I rarely do book reviews. In fact I don't read many books at all apart from the odd sports autobiography and I have very little interest in reading books about Thailand. However, Jody Houton kindly sent me a copy of his recently published ‘A Geek in Thailand' and hoped I would say a few nice words about it. And I most certainly am. It's been many years since I enjoyed reading about Thailand so much.
Jody is a well-travelled journalist from the UK and after experiencing life in other countries, has decided to make Thailand his home. Thanks to his work for newspapers and magazines in Bangkok and Phuket, Jody has experienced all aspects of Thai culture and traditions - the conventional, the quirky and the totally ridiculous.
What he's set out to do with ‘A Geek in Thailand' is to present viewpoints through the eyes of travelers, expats and long-term residents, with a good dose of humor along the way. He's managed it very well.
What appeals to me most about the book is that it's presented in a ‘magazine style' format. You're not laboring through chapter after chapter of stuff that doesn't interest you. Just like you would enjoy a favorite monthly magazine, ‘A Geek in Thailand' is crammed with ‘bite size' articles, features, interviews, supported with quality photographs and a vibrant layout.
‘A Geek in Thailand' is NOT a guidebook per se, although there is plenty of good info for the first-time visitor. It's more a celebration of Thai culture from someone who truly appreciates all the wackiness going on around him.
I think the book has a broad appeal - from the regular fortnight-a year holidaymaker who loves Thailand and wants to get to know it better to perhaps the long-term expat who will be pleasantly surprised at how little they know about their adopted country.
The book is divided into seven meaty chapters covering topics from Thai history and culture and the joys of Thai food through to Thai music, movies and art - and lots more in-between.
There are interviews with real-life Thai and Thailand-based characters - the somtam seller, the hotel guest officer, the expat entrepreneur, the English teacher made good and the Thai DJ to name but a few.
In the chapter titled simply ‘Amazing Thailand', Jody begins with a look at Thai pastimes such as bull-fighting and gambling. There's a feature on Thai amulets. We all see Thai men wearing these things but how much do amulets sell for and how are they classified? There's a look at Thai karaoke culture, Thai massage (the ‘wink wink' variety included) and why Thais walk around with inhalers stuck up their nostrils.
I've never had any interest in Thai boxing but still enjoyed Jody's explanations of Muay Thai's origins and who have been the biggest names in the sport (both past and present) as well as an explanation of the different belts.
And of course no book of this nature would be complete without a section on ladyboys. ‘A Geek in Thailand' takes you inside the dressing room at a typical ladyboy cabaret show. What goes on there exactly?
Every page is a fast, fun read but you still come away feeling much better-informed.
I notice ‘A Geek in Thailand' is available on Amazon in Kindle format but if there's one book I would want to own in hard copy, it's this one.
Get yourself down to a Thai bookstore and buy it. It's a great read. Two thumbs way up!
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Hot seat interview with Jody Houton - Jody talks about his background, his life in Thailand - and of course, all the hard work that went into making 'A Geek in Thailand' stand out in a crowded 'guidebook market'