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9 Books About Sex In Bangkok

When I started researching all the books that had been written about the City of Angels, one thing was certain: there are a hell of a lot of books about sex in Bangkok.

And that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

Bangkok is a sexy city.

Aside from the visible face of prostitution here, there’s no doubt that this is a city of beautiful people.

There are lots of young people making their way here, and the Thai standard of beauty is legendary the world over.

Scores of young tourists flock here too, as well as their willing and moneyed older counterparts.

People come to Bangkok to find love — and inevitably become entangled in the web of sex the city has to offer.

And then they write about it.

I can’t speak to the quality of these writings, but it’s likely that a few readers will find merit in some of these books. I’ve chosen those with at least a few positive reviews.

They’re a mix of sexual odyssey travel guides, memoirs and the occasional novel.

Enjoy…

Books about Sex in Bangkok

Private Dancer

book about sex in bangkokStephen Leather

Private Dancer is one of the most legendary books about the perils of falling in love with a Thai bar girl, and is often cited as a must-read for the gullible, vulnerable men that find themselves in Thailand’s red light district looking for love.

It’s a novel that follows Pete, who one day finds himself falling head over heels for the beautiful Joy — a pole dancer in a Bangkok go-go bar.

It becomes clear that Joy is not all that she seems as Pete falls deeper and deeper in the web of sex, drugs and deceit she has spun for them both.

Undoubtedly an enjoyable and eye-opening read — especially for those with any intimate acquaintance of the Bangkok bar scene!

A Year in the ‘Kok

book about sex in bangkokcrazy horse

This is the first book from former blogger Crazy Horse, which documents his various exploits (and sexploits) over a year period in Bangkok city.

He followed this book up with Into the Night Life — a seemingly similar romp scattered across the wider Southeast Asia.

Lauded as the book that “every dissatisfied man in a western country should read”, it’s clear that A Year in the ‘Kok is literary escapism for the generation of ‘trapped’ men as the author truly sets himself free in the Bangkok night.

Reviews are mixed — some find it repetitive, opinionated and too liberal with the ‘c’ word, while others find it an empowering read and well written.

Bangkok Travel Guide for Men

book about sex in bangkokChristopher street

Emblazoned with a nude Thai girl across the cover, Street promises to help his readers “travel Thailand like you really want to.”

It covers where to stay in the city, staying safe with both working and non-working girls, getting the most — er — bang for your buck, and navigating the online dating scene here.

 

The universally positive reviews might give you pause for thought — particularly the two by Stacy and Ruth. Stacy is apparently travelling to Bangkok with her husband and gained plenty of useful information from this book. I assume we can conclude that Stacy and her husband are open to finding women for sex in Bangkok.

Ruth, meanwhile, used the book as a guide during her walking tour of the city. Good for you, Ruth!

Bangkok Babylon

book about sex in bangkokJerry hopkins

With a strapline proclaiming “the real-life exploits of Bangkok’s legendary expatriates are often stranger than fiction”, Bangkok Babylon isn’t so much a book about sex in Bangkok but rather a collection of profiles of 25 of the city’s most interesting expat characters.

These include a photographer of Thai bar girls for Playboy, the model for Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, and three Vietnam vets who opened a go-go bar.

Hopkins is a bestselling author and a brilliant observer on all things Thailand (and more).

I haven’t read this yet, but it’s definitely on my Bangkok books hit list.

Bangkok Buckaroo

book about sex in bangkokSteve Rosse

Bangkok Buckaroo is a detective thriller in the Bangkok noir genre. I’ve included it in this list as the main hotspot of the action is none other than Soi Cowboy — one of Bangkok’s most notorious (and neon) red light districts.

The protagonist is Texan Joe DiMaggio (the author isn’t too light on cliches, apparently…), in a reference to how Soi Cowboy got it’s name in the first place.

Expect a few murders between the pages on this little neon-lit street.

Reviews are positive; applauding the writer for avoiding the usual broken bar girl cliches and creating a world of interesting characters in this fascinating city.

Miss Bangkok: Memoirs of a Thai Prostitute

book about sex in bangkokBua Boonmee & Nicola Pierce

This memoir comes from the other side of the table: the Thai girls who accept money for sex.

We follow the true story of Bua and how she became a bar girl in Bangkok, after growing up in Isaan, before moving to Bangkok, being forced into an abusive marriage, moving into the hostess world and finally being recruited into a Patpong go-go bar.

It’s an eye-opening read and a humbling one. Many western men talk fondly of Bangkok’s prostitution scene, without paying too much consideration to the lives and back stories of the girls that are the face of it.

Thailand: The Vicious Truth About Thai Hookers

book about sex in bangkokthe blether

The author readily admits that the title is somewhat of an exaggeration, claiming that “the book is not the assassination job that the headline may suggest.”

Instead, this book contains interviews with people working in the Thai sex trade and is designed to be a guide to making Thailand your ‘man heaven’ versus failing to take the author’s advice and entering, er, ‘man hell’.

The main focus is seemingly how not to get ripped off while indulging in the Bangkok night scene and how not to fall for the apparent illusion presented by Thai sex workers.

The premise of the book and reading the Amazon reviews of it makes for relatively depressing reading — the idea that everyone is out to get you.

While I’m sure that’s true for some in the sex trade, it feels damaging to tar the whole of Thailand with that brush.

A Bangkok Vacation for a Jersey Boy

book about sex in bangkokCharles F Chicarelli

Turning to something a little lighter, A Bangkok Vacation… is a comedy novel that follows the hapless Danny as he arrives in Bangkok, bouncing from the mile high club to massage parlours to the politics of the mia noi and, of course, sprawling around Soi Cowboy and the Khao San Road.

The book was inspired by Chicarelli’s own experiences as an expat who’s spent 40 years in Asia.

It’s well reviewed on Amazon with readers commending the light tone, realism and lack of explicit sex and violence that so often characterizes novels set in Bangkok. One reviewer memorably nicknamed it “Ferris Bueller’s Month Off”.

Bangkok Baby: Loving the Loveless Ladyboys of Bangkok

book about sex in bangkokdavid bonnie

Dressed up as a romance novel between a western tourist and a Thai ladyboy, it’s probably accurate to say that Bonnie drew on his own experiences to write Bangkok Baby, given that he was the star of Sky Living’s Ladyboys series back in 2012.

Through its story-telling, the book asks ‘how far would you go?’ if you were in the shoes of the protagonist, and appears to have chimed with a lot of readers who have experience of going far into the world of Thailand’s ladyboys.

 

What’s your favourite book about sex in Bangkok?

Featured image is by Paul Sullivan  (CC BY-ND 2.0 licence)

 

best bangkok history books

The 5 Best Bangkok History Books

Bangkok is a youthful city, by all accounts.

Not only is it a hive for young Thais and international expats, it’s also, literally, quite young — it was only founded as the Thai capital in 1782.

Compare that to London in 43 AD, Paris between 250-200 BC and even New York in 1624.

But that’s not to say that there’s not some compelling history about the Big Mango.

In a city with such a unique blend of religiosity, consumerism, community and, of course, that indefinable ‘Thainess’, a rich history is present regardless of its comparatively youthful years.

Let’s take a look at some of the best history books written on Bangkok.

1. Tales of Old Bangkok: Rich Stories from the Land of the White Elephant

chris burslem
tales of old bangkok

My favourite Bangkok history book

This is one of my favourite books about Bangkok — easy to read, beautifully illustrated and a rich array of source material.

More akin to a historical scrapbook than a straight history book, Tales of Old Bangkok is a collection of excerpts and literature that have been written and spoken about Bangkok since its inception in the 18th Century.

All in the English language, the source material is necessarily from the colonial viewpoint — and is largely from the view of white men. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the minds of early expats and the complex western relationship with Thailand.

2. A Walking Tour: Bangkok

Greg Bracken

best bangkok history booksAgain, this isn’t your generic history book, but rather a historical guide to Thailand in the form of a walking tour.

This is a great book for architecture nerds or simply those who like a small dose of history entwined with their urban exploration. The book weaves around the entire city, highlighting the incredible design on display, including Khmer, Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and even Edwardian.

3. The English Governess at the Siamese Court

anna leonowens

best bangkok history booksWhile hardly a masterclass in literature and doubted in parts by many, this memoir from Leonowens is one of the most controversial books to come out of Thailand and therefore worth a read.

Leonowens was the English governess at the Thai royal court in Bangkok under Rama IV, where she taught the young Rama V. This book and some of her other works were adapted into the popular Anna and the King of Siam, which would later become The King and I.

The controversy stems from Leonowens’ various embellishments about herself, which have lead many to believe extend to her account of the court. Of course, speaking ill — or truly, anything less than adoringly — of the monarchy is heavily frowned upon (understatement of the year) and the author’s remarks about her employers’ temper and human habits shook the Thai establishment.

4. A History of the Thai-Chinese

pimpraphai bisalputra and jeffery sng

best bangkok history booksWhile not technically a book about Bangkok, this fascinating insight into the history and development of the ethnic Thai-Chinese is every bit a history of Bangkok’s Chinatown as it is an anthropological study.

Thailand’s relationship with China is lengthy and complex but always irresistibly intertwined — almost half of Thais claim some Chinese ancestry while 14% of the population are ethnically Thai-Chinese.

Not only are the Thai-Chinese large in number but they are incredibly influential; especially in Bangkok, where they head companies, governments and other high profile positions.

5. The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War

joshua kurlantzick

best bangkok history booksAgain, this isn’t a history on the city of Bangkok as such, but rather on one of the city’s most mysterious figures: Jim Thompson.

Founder of the still successful silk empire and the owner of the exquisite house — now museum — in central Bangkok, the legend of Jim Thompson has captured the hearts and minds of both Thais and foreigners since his disappearance into Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands in 1967.

This book delves further than simply the man himself and looks at Thompson’s wider role in the Cold War in Asia and Thailand’s role in the US’ biggest covert war operation to date. Fascinating stuff.

books about bangkok prison

9 Books About Life In A Bangkok Prison

During my research for an article about literature set in Bangkok, I came across a surprisingly high number of books about Bangkok’s prisons.

It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise — there have been plenty of farang (white foreigners) imprisoned over here after all. And one of the best ways to raise money and educate others on your experience after you get out? Write a book about it, of course!

Thailand has lured many a foreigner to her shores in the past few decades, entrancing them with the prospect of a cheap party lifestyle, living like a king in a tropical paradise.

But a handful of Siam’s visitors get in over their heads. The money runs out but they aren’t prepared to give up their lifestyle. Some of them turn to drugs — whether dealing or smuggling across borders.

Thailand’s attitude to drugs is famously severe: even possession of a small amount of cannabis can find you slapped with a long prison sentence. The death penalty is not unusual in cases of smuggling.

Not every foreigner imprisoned in Thailand is there for drug-related crimes, but a sizeable number certainly are. Most of the ex-prisoners who have written books about their ‘time’ in Bangkok were there thanks to drugs.

books about bangkok prison

By drburtoni (Creative Commons)

1. The Damage Done

By Warren Fellows (2000)

The Damage Done is one of the most famous memoirs of life in a Bangkok prison — the notorious Bang Kwang — documenting the human rights abuses and atrocities Fellows endured for 12 years after receiving a life sentence for trafficking heroin in 1978.

The events written about in the book are so horrific that some have doubted their veracity and accused Fellows of hyperbole. Beatings, drug abuse, having to eat cockroaches for protein and suicide attempts are all discussed.

Fellows goes into extreme detail but many readers describe it as ‘unputdownable’.

2. Bangkok Hard Time

Jon Cole (2012)

Cole, the son of a US Green Beret colonel who was serving in Vietnam, found himself studying at the International School of Bangkok in the late 1960s. Inevitably lead astray by the allure of the City of Angels, Cole finds himself burdened with a heroin habit and a career as a drug smuggler, before being imprisoned in the notorious Klong Prem.

It’s a well written book that examines Cole’s time in prison and his eventual acceptance of both his fate and his decisions.

Rather than follow Fellows’ path of documenting the various abuses he saw, Cole focuses on the story of his addiction and his relationships inside the prison.

3. Escape

David McMillan (2007)

McMillan was arrested in Bangkok’s Chinatown and imprisoned in Klong Prem after found to be masterminding a global heroin-smuggling syndicate. His memoir documents how he became the only Westerner to date to escape from the ‘Bangkok Hilton’.

Readers have praised Escape for pulling no punches: there’s no smugness at escaping, no pitiful excuses for his drug offences — rather a tale of grit and friendship. It also documents McMillan’s prison life before he manages to get away.

books about bangkok prison

By drburtoni (Creative Commons)

4. Rotting in the Bangkok Hilton

tm hoy (2012)

This book is more a compendium of short stories from Hoy’s time in Klong Prem, describing the horrors of daily life there, such as wearing chains, no food, murders, drug abuse, torture and tuberculosis.

Hoy doesn’t reveal the nature of his crime, but rather accepts his punishment and sets about detailing the stories of the various characters he meets while imprisoned.

5. Drug Muled: Sixteen Years in a Thai Prison

joanne joseph (2013)

This is the story of South African model Vanessa Goosen, who was sentenced to death in 1994 after unknowingly trafficking heroin out of Thailand, planted by her partner.

Goosen was 3 months pregnant at the time and delivered her baby while imprisoned in Lard Yao prison. Felicia lived with Goosen until she was 3, when the baby was sent home to South Africa to live with a friend.

This story tells of Goosen’s trial and time in prison, including the harrowing story of having her baby taken away, and also how she adjusted to ‘normal’ life after she was pardoned by the King in 2010.

6. Forget You Had a Daughter

sandra gregory (2013)

Another account of female imprisonment in Bangkok, this book documents Gregory’s struggles as she attempts to smuggle an addict’s personal supply of heroin out of Thailand, after running out of money.

She was imprisoned again in Lard Yao and endured her trial in Thai before being sentenced to death. Four and a half years into her sentence, she was transferred to the UK prison system, before finally being pardoned by the King of Thailand in 2010.

books about bangkok prison

By drburtoni (Creative Commons)

7. Nightmare in Bangkok

andy botts (2007)

This tells the story of professional criminal Botts, who started life as a thief in Hawaii before finally being arrested for drug trafficking in Bangkok. Sentenced to death, Botts continued to abuse drugs during his time in prison and here tells of the horrors of daily life.

It also seeks to document the spiritual journey that Bangkok imprisonment gifted Botts and his realisation that everything happens for a reason.

8. You’ll Never Walk Alone

Debbie singh (2015 — 2nd edition)

One of the few Bangkok prison books about someone not convicted of a drug crime, this book is actually written by the sister of an inmate in Klong Prem. Debbie Singh’s brother was sentenced to 10 years in Klong Prem after being found guilty of cashing false traveller’s cheques.

She campaigned to have her brother transferred away from the daily degradation to an Australian prison, and also set out to locate his Thai-born son. This story also looks at Singh’s renewed love for Thailand and her tireless charity work.

9. Welcome to Hell

colin martin (2005)

Welcome to Hell is a memoir of Martin, imprisoned in Klong Prem after attempting to apprehend the man who defrauded him of a huge sum of money in a business deal after the corrupt Thai police refused to intervene. Martin was convicted of murder.

The book was actually written in Martin’s cell and smuggled out page by page — rather than being penned many years later like most prison memoirs. He’s very upfront about the putrid conditions of Klong Prem and pulls no punches in their descriptions.

books about bangkok prison

By drburtoni (Creative Commons)

bangkok book clubs

Bangkok Book Clubs

Love reading but fancy making it more sociable? Easy — just sign up to one of the many Bangkok book clubs.

As you’d expect in such a big city, there are a large handful of book clubs for English speakers, reading all manner of tomes from Austen to the latest in ASEAN political discourse.

Here we’ve listed the best of them – take a look and see which one piques your interest. Each club’s Meetup page is linked to in the headings.

Bangkok Book Club

This is the largest book club in Bangkok, with over 900 Meetup members at the last count. We can only assume that a much smaller proportion actually attend the monthly meetings.

The club meets at Hemingway’s on Sukhumvit Soi 14 and is known for being a relaxed and friendly environment.

Novels are the order of the day here, with recent discussion focusing on The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Better Read Than Dead

This brilliantly named book club again meets every month, this time at The Admiral’s pub on Sukhumvit Soi 24.

Books to be discussed are voted for in advance by members who are given a choice of three, with the main criterion being that it must have “stood the test of time”.

Previous books include Atonement by Ian McEwan, Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.

bangkok book clubs

By Alper Çuğun (CC BY 2.0)

The Lit Society

This is a quasi-intellectual gathering with the intention to discuss themes like writing style, genre, socioeconomic trends and what’s in the zeitgeist, with the focus on a particular book.

The Lit Society meets on the first Tuesday of every month and each month a book is chosen by a different member, who then serves as that month’s host. That person will prepare questions and some introductory material, as well as leading the discussion.

Book choices range widely anywhere between fiction, poetry, cognitive science, archaeology and more. Past choices have included How to Pass as Human and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. 

ASEAN Critical Reading and Discussion

This group meets regularly to read and discuss 100 Ideas that Changed the World by Time Magazine at a location in Laksi.

Native English and intermediate ESL speakers are welcome to attend in these sessions lead by Steven Sills, a teacher of advanced critical reading, writing, American literature and conversation for ASEAN classes at Ramkhamhaeng University.

Previous sessions have examined the journey from animism to polytheism to monotheism in Egypt, then replicated by Judaism; the creation of a rudimentary geometry in Ancient Egypt; and the Buddhist heaven or Nirvana.

bangkok book clubs

A rather French looking book club (By Bart Everson CC BY 2.0)

Silent Reading Party

Not quite your traditional book club in any sense, these bi-weekly meetings invite readers to drink together and read to themselves — no book discussions or mandated book!

Previous locations have included Mikkeller in Phra Khanong, the SkyTrain Jazz Bar at Victory Monument and Dexter Cafe.

They haven’t been active for a while according to their Meetup profile so feel free to give them a nudge.

Dr Wayne Dyer’s Mastermind Study Group

Definitely something of a specialist study group, members study and share the teachings of Dr Wayne Dyer – described as an influential leader in spiritual consciousness and self-motivation – through books, audio and video.

Previous topics have included mind mastery and how to propagate positive mental thoughts.

Again, this looks as though it may need a nudge or for someone new to step in and take over the helm.

 

There are also plenty of writing workshops and meet-up groups in Bangkok, which I’ll document soon too.

Featured image is by Louis de Mont (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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