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Lawrence Osborne ´ 0 READ

Ook Bangkok Days explores both the little known extraordinary city and the lives of a handful of doomed ex patriates living there 'as vivid a set of liars and losers as was ever invented by Graham Greene' New York Times. No one is a victim in Osborne s Bangkok or perhaps everyone is This is especially true in his interpretation of the sex industry which dominates the majority of the book s focus There are no villains either and on at least 3 occasions the book aims to dispute Bangkok prostitution statistics gathered from the United Nations and other NGO s No opposing numbers are provided rather the reader is to take the word of Osborne and a group of desperate losers in self imposed exile He tries so hard to empathize these men So much time is spent rationalizing their behavior playing up their weaknesses and insisting that the relationship between the sex tourists and the sex worker is one of mutual predation Osborne glosses over if not totally ignores the darker facets of this industry like sex slavery unwanted pregnancies unsafe abortions sexually transmitted diseases or the rampant poverty that might drive these men and women to sell themselves This tendency to gloss over extends into other aspects of the book as Osborne rushes past opportunities for deeper reflection and chances to build a stronger narrative The one consistent female character Kitty is only mentioned in passing but often enough to make her role in Osborne s life seem significant But the reader is never given any further information about their relationship or if she means anything to him Big political events are hastily summarized like the coup in 2006 which receives a paragraph before rolling back into another chapter of walking around aimlessly and going to go go bars There is a scene where Osborne is watching a large group of citizens gather for a political rally and he notices their signs are in English He does a fine job in this moment of conveying its implications I wanted him to stay in that moment What I got instead were 200 pages of middle aged White men tramping around South East Asia This would have been fine if Osborne didn t seem so capable of I wanted him to spend time using these personal experiences to speak about the culture My favorite parts of the book are the digressions when Osborne abandons the narrative about his time slumming in Bangkok and reflects on the nation s identity its history In these passages his knowledge conveys a true love for the country represented in the text He does a great job of this in the chapters The Blue God Ladies of Kuching and In Search of Another Past Osborne s priorities seem to be sex and brevity The book has a uick pacing but it is uneven There are often scenes when he rushes the action and things get confusing due to the lack of directional prose Also in Osborne s attempt to give the narrative a greater sense of of urgency he often leaves out much needed dialogue tags When three male characters are having a conversation and two of them sound identical to nearly every other auxiliary male character spewing cynical expatriate bullshit one cannot afford to remove dialogue tags I had trouble finding distinction between voices with the exception of Father Joe and Sister Joan a priest and a nun working and living in a slum in Klong Tuey once again Osborne misses an opportunity to say about the dichotomy between Bangkok s extreme poverty and a widely expanding middle class limiting what he sees and experiences in Klong Tuey to a single chapter and never referencing it again I know things may be based on real people and true events but I couldn t help wishing Osborne had consolidated some of these characters Thankfully one of them Farlo has an accent Osborne employs dialect whenever he speaksAlso there are a significant number of clich s and sloppy metaphors that only make things harder to understand There is a scene where he describes a friend s eyes as being like a goat What does that mean And this on page 204 a man with burnished skin the color and texture of a primate s fingers Do primates all have the same color fingers and how many people know what a primate s fingers feel likeBangkok Days feels rushed The GoodOne of the greatest aspects of this story is its lack of presumption Osborne never claims to be an authority on Bangkok which he implicitly states in the Author s Note His open mindedness is admirable and his gaze is compassionate He allows others to make the provocative assertions about Thai culture Osborne s obvious intelligence is another appeal to the book his seemingly vast knowledge ofeverything The text is made richer by his references to art music and contemporary and classical literature from all over the globe It is redeemed by the way Osborne uses words from those like Rumi and Hemingway to illuminate his own pontifications on one of the world s most complex cities Despite its shortcomings the book served me well helping me learn some useful Thai phrases and providing a list of cool sites around Bangkok like the Erawan Shrine the Forensics Museum and Loha Prasat

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Bangkok Days

Tourists come to Bangkok for many reasons a night of love a stay in a luxury hotel or simply to disappear for a while Lawrence Osborne comes for the cheap dentistry and then stays when he finds he can live off just a fe. God how to describe this book imagine if O Rourke were British and little less concerned with sociology and politics and a little philosophical and you can begin to imagine Lawrence Osborne First off a caveat this book which was just published this year is marketed almost as some sort of expose on the steamy sordid underworld of Bangkok As the subtitle says A Sojourn in the Capital of Pleasure which resides on the book jacket next to an ostensible working girl her face partially obscured by shadow but her red lips are nevertheless highlighted and parted I was almost embarrassed when I check it out of the local library There actually isn t a lot of sex in this book and it certainly isn t central to book itself The inside jacket gets it a little better when it states Osborne takes us to a feverish place where a strange blend of ancient Buddhist practice and new sexual s has created a version of modernity only superficially indebted to the West Bangkok Days is a love letter to the city that revived Osborne s faith in adventure and in the worldAt it s core I think the book is about why people travel in particular those of us that are predestined to be expatriates those of us that feel at home when they re away from home because they don t really have a home at best they are from somewhere More specifically the book does look at why Bangkok and Thailand attract this type of person including our intrepid Mr Osborne I forget what it was that bugged me somewhat about the first third of the book I didn t have a lot of preconceived notions about the book I merely got it because I have read a few of Osborne s pieces in magazines before and his books often come recommended from other travel writers and their readers that I like That and my interest in all things Southeast Asian lead me to check it out Whatever it was that I had a problem with hence the 4 instead of 5 stars seemed to have worked itself out by the middle of the book I was so enthralled I reserved another of his books at the library before I was done with this oneThis is excellent travel writing witty and insightful without the pablum one usually finds in typical travel writing which I think of as vacation writing often than not To wit one of my favorite uotes and one of the last paragraphs of the bookIt was at that moment that I remembered why I liked Buddhism despite being unable to adopt it because there was no drama of love at its heart Love simply didn t insinuate itself into its view of animals and people where were seen coldly and clearly for what they are The misery of love didn t take center stage at all It was breathtaking when you compared it to us who are taught to believe in love from day one who believe in love as a sort of birthright We don t see ourselves as coldly as that We think our lives are great meaningful dramas defined by love and of course they are nothing of the sort Keep in mind this is obviously some missing some context which would take too long to get into here The book itself is not as cynical as this uote might make it seem although the book is nevertheless rather British shall we say it does have a healthy dose of post modern post colonial cynicism about it but then I m a Yank maybe a Brit would find Osborne upbeat In the end the best I can say about this book is that I hope I run into Osborne some day in a dingy hotel bar on the other side of the world If I do the first few rounds are on me

REVIEW Bangkok Days

W dollars a dayOsborne's Bangkok is a vibrant instinctual city full of contradictions He wanders the streets dining on insects trawling through forgotten neighbourhoods decayed temples and sleazy barsFar than a travel b. A great book to read during a time when it s hard to travel Bangkok Days investigates various nooks and crannies of the Big Mango that while fascinating I don t particularly want to go to personally Osborne is on the lam in Bangkok a place he can live cheap he makes this discovery while visiting to have dental work done The days were empty by design I didn t have a job I was on the lam as old American gangsters had it A perfect phrase The lam It means headlong flight according to my Webster s dictionary Lamming to run away The book is meandering and unstructured but Osborne is such a good observer and writer that this doesn t matter His days are not completely empty he becomes a fl neur a man who wanders observing society through the malls and nightlife districts and less accessible neighbourhoods This part of Rattanakosin just north of the canal which empties into the river is one of the few remnants of the old city that the authorities no doubt in a fit of absentmindedness have neglected to bulldoze The surfaces of the houses are a vertical maze of cracks and puzzles in which cicadas are lodged as if they have mistaken it for a man made forest Osborne covers the much talked about topic of middle to old aged Western men who have gone to Bangkok for one final hurrah before the big empty He does this well without moral sermonising or crass lionising of his friends libertine ways If there is any glue which holds the narrative together it comes from the bonds formed at the Primrose Apartments where Osborne initially stays in Bangkok There he first meets his cast of escapees running from their life of invisibility in the West The most developed character is McGinnis McGinnis was six foot seven He towered in doorways in hotel lobbies in the light of streetlamps There was something wonderfully sinister there and I love sinister men A sinister man doesn t just walk down a street he rolls down it like a superior ball bearing A sinister man cannot be amiable but he can be good company Despite his association with the science of air conditioning McGinnis was also subtly aristocratic and refined while doing nothing better with his life than selling mass produced cooling units Then there is Dennis a decrepit retired bank manager from Perth with the best lines about how Bangkok is the place to be where one can feel alive again Dennis often said to me that Bangkok reminded him of an ancient Roman city at least as we imagine them to have been Cities of polytheistic lust Nothing he added could be further removed from the cities of Anglophonia which were based not on a love of pleasure but on a worship of power New York by contrast where Osborne a pom lived for twenty years always sounds like hell when he mentions it not sure I have much talent I replied uite truthfully as it happened And if I did have some I wouldn t go around talking about it I come from New York where everyone does that even if they have no talent whatsoever It makes me want to vomit I think I came here to escape exactly that Osborne travels to Malaysia and Macau for journalistic missions and tries to relate these episodes back to Bangkok I found this an indulgence and the editor should have cut the non Bangkok parts Towards the end of the book he takes a break from the libertines to visit a priest and nun helping addicts in a slum He observes that a lammer like himself feels sorry for these missionaries alone and stuck in a foreign slum forever but at the same time they feel sorry for the likes of him and his purposeless brethren This reminded me of Graham Greene s A Burnt Out Case where the worldly man seeks refuge with priests in a leper colony Osborne has been compared with Greene In interviews he has said he is a long way from that level yet but is flattered by the comparison I haven t read Osborne s novels I have high hopes for themHe relates a couple of his own sexual escapades but there is nothing too raunchy He sleeps with a prostitute at the Primrose an introduction to the kind of pleasure that is on offer in BangkokThere is a word in Thai sanuk which embodies the idea of enjoying life to the full as a duty It is usually translated as fun or pleasure but it is really untranslatable Porntip was a bearer of sanuk She came every fourth day for a month with a curious punctuality as if she was coming upriver between classesWhether we Westerners should or can enjoy a sanuk lifestyle is a debate for the ages Can it be of benefit or just damage us and those around us If there is anybody around usMy favourite tale is of him buying bathroom plugs He rings his upper class Thai landlady but she has no idea how to say plug in her language or refuses to share this knowledge with a foreigner who couldn t possibly be able to use Thai words He eventually finds out that Thai for plug is pluk But at the store they can t understand him he has the tone wrong Eventually he points and gets his plug He goes through the process of buying a plug multiple times before he can ask for a pluk and the store assistant gets one right away He then has a bunch of plugs he ll never use but hey one word of Thai mastered however many thousand to go The same happens with a chicken dish he practices saying it and eating it everyday for a week before Thais can understand him He recognises that not understanding the language provides a kind of protective cocoon I know what he is about In China it was reassuring when I finally learnt to understand conversations Mainland Chinese shout so I thought they were constantly fighting in fact they were discussing lunch However from time to time I d pick up on rude comments directed my way I remember being at the Summer Palace and a mother warning her child in jest to stay away from me or I d kidnap him and take him to America the home of all Westerners obviouslyAnother time on Lamma island in Hong Kong a Mainlander said to his girlfriend look at the size of the great white hunter s feet If you don t know the language you don t have to hear these things But enough about meread Bangkok Days

10 thoughts on “Bangkok Days

  1. says:

    God how to describe this book imagine if O'Rourke were British and little less concerned with sociology and politics and a little philosophical and you can begin to imagine Lawrence Osborne First off a caveat this book which was just published this year is marketed almost as some sort of expose on the steamy sordid underworld of Bangkok As the subtitle says A Sojourn in the Capital of Pleasure which resides on the book jacket next

  2. says:

    This is the second book I've read recently where one's impression may be swayed by gender Having never been a woma

  3. says:

    Borrowed this book from a friend while living in Bangkok This was my daily BTS read for a bit than a month It's hard for me to put into words what I liked and did not like about this book But lets try It's an interesting introduction to the fucked up lives of dirty farang 'foreigner' in Thai expats living in Bangkok that seek to escape their past There are many of them here and I bet this is one of the the best books wr

  4. says:

    Readers of this book should take note of these words in chapter 4 memoirs are rarely empirical in nature They are stateme

  5. says:

    I read this book concurrently with Farang by Iain Corness as a sort of antidote to that books vanilla contentThe author travelled to Thailand to get some cut price dentistry and discovered he could live in Bangkok for practically no money so he stayed Throughout the book he comes and goes from Thailand but it is never really explain

  6. says:

    A great book to read during a time when it's hard to travel Bangkok Days investigates various nooks and crannies of the Big Mango that while fascinating I don't particularly want to go to personally Osborne is “on the lam” in Bangkok a place he can live cheap he makes this discovery while visiting to have dental work done“The days wer

  7. says:

    I suppose Lawrence Osborne's memoir Bangkok Days 2009 isn't for everyone since the Bangkok it describes is that of single middle aged men running away hiding searching or just living out their last days in a vita

  8. says:

    No one is a victim in Osborne's Bangkok or perhaps everyone is This is especially true in his interpretation of the sex industry which dominates the majority of the book's focus There are no villains either and on at least 3

  9. says:

    Lonely middle aged white man writes about lonely middle aged white men in Bangkok That's a real perspective and there's some good phrasing and a few fun stories but in the end it's too limited to be very interesting

  10. says:

    I visited Bangkok for the first time only weeks before reading this book and really enjoyed following the adventures of Lawrence Osbourne in a small underworld community of foreign transplants to Bangkok It's a travelogue and nothing too momentous happens but the sights sounds impressions are beautifully narrated I particularly e

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Tessa Young is an 18 year old college student with a simple life, excellent grades, and a sweet boyfriend She always has things planned out ahead of time, until she meets a rude boy named Harry, with too many tattoos and piercings who shatters her plans.