The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis book review: ‘Americans In Thailand,’ a comprehensive history

Written By: herbrunbridge - Feb• 12•15

AmericansInThailandBookCoverIf you’re like us here at WoWasis, you may very well be scratching your head, wondering why anyone would buy a book on a subject seemingly as narrow as the contributions of the citizens of North America to a country in Asia. We loved the book through. And think you will, too, especially if you have an interest in the history of Thailand. It’s surprisingly comprehensive and complex. As is brought out brilliantly and forcefully Americans in Thailand (2015, ISBN 978-981-4385-84), the actions and contributions of North Americans can’t easily be ignored. And it all starts out long ago.

This 300 page, handsomely illustrated book is the product of the work of six editors, Jim Algie, Denis Gray, Nicholas Grossman, Jeff Hodson, Robert Horn, and Wesley Hsu. The book follows a historical chronology, dating from early traders and missionaries and runs up to the present. We found ourselves taking tons of notes: who knew a missionary was responsible for the first Thai font?

There’s so much to read here, every page an unveiling. For our eyes, the most compelling stories involved the Siamese Twins, Cheng and Eng, Bangkok Post publisher Alex MacDonald, Tony Poe and American CIA and military involvement, and Father Joe Maier. But that’s only scratching the surface. The authors don’t gloss over much, either, referring to books such as ‘The King Never Smiles,’ which cannot be obtained in Thailand due to censorship laws. And speaking of writing, the contributions of noted expat writers, such as Dean Barrett, Christopher G. Moore (a Canadian? He’s North American, too), Harold Stephens, and Bernard Trink are discussed as well. The pages devoted to entrepreneur Bill Heinecke are fascinating.

For the scholar, the book contains dozens of references to other books that elaborate on many of the stories, included in the text. We ordered several of these while in the midst of reading the book. We wanted to know more. The index is a good one, and so is the seven page bibliography. We might have preferred that the book had footnotes, but that’s a nit-pick, as in-text references abound.

There are an estimated 30,000 Yanks living in Thailand and this book should fascinate all of them. It’s also a great bedside companion to those sitting at home, away from Thailand, enjoying memories past or thinking about future adventures. It’s highly recommended as a fascinating compilation of stories and a wonderful historical and contemporary record. Buy it now at the WoWasis eStore.

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