Finding the Heart of Bangkok and Sharing It with Everyone
I’d lived for years in Bangkok and walked through many of its neighborhoods. I thought I knew the city, until I picked up Eric Lim’s Tour Bangkok Legacies. Now I’m reading as fast as I can, realizing how much new territory I have to explore in a city that has so much that I’ve yet to see.
Few people know Bangkok as well as Mr Lim does. He has learned to speak Thai fluently, has steeped himself in its history, and has made it his life’s work to cover every inch of Thailand’s capital city. Generously and skillfully, he has shared what he’s learned so far in a book that is informative and fun to read too.
From its birth out of the ashes of the sacked city of Ayutthaya through the turbulent centuries that followed, Mr. Lim chronicles the growth of a city he clearly loves, while tracking down surviving remnants of the history that has shaped it.
Beginning with the Chinese village that was displaced when Thailand’s king moved his seat of power to the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Mr. Lim takes us to its modern day site that is now Chinatown. This confusing and mesmerizing part of Bangkok isn’t just its oldest neighborhood—it is the one in which strangers are absolutely guaranteed to get lost. Fortunately, with this book travelers can find their way through the labyrinthine lanes or soi to find markets, temples, shrines, and food, as well as the history that is the underpinning of it all. Scrupulous directions lead the way, along with information that links this area to the present day. I’ve spent a lot of time in this area, but never under the guidance of Eric Lim. Soon, very soon…
Bangkok’s temples are dazzling, but the stories behind them and the murals within add a dimension that casual sightseers may miss. Mr. Lim provides the background and the knowledge that fleshes out the time spent in the city’s wats—and churches too, of which there are a surprising number, each one conveying a fascinating history.
Museums of all kinds abound in Bangkok, from the famous to the idiosyncratic. They’re as hidden as they are numerous, but with this book anybody can find the one that suits them best. Dolls? Stamps? Or a collection of Thai houses, each containing the tools and crafts of a bygone time?
Perhaps my favorite part is the section on contemporary Thai artists and craftsmen. Mr. Lim has found bamboo flute-makers, artists who create traditional Thai masks for classical performances, bronzesmiths, and a man who carves soap into flowers, fruit, and mythical creatures.
He ends with journeys to the farthest corners of the city he loves, going to Bangkok’s only seafront, an ancient market that now sells art, and the city’s newest floating market whose customer base contains few foreigners—or at least not until readers of this book arrive. The final adventure is a trip on a city canal that is still part of its past, another facet of Bangkok that I can’t wait to explore.
Bangkok often gets a bad rap from tourists who never get beyond the over-touted areas. With this guidebook in hand, travelers can discover the heart of one of Asia’s most entrancing cities—and residents can find places they never dreamed had existed.
Eric Lim continues his discoveries on his website http://www.tour-bangkok-legacies.com/
He also publishes an e-zine called Bangkok Travelbug which can be found here http://www.tour-bangkok-legacies.com/bangkok-travelbug.html
(reviewed 3 days after purchase)