Bizarre Thailand reviewed by The Age

Bruce Elder has just reviewed Bizarre Thailand in The Age, calling Jim’s book a “thoughtful book” and a ” a useful introduction to Thailand’s lesser-known history.”

Read on for the full review.

THE old adage about never judging a book by its cover certainly applies to this carefully researched and well-written account of some of Thailand’s more esoteric tourist attractions. If you judged the book by its cover — yellow and garish, featuring a psychedelic skull, two scorpions and the subtitle ‘‘Tales of crime, sex and black magic’’ — you could reasonably conclude it was a shameless pot boiler.

In fact, it is the thoughtful work of a Canadian journalist who has lived in Thailand for years and who is fascinated by some of the country’s more unusual ‘‘tourist attractions’’. There is, for example, the Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum, with a section devoted to ‘‘organs infected with cancer, hearts deadened by strokes and livers pickled with alcohol’’.

And here’s another drawcard: ‘‘The squeamish and anally retentive will have an especially foul time in the Parasitology Museum. Every worst fear and phobia any traveller ever had about the intestinal horrors lurking in Asia has been graphically outlined and exhibited: roundworms, pinworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms.’’

Algie bypasses the usual tourist destinations of Phuket, the coastal islands and Bangkok. His list of Thailand’s tourist attractions includes the chance to join the army and spend time involved in full army training and the Corrections Museum, with displays that include ‘‘implements of torture once used in Siamese jails’’. One of these is a huge rattan ball, which was kicked around by an elephant with a prisoner inside.

He describes a shooting range on the outskirts of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh where, for $US100, tourists can kill a goat with a rocket-propelled grenade. And he describes a resort that replicates a WildWest town, with cowboys, horses and Indians.

Beyond these accounts of the bizarre, the book is also a useful introduction to Thailand’s
lesser-known history. There are sections on the European expatriates; the Burma-Thailand railway duringWorldWar II; the Siamese twins, Chang and Eng; and dozens of others.

Reviewed by Bruce Elder

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