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Book & Film
Journalist looks beyond the Thai smile
POSTED | 15:45 PM | 15-12-2015

Journalist looks beyond the Thai smile

-- By Xu Qin of The Shanghai Daily

“A Geek in Thailand,” by British journalist Jody Houton is a light-hearted but insightful look at one of the world’s most visited countries from the viewpoint of a young foreigner in modern-day Thailand.

Like many expatriates who choose Thailand as their adopted home, Houton came for a holiday and stayed for the laid-back lifestyle.

His work at a number of Thai newspapers, magazines and radio stations in both the tourist area of Phuket and the capital city of Bangkok has given him access to some of the country’s most interesting, bizarre and influential people and provided him with the opportunity to delve more deeply into the Thai psyche, lifestyle and culture.

Starting with a brief history of Thailand, Houton paints a vivid and revealing picture of a country in which each day of the week is associated with a particular color.

Best known for its unique architecture and glittering decorations, Thai temples, besides being a highlight for many tourists, are an important part of the country’s identity, Houton observes.

Some Thai temples act as rehabilitation centers, while others serve as festival venues. Some host huge annual temple fairs, featuring rides, contests, and live music.

While Thai monks sporting designer handbags and iPhones have been criticized for their displaying consumerism in recent years, appearances do matter in Thailand and the Thai pursuit of beauty is a multibillion-dollar business.

To add a touch of color, Thailand’s third gender, most visible during the night, are an endless source of fascination for visitors.

While being transgender still comes with social stigma in other parts of the world, in Thailand there is pride in being ladyboys, Houton writes.

Packed with short articles accompanied by sidebar stories and interviews and evocative color photographs, Houton touches on the variety of Thailand’s daily life, such as the joy of Thai massage, traditional Thai dance and puppet theater, as well as the romanticizing of rape in soap operas that has come under fire.

The author includes his top 10 things to see and do in the main tourist destinations as well as an account of the main festivals and tips on getting around. There are also chapters on popular Thai food and entertainment like kickboxing and cabaret.

For would-be expatriates and others, chapters on the Thai character and cultural do’s and don’ts will allow the reader to go beyond the Thai smile and learn about what it is like working with Thais, the uneasy position that foreigners occupy, and what to do and avoid if you wish to work in the country.

Article courtesy of The Shanghai Daily

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