Bangkok is one of the world’s most fascinating cities, particularly when you can get into her inner essence. It’s tough to do, though. The Skytrain floats above it, traffic is usually a mess, and then there’s the heat. We here at WoWasis have always found walking to be a pleasure in Bangkok, especially if you have a destination and have your eyes open along the way to see many of the fascinating buildings, people, shops, and temples that grace the city. That’s why Kenneth Barrett’s 22 Walks in Bangkok: Exploring the City’s Historic Back Lanes and Byways (2013, ISBN 978-0-8048-4343-0) is so necessary and welcome.
There’s plenty of history and culture in this 319 page book. The author, a journalist who’s written on travel, food, and industry, among a number of subjects, revels in the stories surrounding many of these places, providing fascinating details that will please old hands and newcomers alike. Who knew anything about Lek Nana, whose surname lords over the Sukhumvit Soi 4 intersection? And what was the story behind Nai Lert and the penis shrine on his property off Wireless road? Barrett doesn’t miss much, and takes the reader to arcane and interesting spots such as the Siriraj Hospital forensic museum, long a favorite place of ours.
This book will prove especially interesting to visitors staying along the Chao Phraya river in high-end hotels. If you’re one of these folks, you’re pretty removed from much of the action in the center of town, but you’re very close to most of the walks in this book, and you won’t need transportation to get to many of them. Travelers on a budget will love this book as well, as no money is required to see most of what’s in the book.
The one fault we found with the book is that there are no blank note pages at the end. We started scribbling all sorts of notes on places we wanted to see, but soon found there was no place to put them all. Tuttle, the publisher, tends to keep its books in print for decades, and it is hoped that a subsequent edition will have those blank note pages. They’re needed.
This book ought to do well, as it will have appeal to every ambulatory visitor to Bangkok. It’s a big city to get one’s arms around, but there are fascinating elements around every corner. Barrett’s aim is to ensure that you don’t miss any. Just make sure you take a hat and a notebook so you can notate further things that interest you on these splendid treks through the city. Buy it here at the WoWasis eStore.