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:

Thawan Duchanee (photo credit:

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: 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:

David Usher ‘Let the Elephants Run’ (photo credit:

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

Media Review: Top 10 Bangkok by Ron Emmons & Alex Robinson

Today’s media review is about Top 10 Bangkok by Ron Emmons (texts) & Alex Robinson (photographs) (ISBN: 978-3-7342-0510-1). This guidebook was published by Dorling Kindersley Verlag GmbH, Munich. My review copy is the 3rd and newest edition (2014/2015). This book is in German language, comprises 128 pages and costs 9,99 EUR.

Top 10 Bangkok

Top 10 Bangkok German Cover 2014

Top 10 Bangkok German Cover 2014

However, there is also a corresponding English edition of this guide called DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide: Bangkok written by the same author and 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.

Top 10 Bangkok is a comprehensive travel guide with compact Top 10 lists, detailed maps and more than 250 colour photographs. Hence, the guide is structured in three sections: Bangkok’s Top 10, Around Town (in German: ‘Stadtteile’, meaning different areas of the city) and Streetsmart (in German: ‘Reise-Infos’, i.e. travel information).

The guide names ten highlights that the traveller should visit when going to Bangkok. These highlights are:

  • Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew
  • National museum
  • Wat Pho
  • the Klongs
  • Dusit park
  • floating market (Damnoen Saduak)
  • Chatuchak weekend market
  • Jim Thompson House
  • Wat Arun
  • Ayutthaya

In addition, this guide provides information about important historical events, museums & art galleries, shopping, markets, restaurants, bars & clubs but also about entertainment like theatre & cabaret. What is more, there is also information about special attractions for children, festivals, beaches nearby Bangkok, sports, spas and Buddhist temples.

The section Around Town (‘Stadtteile’) is divided into historic district (Old Town), Chinatown, Downtown, Greater Bangkok and the outskirts of the city (Beyond Bangkok).

As far as travel information (Streetsmart) is concerned, there is advice about travel preparation and planning your journey & arriving in Bangkok. Further there is info about Bangkok on a budget, money, banking & communication, safety & health. In addition, the guide lists things to avoid but also provides shopping, hotel and restaurant recommendations.

Furthermore, the guidebook also includes a phrase book with some basic Thai vocabulary and an extra-map (city map, skytrain map & additional tips for a perfect day off in BKK).

In my opinion, this book is a comprehensive, elaborate and well structured guide. In particular, I welcome that Bangkok’s Top 10 highlights are again each divided into Top 10. For instance, the Dusit park is subdivided into 10 impressions and experiences: 1. Vimanmek Palace, 2. Royal Plaza, 3. Ananta Samakhom throne hall, 4. Abhisek Dusit throne hall, 5. Photography Museum, 6. Royal Elephant Museum, 7, Clock Museum, 8. Textile Museum, 9, Sea Pavilion and 10. Dusit Zoo. Hence, you cannot really miss or overlook an attraction.

In addition, I also find the extra map very useful because it lists some of the important attractions, malls, markets and restaurants and tells you how to get there by public transport (i.e. Skytrain, Metro, bus, ferry).

Finally, I can highly recommend Top 10 Bangkok, in particular to everyone who goes to BKK for the first time. On the whole, this is a very practical and compact guide. Since the book is lightweight and small, it fits in every pocket and bag 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(P.S. if you’re looking for a compact Thailand travel guide, check out Vis-à-vis Thailand)