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Book Review: by Lang Reid
 

Travel Pack Thailand

One of the biggest problems with travel manuals is that they go out of date too quickly. Prices are wrong, or the enterprise has shifted or gone bust (many places close before they have their grand opening).
The latest to come across the reviewer’s desk is the Travel Pack Thailand (ISBN978-0-8048-4210-5, Tuttle Publishing, 2012) written and collected by Jim Algie, a long-stay expat who knows his Thailand. This one was written (published) in 2012 so is relatively current. His travel experiences include scuba-diving, rock-climbing, kayaking off the coast of Krabi, learning how to hunt for red ant egg nests (a delicacy in the northeast), and trawling with Thai-Muslim fishermen down south, so he can write with some authority.
The format is similar to most guides of this genre, but with some important differences. This is not one of the $5 a day back-packer manuals, but is squarely aimed at the more affluent tourist, with many of the author’s recommendations being for top end hotels, such as the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi in Chiang Mai. It is also a smaller and thinner publication and with good paper stock and hard covers will last a sight-seeing holiday. The claim is that it is easy to use and easy to carry, and I agree. However, the map which folds out needs directions on how to re-fold, or perhaps it is just me who failed Map Folding 101.
The book is divided into three sections, claiming to show “Thailand’s Best Sights, 21 must-see sights and must-have experiences, from the many faces and flavors of its modern metropolis to southern Thailand’s fabled beaches and bays, from World Heritage Sites like the ancient Siamese capital of Ayuthaya to places of natural wonder like Khao Yai Nature Park.”
The second section is: “Exploring Thailand offers a wide variety of excursions in every part of the country, from Chiang Mai in the mountainous north to ‘Little Tuscany’ in the country's center and the famous Chatuchak weekend market (JJ) of Bangkok; and from kayaking through a marine park to a bicycle tour through Thailand’s first kingdom.”
The third section is the “Author’s Recommendations and makes specific suggestions for: the hippest hotels and resorts; the coolest nightspots; the best spas; the best eco-trips, treks, and outdoor activities; the most kid-friendly places and things to do; the best food and eateries; the best shopping; the best museums and galleries; and more.”
Algie also provides basic travel information, including useful pointers for getting around Thailand.
At B. 465 it is not expensive and is available through Asia Books. I did enjoy it and found places/sights I had missed in my travels. Recommend this to your newbie friends.


Paying For It

A ‘Kiss and Tell’ book this week, with a lady going by the name of Scarlett O’Kelly detailing what it is/was like to be a professional escort, read sex worker.
Paying For It (ISBN 978-0-241-96323-4, Penguin, 2012) begins with the usual provisos you would expect such as false names (both hers and the clients), backgrounds, towns, and anything that might pinpoint her or where she worked.
The reason for her joining the sex industry is not spelled out in any melodramatic way, or looking for sympathy. Sure, the Irish economy had collapsed (to be sure, to be sure) and she, as a single mother found that she was suddenly unemployed and on the dole queue.
Initially mentally fantasizing what it would be like to work in the sex industry, she then began a toe in the water exercise advertising massages through the internet and was swamped. There were obviously many men out there who were willing to pay for it.
Having been a successful businesswoman before the financial crash, she sat down and planned just how she would run this ‘new’ business venture. However, the business approach did not stop her having many fears about the “first time” and she describes her emotions during that encounter in very human and believable terms.
The second, and very successful encounter led her to justify her new existence, saying, “I was doing the right thing - the bills were paid, the men were happy and I was helping people in a way I would never have thought possible.”
In this line of business she meets her first client with a fetish, in this case socks. Apparently this is a well documented fetish, but was neither her “thing” (nor mine I should add).
She also relates being short-changed for the first time after checking the bundle of notes in her wallet before driving off, and I was surprised that someone with her business acumen did not collect the money first, and not at the end of the encounter.
Much self-examination by Ms Scarlett, including analysis of why her once happy marriage broke up less than one year after the birth of one of her sons. She then tries to apply that analysis to some of her clients, not all of which were appreciative of the free psychotherapy, when all they wanted was a roll in the hay!
By six months in the job she had come to the realization that enjoyment of sex and physical attraction were not the same. She was learning.
At B. 435 it is a lightweight book which will appeal to the voyeur in us all. The degree of titillation is fairly minor, so this is not the book for someone looking for XXX gratification!
Ms. Scarlett finishes with, “It would benefit us all, I reckon, to take a wider, more mature approach to the issue of the sex industry.” In that, she is undoubtedly correct, it is after all the oldest ‘profession’ which has stood the test of time for thousands of years. It should be accepted by now, and probably is in certain parts of Bangkok!.


 
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Travel Pack Thailand

Paying For It