Welcome to Travel Readings
Melbourne: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Books, Movies and Beyond…
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Washington, DC and New York
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Rome
Rio de Janeiro: Crimes of August (Agosto) by Rubem Fonseca
Istanbul: The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
Liège (Belgium): Pedigree by Georges Simenon
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Lisbon
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Cambodia
Hyde Park, Chicago: Ravelstein by Saul Bellow
Paris: Flowers of Ruin and Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Naples
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Tanzania
Sri Lanka: Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
Books, Movies and Beyond… : Venice
Dublin: The Dead by James Joyce
Books, Movies and Beyond: Iran
Santa Cruz, Bolivia: The Matter of Desire (Materia del Deseo) by Edmundo Paz Soldán
Books, Movies and Beyond: Syria
Djibouti: Passage of Tears (Passage des Larmes) by Abdourahman Waberi
Books, Movies and Beyond: Armenia
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: The Parachute Drop by Norbert Zongo
Bangkok: Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap
Périgord, France: The Caves of Périgord by Martin Walker
Books, Movies and Beyond: Brussels
Naples: The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
Books, Movies and Beyond: Rio de Janeiro
Tajikistan: Hurramabad by Andrei Volos
New-York: City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Israel and Palestine: To the End of the Land by David Grossman and Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh
Books, Movies and Beyond: Bavaria and Southern Germany
Cape Town: Boyhood, Youth and Summertime by J.M. Coetzee
Books, Movies and Beyond: India
Blue Ridge Mountains: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Books, Movies and Beyond: Algeria
Austrian Alps: A Whole Life (Ein ganzes Leben) by Robert Seethaler
Books, Movies and Beyond: Africans in America
Zimbabwe: The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers
Books, Movies and Beyond: Colombia
Belgian Ardennes: The All Saints’ Day Lovers by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Côte d’Ivoire: Aya of Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie
Japan: Haruki Murakami and Amélie Nothomb
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and The Rope and The Denial of Saint Peter by Charles Baudelaire
Books, Movies and Beyond: Cairo
Vancouver: What is Remembered by Alice Munro
Ghent (Belgium): War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
Haiti: An Aroma of Coffee and Dining with the Dictator by Dany Laferrière and The Comedians by Graham Greene
Iceland: Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
Siena and Tuscany : Il Palio delle contrade morte by Fruttero & Lucentini and The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
China : Wild Swans. Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang
Amsterdam: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Former Soviet Union: The Unwomanly Face of War  by Svetlana Alexievich
Provence: The Horseman on the Roof by Jean Giono, La charrette bleue by René Barjavel, Madame de Sévigné and Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp
Moscow: The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and Limonov by Emmanuel Carrère
Books, Movies and Beyond: Vietnam
Books, Movies and Beyond: The Wars in Vietnam

Bangkok: Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble”, Murray Head was singing in the mid 80’s. In the Thai capital city, I prefer the early mornings. I take advantage of the jetlag to rise before the sun, hop in on one of the BTS sky trains and go explore one of the city’s neighborhood. It is a pleasure to visit the Wat Pho temples at the opening, almost empty, and at the exit to encounter the hordes of tourists going through the gates and following their guides with their color flag raised. Another morning, as I was disembarking an express boat, the Chao Phraya River was overflowing and slowly percolating through the sand bags meant to protect from the flood. The neighborhood was waking up and running their first errands walking with their feet in the water or on wet planks.


During my last visit I went wandering in  Khlong Toey market. That’s the wet food market that feeds the city and its restaurants. The fresh light from the rising sun was revealing the fruits, vegetables and spices stalls. The butchers were slicing beef and pork carcasses. Chickens and ducks, alive in their cages, are taken out and slaughtered in front of the buyers. Fishes, turtles and frogs wriggle in the water tub, waiting to be eviscerated by expert hands. The chili pepper seller prepares his mixtures. The porters with their hand trucks and their numbered jackets are selling their services to the restaurant owners doing their morning market.  Monks in their orange robes are doing their rounds reciting a string of payers and a few sellers given them an obol in kind, bowing respectfully. Here and there someone stops to buy flowers.


This is Bangkok’s life, far from the glittering shopping malls and the backpackers’ attractions. Every market stall could maybe tell a story similar to those included in « Sightseeing » by Rattawut Lapcharoensap. I greatly enjoyed that collection of short stories which starts from daily life episodes, described with humor and tenderness, to sketch an attractive image of Thailand, but without complacency or clichés.



Rattawut Lapcharoensap

For example « Draft Day » tells how the selection for military service was organized in a neighborhood. A lottery is organized to decide who will serve for two years. In theory, the narrator could be called, but for him, there is no risk: his parents, well introduced with the officials, have made sure that his name would not come out. He attends the lottery and must face the looks of his friends who have no free pass.


« Priscilla the Cambodian » is a story taking place at the border separating a squalid camp for refugees from Cambodia and a just slightly better-off neighborhood inhabited by Thais. Like everywhere, refugees are perceived as threatening and hated by their neighbors: people are throwing stones at them, overturning their ramshackle shelters. Thai teenagers have fun terrorizing the Cambodian kids. But a young girl, Priscilla, is not scared and attracts one of the Thais’s attention.


« Cockfighter » is a novella, the longest story in the book. A father raises cocks to participate in cockfights. His recent successes went to his head and he loses himself in his passion, forgetting about his wife and daughter, sleeping in the chicken coop. He accepts a challenge in which he could win big – or lose everything- against the local mafia boss’ son, who is also making unwanted advances to Ladda, his daughter.


Lapcharoensap is a Thai author, writing in English and who was born and raised in part in Chicago. He is therefore well positioned to perceive the viewpoints of both the Thais and foreigners visiting the country.  For example, in « Don’t let me die in this place », an American senior who is not self-sufficient anymore had to leave the Baltimore suburbs to live with his son and daughter-in-law. He is confronted with habits and meals he is not familiar with and with grand children who speak a language he doesn’t understand.  Or in « Farangs », he singles out this post card sent by an American tourist who had a romantic encounter during her holidays with the hotel owner’s son. The card days that she would love to welcome him in the US, but carefully omits to include a contact address.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *