Bangkok Found: Reflections on The City
Bangkok Found Reflections on The City
By Alex Kerr
Long-term Thailand expats are not rare birds. The flock contains many nationalities who have nested in Thailand since the end of World War II and the large numbers currently living here started no more than 25 years ago. But only a handful of expat writers have managed to capture the ‘spirit’ of expat experience, the history and culture of Thailand, and context of expat life. Alex Kerr because he has taken the time to make friends with Thais and learn the language, has written a fine book that describes and discusses the relationship between the native Thais and the expats quite unlike any other book you will read. Alex Kerr’s Bangkok Found Reflections on The City has written a beautifully illustrated and rare book. One that fills a gap in the expat literature.
Bangkok Found is filled with a luminous insight and intelligence by an expat whose Asian experience began in Japan at age twelve when his father, a naval officer, was sent to that country.
Alex speaks fluent Japanese, Chinese and Thai, and what makes Bangkok Found one of the best books you will read about an expat’s life in Asia in general, and Thailand in particular, is that his cross-cultural and linguistic training has equipped him with an ability to see, record, evaluate an explain aspects of Thai life that escapes most expats who have written about Thailand. Kerr is also a first class observer of people, language and culture.
Kerr has befriended many Thais during his thirty-years since first coming to Thailand, and his Thai friends like Ping who took him to the old capital of Ayutthaya gave him an early grounding into the Thai society. He also made friends among members of the colourful expat community that he has met over the years. His chapter on Thai Expat Society charts their work and lives as writers, restaurant owners, collectors, philanderers, and businessmen. Their intermarriage and the luk khrueng children are part of their legacy. Foreigners are painted against the larger canvas of Thai political, social and economic life. Kerr places the expats into historical and contemporary context. So long as barbarian Westerners don’t rock the boat, they can stay on board. The cross-cultural references to Japan make Bangkok Found an original and highly engaging read, and answers the basic question as to why large numbers of Westerners voluntary chose to live long-term in Thailand as opposed to Japan.
If in 2010 you buy only one book about the connection of the Westerner to Thailand, I’d highly recommend that you buy Bangkok Found. It is truly a gem.