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Book Review: by Lang Reid

Three Dreams of Thailand

It is not the usual format for this column to review three books at one time, but these three theme books are so alike, I felt that I should look at them as almost one unit. The generic title is Dreams of Thailand, with the three books entitled Bangkok, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.
The books are almost pocket-book in size and are hard covered with stitched binding, so should give good service. They are all under 60 pages, with 13 pages of text and photographs and then that follows with all photo plates. The text for the photographs is given towards the back of the book. Published by AZU Editions, they are printed in Thailand (hooray!) and the ISBNs are 988-98140-3-X (Bangkok), 9-7898-8981-4 (Chiang Mai) and 9-7898-8985-8 (Pattaya).
The text comes from well known expat writer in Thailand, John Hoskin, the author of more than 20 travel books and many travel articles, while two photographers, Dave Lloyd and Mark Schultz share the photo credits
Taking the Thai capital first, Hoskin describes Bangkok as a paradox, “a seemingly impossible blend of old and new” and giving the opinion that Bangkok can be all things for all people. Anyone who has lived here as long as John Hoskin would have to agree. He finishes the text section with, “Here, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world, the traveler can discover the unique amid the ease of the familiar.”
Taking Pattaya next, his heading for the resort city is “Bold, Brash and Buzzing with activity”, a beach resort like no other. I have heard Pattaya described as being like an a la carte menu, everything is inside, it is up to you to just choose what you want. He gives a short history of the city and its past, though does say, “It is a place dedicated to the pleasures of the moment, the past ignored and the future mostly irrelevant.” He finishes this section of the Pattaya book by saying, “Pattaya is … well, whatever you want it to be.” Undoubtedly that is what brings tourists to return more than once, and why many expats have made Pattaya their home.
Finally the Chiang Mai book. Hoskin begins by discouraging the use of the appellation “the rose of the north,” saying that it has outgrown this rural connotation and while it is a very historical second city, it is also a modern hub. Chiang Mai’s history and unique cultural heritage is covered, Chiang Mai’s independency from Bangkok lasted till the 1930’s.
To me, these books are ideal Xmas presents, and although Xmas seems a long way away, the time for posting via sea mail is much closer. They give a potted history and general descriptions of the destinations very well and the color plates are very well printed. They are ‘quality’ books which do give someone overseas a brief snapshot of the Thailand cities.
There are also other “Dreams of” books for Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, which are also worth exploring. At B. 195 they are not expensive and well bound. Definitely worth a browse next time you are in Bookazine.