is in many ways a wonderful country, but sometimes difficult to understand
for the westerner. For these reasons, self-help groups such as ex-pat clubs
are formed to try and answer the questions we all have from time to time.
Three authors (Emmanuel and Ludovic Perve and Adrien
Fontanellaz) who gained their experience in Thailand while running guest
houses, have put together this book Answers to all your Questions about
Thailand (ISBN 974-93777-1-0), and although published in 2005, the
questions and the answers are generally timeless.
It has been a small project of mine, to listen to the
authoritarian bar-room lawyers and armchair experts pontificating at worst,
advising at best, on all subjects Thai. Be that from whether a non-Thai can
own a mobile phone, to even the very origins of the word “farang” used to
describe us big-nosed, round-eyed foreigners. This book renders them
redundant. Incidentally, question number 133 in this book gives a very
interesting alternative answer to the usual “francais” origin which
supposedly came after the French envoys to Ayutthya in the 16th century.
There was a descriptive term for Europeans at the time of the crusades,
termed “Frank” and linguistic studies can trace this word as the origin of
the Arab “faranji”, the Persian “farang”, the Cambodian “balang” and the
Vietnamese “pha-lang-xa”, as well as the Siamese “farang”.
The questions are divided into 11 broad sections,
covering Practical Information, Nature, Food, Customs, Society, Buddhism,
Arts and Traditions, History and Politics, Minority Ethnic Groups, Sports
and Leisure Activities and finally, Language. In the center of the book
there are also several color plates featuring a map of Thailand and
photographic images of some native Thai items of interest.
The section on Minority Ethnic Groups I found
particularly fascinating. For example, the reason why Hmong women do not
divorce their husbands is that if they do so, they have to refund the bride
price. If this were only the case in the western societies, I hear some of
There are some answers which will no doubt prompt further
bar-room discussions; for example, the percentage of the Thai prostitution
scene which is devoted to catering to foreigners (if you just said five
percent, then you agree with the authors), and another on the origin of
Kathoeys, and the fact that there was not just three genders in Thailand,
but four! Turn to question 62 to get their answer.
The authors do not go into much detail of their own bona
fides, and there is no bibliography at the end, though there are several
pages of recommended reading, so one has to presume that their answers were
culled from the reference books. Despite the leap of faith regarding the
answers, I did find this to be a good reference tool, providing the reader
with good information about Thailand. It is just a pity they did not include
more information on themselves and their sources, and an index.
At B. 780, it is not cheap, but still reasonable value. Well worth
looking out for at the local Bookazine, which supplied my copy.