookbook by Jean-Pierre Gabriel (text & photographs) (ISBN: 978-0714865294). This book was published in May 2014 by Phaidon Press Limited, London. It comprises 528 pages and 200 colour photos, hardcover. It costs 39,95 EUR.

Thailand The Cookbook by Jean-Pierre Gabriel

‘Thailand: The Cookbook’ by Jean-Pierre Gabriel can be regarded as the most comprehensive and complete Thai cookbook. Thus, the author presents more than 500 authentic Thai recipes drawing on traditional recipes from different Thai cooks. Hence, this cookbook offers an unprecedented look at Thai culinary history, presents and explains ingredients as well as authentic techniques.

THAILAND book shot (Thailand: The Cookbook, Jean-Pierre Gabriel, € 39,95, Phaidon 2014, www.phaidon.com)

THAILAND book shot (Thailand: The Cookbook, Jean-Pierre Gabriel, € 39,95, Phaidon 2014, www.phaidon.com)

The author, food writer and photographer Jean-Pierre Gabriel researched more than three years and travelled more than 25.000 kilometers to document authentic Thai food in the different regions of Thailand. Hence, during his travels, he and his team visited markets, Thai homes, restaurants and cookshops to collect the recipes at first hand. Thus, the recipes range from simple street food to elaborate and fine palace cuisine. This cookbook can thus be described as a volume reflecting contemporary and traditional Thai cuisine. It presents Thailand’s rich culinary heritage and does not shy away from presenting the more exotic and unusual Thai recipes.

122-3 Chili store (Thailand: The Cookbook, Jean-Pierre Gabriel, € 39,95, Phaidon 2014, www.phaidon.com)

122-3 Chili store (Thailand: The Cookbook, Jean-Pierre Gabriel, € 39,95, Phaidon 2014, www.phaidon.com)

Thus, ‘Thailand: The Cookbook’ starts off with an introduction providing some general information about the making of this book, the author’s travels, sources of information and the characteristics of regional cuisine in Thailand which can be divided in Nothern, Isaan (Northeast), Central, Bangkok, Eastern and Southern Thailand. Before starting with the recipes, the author provides the reader with some pratical information concerning aromatic rules and general Thai cooking methods and equipment.

Thailand Cover (Thailand: The Cookbook, Jean-Pierre Gabriel, € 39,95, Phaidon 2014, www.phaidon.com)

Thailand Cover (Thailand: The Cookbook, Jean-Pierre Gabriel, € 39,95, Phaidon 2014, www.phaidon.com)

The volume as such has ten chapters and a very useful glossary of ingredients & index. The chapters are about ‘Pastes & Sauces’, ‘Snacks & Drinks’, ‘Salads’, ‘Soups’, ‘Curries’, ‘Grilled, Boiled & Fried’, ‘Stir Fries’, ‘Rice & Noodles’, ‘Desserts’ and ‘Guest Chefs’. The single recipes always start with stating the origin, preparation & cooking time and the portion. The chapter ‘Pastes & Sauces’ presents basic Thai pastes like the different curry pastes, jams and dips. Partly, these pastes and dips are needed to prepare other dishes. For example, you will need the curry pastes to prepare the Thai curry dishes and you need the pandan extract to prepare a lot of Thai desserts.

109 dragon frappe 232 beef massaman curry 122-3 Chili store (Thailand: The Cookbook, Jean-Pierre Gabriel, € 39,95, Phaidon 2014, www.phaidon.com)

109 dragon frappe (Thailand: The Cookbook, Jean-Pierre Gabriel, € 39,95, Phaidon 2014, www.phaidon.com)

The chapter ‘Snacks & Drinks’ deals with popular appetizers like Thai summer rolls and fried spring rolls. However, the author does not shy away from including unusual recipes like the one for ‘Roasted Crickets’ or ‘Roasted Big Red Ants’. A delicious drink presented in this chapter is for inastance ‘Dragon Fruit Frappe’. There are 52 recipes for ‘Thai Salads’. Among these recipes are very well-known dishes such as ‘Green Papaya Salad’ (som tam) but also more ‘exotic’ recipes like ‘Thai Spicy Salad with Giant Water Bug Eggs’ or ‘Spicy Red Ant Salad’. There is something for everyone among the ‘Soup’ recipes and the ‘Curries’ comprise a large section. There are recipes and varieties for ‘classic’ Thai curry dishes such as ‘Yellow Curry’, ‘Green and Red Curries’ and the popular Thai Muslim dish ‘Massaman Curry with Beef’.

232 beef massaman curry 122-3 Chili store (Thailand: The Cookbook, Jean-Pierre Gabriel, € 39,95, Phaidon 2014, www.phaidon.com)

232 beef massaman curry (Thailand: The Cookbook, Jean-Pierre Gabriel, € 39,95, Phaidon 2014, www.phaidon.com)

‘Grilled, Boiled & Fried’ shows the reader how to grill or fry different kinds of meat, seafood but also vegetables in an authentic Thai manner. ‘Stir-Fries’ are about the numerous Thai stir-fried dishes such as Pad Thai without noodles, for instance. However, it also presents recipes that the Westerner is probably unfamiliar with such as ‘Stir-Fried Silkworm Pupae’, for example. ‘Rice & Noodles’ offers a comprehensive collection of Thailand’s popular rice and noodle dishes such as the popular ‘Pad Thai’, ‘Drunken Noodles with Pork’ and ‘Shrimp Paste Fried Rice’, just to name a few. The chapter about ‘Desserts’ reflects Thailand’s amazing variety of desserts such as different kinds of fried bananas and sweets made with pandan extract like the ‘Pandan Pudding’.

464 pandan pudding (Thailand Cover (Thailand: The Cookbook, Jean-Pierre Gabriel, € 39,95, Phaidon 2014, www.phaidon.com)

464 pandan pudding (Thailand: The Cookbook, Jean-Pierre Gabriel, € 39,95, Phaidon 2014, www.phaidon.com)

The last chapter ‘Guest Chefs’ presents special Thai recipes by different chefs with great knowledge of Thai cuisine. Last but not least, the glossary helps the reader to learn more about unusual and specific ingredients used in Thai cuisine.

In my view, Thailand the Cookbook is a very comprehensive and complete volume about Thai cuisine. I am also amazed by the fact that the author does not shy away from including unfamiliar recipes concerned with the preparation of insects like crickets and ants. This certainly sets this volume apart from other more ‘common’ cookbooks. However, I find that some recipes are quite rare, thus requiring special ingredients which might be difficult to find in Western countries. Nevertheless, I think this cookbook very authentic and an interesting read for everyone interested in Thai cuisine.

Yours, Sirinya




Media Review: Very Thai – Everyday Popular Culture

Today’s media review is about Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith (text & photographs) and John C. Goss (photographs) (ISBN: 978-6167339375). The 2nd edition of this book was published in 2013 by River Books Co., Ltd. Bangkok, Thailand. Compared to the 1st edition from 2005, the 2nd edition has been expanded and fully updated comprising 209 new photos, 64 more pages and four extra chapters. The book is in English language, comprises 320 pages and 590 colour photos, hardcover. It costs 995 Bath, on Amazon the book is about 22 EUR.

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture

'Very Thai', cover of the 2nd edition 2013

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture, cover of the 2nd edition 2013

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith & John Goss (photographs) can be regarded as a very influential best-selling guide to Thai pop culture and street life. The 2nd edition has been revised to reflect the dramatic changes in Thailand.

The British author Philip Cornwel-Smith has been living in Bangkok since 1994. He is the founding editor of Bangkok’s first international-standard city listings magazine called ‘Bangkok Metro’. Furthermore, he has written for various international media concerning Thailand. A few examples of his works are guidebooks like ‘Eyewitness Thailand’, ‘Thailand: A Traveller’s Companion’, ‘Lonely Planet’s World Food: Thailand’ and ‘Time Out Bangkok’.

‘Very Thai’ can be described as a book reflecting modern Thai consciousness which may also be referred to as ‘Thainess’. In an amusing manner, the work gets to the bottom of what makes something ‘very Thai’. The books starts off with a a preface by Alex Kerr who is also the author of ‘Bangkok Found’. Next follows an introduction addressing the central question of what makes something ‘very Thai’ and explaining how the 2nd edition differs from the 1st one. In this context, the author points out that the new edition records how Thailand has changed since ‘Very Thai’ was launched a decade ago.

What could be more Thai than a farang in a Tuk-Tuk? (photo credit: Very Thai, FB page)

What could be more Thai than a farang in a Tuk-Tuk? (photo credit: Very Thai, FB page)

Hence, ‘Very Thai’ has five chapters which are divided into several sections. The chapters are about ‘Street’, ‘Personal’, ‘Ritual’, ‘Sanuk’ and ‘Thainess’.

The chapter ‘Street’ is concerned with streetlife in Thailand. Thus, it covers topics like street food ranging from drinks in bags to insect snacks. It also deals with common sights on Thai streets like different kinds of vendors, soi animals, blind musicians, tangled wires and trash recyclers. What is more, ‘Street’ is also about the different and sometimes funny and amusing means of transportation on Thai streets ranging from Tuk-tuks to floral truck bolts and colourful bus art.

Amusing way of Thai transportation (photo credit: wilkipedia.com)

Amusing way of Thai transportation (photo credit: Les Wilk, wilkipedia.com)

‘Personal’ reveals a lot about Thai mentality and lifestyle. For instance, this chapter addresses themes like male and female grooming habits, nicknames, high society (Hi So) and the delight in dressing alike in uniforms. What is more, there is also a section about the ‘Katoey, Gay & Tom-Dee’ community. However, it also addresses other topics like potted gardens, portable plants for luck and lifestyle, and the urban Thai dream in form of malls, theme parks and the suburb.

Bangkok as a World City & the urban Thai dream

Bangkok as a World City & the urban Thai dream (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

As the title of the chapter ‘Ritual’ suggests it is all about Thai traditional rituals and culture. For instance, the author explains the use and meaning of royal portraits in establishing the Thai sense of identity. He further explains that the days are colour coded in Thailand, and that lucky numbers dictate prices. The sections about ‘Amulet Collectors’, ‘Trade Talismans’, ‘Taxi Altars’, ‘Fortune Tellers’, ‘Ghosts Stories’ and ‘Mediums & Shamans’ are all concerned with superstition and animist beliefs in Thai culture. Thus, the author is also concerned with ‘Magical Tattoos’, which we know as Sak Yant, entrancing the wearer.

Tattooed Monk of Wat Bang Pra (photo credit sak-yant.com)

Tattooed monk of Wat Bang Pra (photo credit: sak-yant.com)

‘Sanuk’ (Fun) is very important in Thai culture. Thus, this chapter is about ‘sanuk’ activities like temple fairs, festivals, gambling and animal contests like cock fighting. In addition, there is also Muay Thai, different kinds of beauty contests, celebrities, comedy and soap operas that make Thai life fun. What is more, it also mentions the importance of Thai folk-blues (‘Songs for Life), Thai country music (luuk thung) and the Thai independence music scene which produces ‘Songs for Lifestyle’.

The final section ‘Thainess’ is the new chapter in this book. It is about ‘Vernacular Design’, ‘Contemporary Thainess’, the rise of ‘Thai Thai’ retro culture and an afterword concerning the ‘Role of Very Thai’ by Pracha Suveeranont who is an expert on visual culture.

In my view, Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture is an amazing and amusing read providing profound insight into Thai mentality, pop culture and street life. Mixed with presenting some oddities in Thai culture and tradition, this guide is truly fun and cool to read 🙂 In fact, the book itself is cult! I can highly recommend it to everyone interested in modern Thai culture and Thainess in particular.

Yours, Sirinya




Media Review: Thai Ways by Denis Segaller

Today’s media review is about Thai Ways by Denis Segaller (ISBN: 9789749575734 ). This book was published in 2005 by Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai, Thailand. The book is in English language, comprises 254 pages and is available as print version and e-formats (iBooks, Kindle, Google Books and Kobo). It costs 395 Bath, on Amazon the print version is about 15 EUR. You may take a look inside the book here.

Denis Segaller: Thai Ways

Thai Ways written by Denis Segaller (b. 1915) can be regarded as a delightful collection of stories and tales covering nearly all aspects of Thai culture, customs and beliefs. Segaller came to live in Thailand at an older age in 1965, married a Thai lady, became a Buddhist and worked as a writer for the Bangkok Post among others.

‘Thai Ways’ comprises many of Segaller’s magazine articles that were mainly published, updated and completed during the 1970s in the popular weekly column ‘Thai Ways’ in the ‘Bangkok World’ which was the former afternoon tabloid companion to the Bangkok Post. The weekly ‘Thai Ways’ column ran continuously from 1975 to 1985. In short articles and anecdotes, the author describes Thai culture very comprehensively and accurately. Even though the selections are about four decades old, they nevertheless remain as informative today as when Segaller first wrote them down.

The book starts off with a preface and a note about the spelling of Thai words. ‘Thai Ways’ has ten chapters which are each divided into several sections. The chapters are about ‘Royalty and Nobility’, ‘Festivals’, ‘Ceremonies’, ‘Customs’, ‘Beliefs and Superstitions’, ‘Legends’, ‘Families’, ‘Thai Fortune-Telling’, ‘Names, Words and Language’ and ‘Miscellaneous’.

Thai Ways, customs & beliefs: It's a Thai belief that if you put a coin up and it stands still, then your wishes will come true (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

Thai Ways, customs & beliefs: It’s a Thai belief that if you put a coin up and it stands still, then your wishes will come true (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

The chapter about ‘Customs’ takes up the largest part of the book. For instance, this chapter is divided into 16 sections. To give you an impression of the structure of this book, this chapter is subdivided into the following topics:

  • Some Social “Do’s and Don’ts” in Thailand
  • Khun: An Everyday, but Deep, Word
  • Some Other Social Norms
  • The Wai
  • More Elaborate Forms of the Wai
  • Music – Classical and Western
  • Worshipping Brahma and Other Deities
  • Lak Mueang – The Log that Helped to Found a City
  • Traditional Thai Medicine
  • Preserving Thailand’s Traditional Arts of Self-Defense
  • Telling the Time
  • Lunar Months
  • The Twelve-Year Cycle
  • When a Child is Born
  • When Traditions Intermingle
  • Some Like It Hot

Segaller covers numerous aspects of Thai culture and customs, thus demystifying constructs like the system of royal ranks and the Thai musical scale, and customs like the Loi Krathong festival and the Wai Khru ceremony, for instance.

In my view, the book is a gem of information that provides insight into the heart, mind and social structure of an Asian country not to be subjected to the culture of colonial rule. It probably provides more information than the typical tourist wants to know. However, for anyone who has personal, economic or diplomatic interest in Thailand it is a source of important insights. The book might seem a little dated, nevertheless it offers a deep understanding of how Thailand has developed and functioned on many levels.

Finally, I can highly recommend Thai Ways by Denis Segaller because it is comprehensive and provides you with a picture of Thailand that the non-Thai readers are not likely to encounter elsewhere. In addition, it should be noted that there have been two subsequent publications titled “More Thai Ways” and “New Thoughts on Thai Ways” which offer additional topics presented in a similar format.

Yours, Sirinya




Media Review: Vis-a-Vis Thailand Beaches & Islands (Strände & Inseln)

Today’s media review is about Vis-à-Vis Thailand Strände und Inselnby Andrew Forbes et al. (ISBN: 978-3-7342-0058-8). This travel guide was published by Dorling Kindersley Verlag GmbH, Munich. My review copy is the newest edition (2015/2016). This book is in German language, comprises 368 pages and costs 22,99 EUR.

Vis-à-vis Thailand Strände & Inseln

Thailand Strände & Inseln Cover 2014

Vis-à-vis Thailand Strände & Inseln Cover 2014

However, there is also a corresponding English edition of this guide called DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Thailand’s Beaches & Islands published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd., London which is the partner company of Dorling Kindersley Verlag, Munich. The latest edition of the English version is from 2014. You may take a look inside the book here.

Vis-à-Vis Thailand Beaches & Islands is a very comprehensive, detailed and elaborate travel guide with more than 1000 colour photographs, 3-D drawings and layouts. In addition, there is a cute mini recipe book and an extra map.

The book is divided into four main sections:

  • ‘Introducing Thailand’s Beaches & Islands’ (Thailands Küsten stellen sich vor)*
  • ‘Thailand’s Beaches & Islands Area by Area’ (Thailands Küstenregionen)
  • ‘Travelers Needs’ (Zu Gast in Thailand)
  • ‘Survival Guide’ (Grundinformationen)

*German titels in brackets

First of all, ‘Introducing Thailand’s Beaches & Islands’ suggests some tours to cover three prime areas for experiencing coastal Thailand and the capital city of Bangkok.

Following this comes a portrait of Thailand’s coasts with additional information about flora and fauna, coral reefs, diving & snorkelling, Buddhism, theatre & music, traditional housebuilding, crafts and the most beautiful beaches. Furthermore, there is also a section about festivals, official holidays and the history of Thailand.

The main chapter is ‘Thailand’s Beaches & Islands Area by Area’ which is subdivided into eight sections:

  • ‘Thailand’s Beaches at a Glance’ (Thailands Küsten im Überblick)*
  • ‘Bangkok’
  • ‘Eastern Seaboard’ (Östliche Golfküste)
  • ‘Upper Western Gulf Coast’ (Obere westliche Golfküste)
  • ‘Lower Western Gulf Coast’ (Untere westliche Golfküste)
  • ‘Upper Andaman Coast’ (Obere Andamanen-Küste)
  • ‘Lower Andaman Coast’ (Untere Andamanen-Küste)
  • ‘Deep South’ (Süden)

*German titels in brackets

The chapter about ‘Travelers’ Needs’ deals with different accommodation options and restaurants in the presented areas. It is useful that the section about restaurants also introduces the most important Thai dishes. Furthermore, there are suggestions for shopping, entertainment, sports & outdoor activities and special interests like wellness and spas.

The practical information or ‘Survival Guide’ is mainly about general travel information, etiquette, money & communication, safety & health and public transportation. Finally, the guide also provides a phrase book with some basic Thai vocabulary.

In my opinion, this book is comprehensive and very informative. The structure is very similar to Vis-à-Vis Thailand which I have dealt with in a previous review. The guide is beautifully arranged with numerous colourful photographs and maps. Thus, it may even be called a picture-book. However, for those readers who do not yet know anything about Thailand and its beaches and islands, this guide might appear a little confusing simply because there is so much additional information on different topics.

Nevertheless, I can highly recommend ‘Thailand Beaches & Islands’ as a pre-travel preparation and information guide. It is a very good book to get oneself in the mood for travelling to Thailand. The small cookbook also serves as a preparation for Thailand travel and inspires the reader to try the one or other Thai dish.

Similar to Vis-à-Vis Thailand, I have the feeling that one needs some time and quiet to go through, read and process all the information provided in this guidebook. What is more, the book is not so lightweight and perhaps unpractical to carry around the whole day when travelling.

However, in a nutshell, ‘Vis-à-Vis Thailand Strände & Inseln’  is truly an elaborate travel guide which is created with lots of love for the detail.

Yours, Sirinya




Media Review: Thawan Duchanee: Modern Buddhist Artist

Today’s media review is about Thawan Duchanee: Modern Buddhist Artist by Russell Marcus (ISBN: 9786162150562). This book was published in 2013 by Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai, Thailand. The book is in English language, comprises 168 pages and is available as print version and e-formats (iBooks, Kindle, Google Books and Kobo). It costs 595 Bath; on Amazon the print version is about 18 EUR. You may take a look inside the book here.

Thawan Duchanee: Modern Buddhist Artist

This book is a comprehensive work about Thai National Artist Thawan Duchanee. It is structured in five main sections, namely ‘Paintings’, ‘Buildings’, ‘Artistry’, ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Life’. Hence, the author focusses on different aspects of Thawan’s art reflecting Buddhist philosophy and portraying Buddhism in a subtle manner.

The first section about ‘Paintings’ is subdivided into four chapters which deal with the dangers of doubt, lust, fear, and lack of concentration. What is more, Marcus points out that man’s pursuit of pleasure and escape from and avoidance of pain is primary subject of Thawan’s paintings. In addition, the work argues that virtues are exemplified in the previous lives of the Buddha. Thus, the first chapter is about the Dhammapada showing us how Buddhist teachings are reflected in the artist’s works. The next chapter, the Battle of Mara, deals with Buddha’s fight to reach enlightenment. The third part is thus concerned with the Last Ten Lives of the Buddha. These are moral tales illustrating the Buddha’s ten characteristic virtues. The fourth chapter of this section is about Seeing What Is Visible meaning to look beyond literal interpretations of Thawan’s work.

Thawan Duchanee (photo credit: chiangraitimes.com)

Thawan Duchanee (photo credit: chiangraitimes.com)

The second section of the book is concerned with ‘Buildings’ created by the artist. This is mainly about Thawan’s outstanding architectural and decorative achievements in Chiang Rai and Germany. Hence, the fifth chapter of this work deals with the Buddhist Meditation Room and the artist’s paintings from the Buddhist meditation centre of a German castle. Finally, the following chapter is about Thawan’s greatest achievement, namely the Black House Museum village in Chiang Rai (The Biggest Work of the Painter Is Not a Painting).

The next section ‘Artistry’ is about Thawan’s mastery of a wide range of styles, techniques and media. Thus, the fourth section ‘Philosophy’ lists what the artist said about his own work, including his concerns and passions regarding art, artworks and his own unique way and style. The final section ‘Life’ is Thawan’s biography.

In my view, this book is a very comprehensive and detailed work about Thawan’s different art forms. In particular, I welcome that there are more than 100 colour and black-and-white images that serve to illustrate the diversity and versatility of the artist’s work. In addition, I very much appreciate that the book offers deep insights into Thawan’s creative genius and also explores his philosophical backdrop.

Finally, I can highly recommend Thawan Duchanee, Modern Buddhist Artist. Particularly to everyone who is interested in the versatility of Thai and Buddhist art.

Yours, Sirinya




Media Review: Vis-a-Vis Thailand (12th ed. Dorling Kindersley)

Today’s media review is about Vis a Vis Reiseführer Thailand by Colectif (ISBN: 978-3-8310-19847). This travel guide was published by Dorling Kindersley Verlag GmbH, Munich. My review copy is the 12th and newest edition (2012/2013). This book is in German language, comprises 528 pages and costs 26,95 EUR.

Vis-à-vis Thailand

Vis-a-Vis Thailand Cover 2011

Vis-a-Vis Thailand Cover 2011

However, there is also a corresponding English edition of this guide called DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Thailand (Eyewitness Travel Guides) published in Dorling Kindersley Ltd., London which is the partner company of Dorling Kindersley Verlag, Munich. The latest edition of the English version is from 2014. You may take a look inside the book here.

Vis-à-Vis Thailand is a very comprehensive, detailed and elaborate travel guide with more than 1500 colour photographs, 3-D drawings and layouts. In addition there are clear and informative maps and 86 pages about Thailand’s capital Bangkok. The book is divided into nine sections in total:

  • ‘Introducing Thailand’ (Thailand stellt sich vor)*
  • ‘Bangkok’
  • ‘The Central Plains’ (Menam-Becken)
  • ‘Northern Thailand’ (Nordthailand)
  • ‘Northeast Thailand’ (Nordost-Thailand)
  • ‘The Gulf of Thailand’ (Golf von Thailand)
  • ‘Southern Thailand’ (Südthailand)
  • Travelers Needs’ (Zu Gast in Thailand)
  • ‘Survival Guide’ (Grundinformationen)

*German titels in brackets

‘Introducing Thailand’ names the most important highlights of each region in advance.

Following this, each of these sections are divided into an introductory, overview part and specialities of the respective areas. For instance, the Bangkok chapter is subdivided into introduction, Old Town, Chinatown, Dusit, Downtown, Thon Buri, outskirts, shopping, entertainment and map.

Thus, the guide provides the most important information about the different areas and regions. It is interesting to note that some of the introductory parts also provide additional detailed information about history and art. For example, ‘The Central Plains’ section provides info about Sukhothai art and foreigners in Ayutthaya in its introduction. Similarly, the chapter about ‘Northern Thailand’ gives extra information about Thailand’s hilltribes, crafts and birds that occur specifically in this area.

The chapter about the ‘Travelers’ Needs’ deals with different accommodation options and restaurants in the presented areas. It is useful that the section about restaurants also introduces the most important Thai dishes. Furthermore, there are suggestions for shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and special interests like wellness and spas.

The practical information or ‘Survival Guide’ is mainly about general travel information, etiquette, money & communication, safety & health and public transportation. Finally, the guide also provides a phrase book with some basic Thai vocabulary.

In my opinion this book is comprehensive and very informative. It is beautifully arranged with numerous photographs and maps. Thus, it may even be called a picture-book. However, for those readers who do not yet know anything about Thailand, this guide might appear a bit confusing simply because there is so much additional information on different topics.

Nonetheless, I can highly recommend Vis-à-Vis Thailand as a pre-travel preparation and information guide. When reviewing and skimming this book I had the impression that one needs some time and quiet to go through, read and process all the information given in there. What is more, the book is quite heavy and perhaps to unpractical to carry around the whole day when travelling.

However, on the whole, this is truly an elaborate travel guide that is created with lots of love for the detail.

Yours, Sirinya

(P.S. if you’re looking for a compact Bangkok travel guide, check out Top 10 Bangkok, and also the guide for Beaches & Islands)

 

 




Media Review: David Usher ‘Let the Elephants Run’ & the Creativity Process

This might seem to be an off-topic post. However, I’d like to talk to you about the creativity process according to David Usher and review his new book ‘Let the Elephants Run: Unlock Your Creativity and Change Everything’ published by the House of Anansi Press in 2015. The book is in English, comprises 256 pages and available in print and e-book version. I’ve got the e-book as review copy and downloaded the ‘Action Worksheets Companion’ to the e-book edition.

Well, you know David Usher don’t you? From my recent article about him, we’ve learned that he is a half-Thai artist who had Nr. 1 singles singing in English, French and Thai. Thus, this post might after all not appear too odd within the context of this blog 🙂 What is more, David’s insights are indeed super relevant for me the the creation of my blog!

David Usher ‘Let the Elephants Run’

David Usher 'Let the Elephants Run' (photo credit: speakers.ca)

David Usher ‘Let the Elephants Run’ (photo credit: speakers.ca)

You know, it’s sometimes hard to constantly find good topics to write about. Hence, David’s new book comes in the nick of time. The book is described as “an essential guidebook to reconnecting with our imaginations and nurturing our creativity in accessible and productive ways” (Anansi publisher).

Nevertheless, this is not going to be a typical book review since Usher’s ‘Let the Elephants Run’ is not an ordinary book 🙂 Hence, I will focus on the central points of the book and include some recent interviews with David concerning this topic.

‘Let the Elephants Run’ starts off as an unconventional book.  It claims that the creativity process is about letting the child’s mind run free. Thus, David begins his book with a picture of himself as a small boy in his underwear and argues that as a child everyone is endlessly creative because the child does not know any boundaries and is not restricted by limits and rules. Hence, the mind is out to explore things and to get creative. However, as we grow up, life and its demands separates us from our child’s mind. Thus, the book lists reasons that change people and obstruct their creativity.

Thus, it sounds like reviving the inner child which is a term from psychology meaning all that we’ve learned and experienced as children. These qualities are connected with curiosity and wonder. In order to revitalize the child’s mind, ‘Let the Elephants Run’ is also designed as an ‘action book’ that asks the reader to become active, bold and to break the rules by writing and scribbling into the book, for instance. Hence, there is also a survey about creativity.

However, David argues that the conditions for the creative process are never perfect because distractions are always great and present. According to the author, the most important point is to find one’s personal time and mental space for creativity. This may be very early in the morning or late at night, depending on one’s preferences.

In short, the book argues that everyone is able to be creative and if you’ve found your process, then you may also transfer your creative experiences to other areas of your life. According to David Usher, creativity might be inefficient in nature but a necessity, an investment and a transportable skill that leads to transformation. Thus, he invites the reader to break with patterns and to leave his comfort zone.

In other words, this is an invitation to try out unfamiliar things, to leave routine and to become more experimental which again leads to personal development and changes. As a matter of fact, considering David himself, he developed, like the title of the following clip says, from a ’90s rocker to a creativity expert’.

What is more, the book wants to make the reader aware of his inner attitude, whether he is ‘monster  or mice’, i.e. extroverted or more introverted. In a broader sense, the author thus also invites the reader to be more self-confident by trying, for example, a ‘power pose’.

You may take a look inside the book here:


Summing up, we may say that engaging in the creative process is a matter of seizing the moment and to make the most of it. David Usher sets us an example with his work ‘Let the Elephants Run’. Hence, what’s this all got to do with my Thailand blog now? Well, the most important statement of David’s book is that you should always follow your interests because by doing so, other aspects and hence a network of ideas will arise 🙂 This is exactly what I do when creating and writing my blog nearly every day!

Yours, Sirinya