On a suggestion from listener Emily, Greg and Ed go back to basics with book and movie recommendations for people new to Thailand and Southeast Asia, or old-timers looking to refresh their knowledge after being disconnected during all this covid hullabaloo. Ed begins with three foundational books: the all-time classic ‘Lonely Planet Thailand,’ written by friend of the podcast Joe Cummings, the insightful (if a bit outdated) ‘Culture Shock: Thailand,’ and the super creative ‘Very Thai,’ by Phillip Cornwall-Smith (not to mention his followup ‘Very Bangkok’). Greg follows with his own key recommendations, including ‘The Thai Book’ by Ron Morris and ‘A History of Thailand’ by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit. Ed concurs and also puts a word in for ‘Thailand: A Short History,’ by David K. Wyatt.
Turning to movies, Ed notes that all foreigners interested in Thai culture should see the ghost film ‘Nang Nak,’ which relates possibly the most popular story in all of Thai pop culture. For some history perspective, Francis Ford Coppola’s cut of ‘Suriyothai’ is a good place to start, but seeing some version of the famous (partly fictional) story ‘The King and I’ is probably a good idea. To appreciate the Thai fascination with animism and experience Thailand’s most accredited filmmaker, check out ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall HIs Past Lives’, by the filmmaker whose name only Greg can pronounce (that’d be Apichatpong Weerasethakul).
In closing, the guys make a few final suggestions. To learn about the man who has shaped modern Thai politics (for better or worse), read ‘Thaksin’ by Chris Baker, or grab ‘Anand Panyarachun and the Making of Modern Thailand’ by Dominic Faulder for a look at another legendary figure. Greg concludes by suggesting the under-appreciated film ‘City of Ghosts’ with Matt Dillon, a crime thriller set in Cambodia and Thailand.
These recommendations likely won’t shock anyone, but you gotta start somewhere, and this is it.
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