Bizarre Thailand promises “tales of crime, sex and black magic” and has been written by long-time expat Jim Algie, who apparently can wield some type of musical instrument in a Canadian punk rock band as well as write for magazines and now pens this book Bizarre Thailand (ISBN 978-981-4302-81-4, Marshall Cavendish Editions, Singapore, 2010).
In the introduction, author Algie does state that when “approaching sensationalistic subject matter, (a writer) can only go in one of two directions: the senseless shock value and moral indignation of tabloid journalism and TV, or trying to look at the subjects and the subject matter with a bit more balance and empathy. Aside from the occasional headless motorcyclist, I have tried to navigate the latter route.” In the main, he has achieved his goal, but the item “Pattaya, the Vegas of Vice”, whilst attractively alliterative is not really reality. But then, since I live in Pattaya I might just be biased.
The other sections encompass Misadventure Travels, Sex Files, Strange Celebrities, Creature Features and The Supernatural. Amongst Strange Celebrities is Dr. Porntip Rojanasunan, who is a celebrity in Thailand, though I would personally stop short of labeling her as being “strange”.
Whilst covering the bizarre, Jim Algie manages to look dispassionately at the 2006 coup where a message came up on screen to say “We have taken over the city. Apologies for the inconvenience” and where the next day, tourists were having their photographs taken with an army tank and its soldiers. Bizarre indeed.
The item on Moo Bahn Tao was quite new to me, where the village keeps ‘sacred’ tortoises. These rather mundane creatures have been imbued with powerful spirits relating to the late abbot of the temple, and woe betide anyone who inconveniences a tortoise. The locals will all tell of fates that became those who did! Certainly Bizarre once more.
One anecdote that we have all experienced is that creature that Algie calls “the most deadly reptile of all in Thailand: a police officer.” This particular defender of the public described in the book extracted (or accepted) the B. 200 attached to the driver’s license the penalty for speeding, clocked by radar. However, he did then point out that there were no further radar traps between his point and the destination, so they could go as fast as they liked. Other writers might just call this TIT (This Is Thailand).
Jim Algie is a good descriptive writer and able to keep the pace belting along at a good clip, making this an easy read. However, with some of the chapters he has relied perhaps a little too much on the published books on Thailand’s executioner Javuret Charuboon, the Angel of Bang Kwang prison Susan Aldous and the old ladyboy Aunty Nong. He has unearthed so much original items that he really did not need to rehash items already covered by the Maverick House books. Next time perhaps?
A good and interesting book, with the rider of rehashing above. At B. 630 it is not a cheap read but it does have a place in the shelves of literature about this country.