It had been at least a decade since I read Do’s and Don’ts in Thailand, and it did not surprise me that the current edition on the Bookazine shelves was now the 4th. In an ever-changing country, such as Thailand, a book like this would have to change as well. Undoubtedly, Thailand has become more westernized in the 10 years since my first reading, not all to the good I will add, but those changes in the Thai perception of good and bad, right and wrong do mean new perspectives for an advisory book such as this.
Printed in Thailand (thank goodness) reference (ISBN 978-974-652-179-6, iGroup Press, Amarin Printing and Publishing, 2010), it has retained the same basic style and illustrations of earlier print runs. The book promises much for the foreign resident, the fleeting visitor or armchair traveler and cautions right from the start that the reader should not be surprised if the pretty salesgirl on the perfume counter is a man. (And seen in other not so professional places!)
The authors (Kenny Yee and Catherine Gordon) state at the outset that the reader should “read this book with a very open mind. It simply states what should be done in a given situation for a pleasant experience, every time.” This is followed by the “don’ts” of “feel offended by our frankness. Our suggestions are meant to help you better understand Thai society as a whole and not to belittle anyone or any particular social norm or culture.” (That in itself is a very typical Thai attitude.)
The various chapters include Background essentials, Character traits, Body language, The wai (complex enough for a stand-alone book on it), Religion (with the four Noble Truths expanded upon), Pleasure haunts in Bangkok, Shopping (one of the principal reasons the western woman comes to Thailand), Food and Eating out, Festivals, “Happenings” and even how to do a Visa run.
All the chapters are expanded upon to cover many more topics than just the chapter headings. For example, in the Pleasure haunts in Bangkok chapter this covers different levels of accommodation, hotel “safes’, checking bills, sensible advice to forget phone booths but get phone cards from convenience stores, laundry problems, Thai ladies in your room, kissing in public, tipping, when “yes” can mean “no”, Thai massage, river tours, temple tours, hawker food, even the boozy haunts of Nana Plaza, Patpong and Soi Cowboy all get their mention, and the thorny question of pirated goods. Each chapter is very comprehensive.
Actually I found this a fascinating publication, and one of immense value for the farang reader.
At B. 415 on the Bookazine stands, it is a very inexpensive way for the foreigner to understand a little more about the Thais and the Thai culture. It will make any holiday more pleasurable, and ensure that longer term residents not make fools of themselves, something which is very easy to do if you are not savvy about the customs. By the way, the paper stock used is of excellent quality, so your book should stand several readings and even abuse by itinerant travelers.