Book Reviews

Bangkok Inside Out

  • Author: Daniel Ziv , Guy Sharett
  • Review by Stick
Book cover  by

It's not a travel guide, but neither is it just a series of mini essays either. It isn't a photography book nor is it one man's journey through the city. Bangkok Inside Out is a very curious collection of mini essays about various facets of life in Bangkok, each one accompanied by fantastic photography which clearly captures the feel and vibe of the city of it.

The authors attack 50 odd issues, giving a nice overview, and background information, explaining what it is, and how it fits into the swing of things in the big city. There are several pieces which are truly excellent, such as the definition of sanuk and the amusing ways to play with your hi so friends.

The photography is not of the classic photo book style with tack sharp, over-saturated images of known landmarks, such as a shot of the sun setting behind Wat Arun with the sky ablaze in red. Think more akin to the Bangkok classic, "Patpong Bangkok's Twilight Zone", candid photography, street photography, catching locals going about their everyday lives. We're not talking posed photos here.

In many ways, this book reminds me of the sort of thing Bangkok Phil and Shrimp would produce if they ever got together. Great writing and insight along with great photography.

While this really is an excellent book and worthy of a place on any Bangkok addict's bookshelf or coffee table, there are just a few areas where I feel improvement could have been made. There are a few errors of a factual basis, not many, but a few.

And a few of the photographs are unnecessarily "soft". While some were obviously intended to be like that, there are a few where I simply can't understand why they didn't re-shoot the scene or something similar, because the shot used is somewhat soft, and perhaps not as brilliant as most others in the book are. Incidentally, it looks like most of the photography in the book was shot with a Canon EOS 10D which is a digital model. Digital has come of age.

What I liked: The authors venture into aspects of the city that I have never seen covered by any farang authors before, and I found myself nodding and smiling quietly myself at many observations they had made. The photography is top notch and the writing is engaging.

What I didn't like: While the photography is very good, there are some shots which seem, to me at least, to be unnecessarily out of focus, or overly soft. I'm certain that that was what was intended, but for the life of me I cannot understand why.

Overall: This book is a great collection of photos and mini essays about the city we love and is streets ahead of any of the typical Bangkok souvenir pictures books that are so popular in local book stores. Put it this way, I liked it so much that I am going to hunt down the first one in the series, "Jakarta Inside Out" – and I have never even been to Jakarta!