Are you planning your trip to Bangkok? Do you want to learn more about Thai history and culture? Here are some of the best novels and non-fiction books so that you can delve into this wonderful city!
The well-known city of Bangkok also called “The City of Angels”, but officially called Krung Thep Mahanakhon, is the capital and the main city of Thailand, a country located in Southeast Asia.
Over the last two hundred years, Bangkok has grown to become the political, social, and economic center of Thailand. Its influence on art, politics, fashion, education, and entertainment, as well as business, has given Bangkok the status of a global city.
It is a setting where the modern, the traditional, and the chaotic are mixed, giving rise to one of the most famous metropolises in the world.
If you have intentions to travel to Thailand, more specifically to Bangkok, these are some activities that you don’t want to miss:
- Street Food: Bangkok offers travelers a mind-boggling variety of light bites and cheap eats on literally every corner. The air of the city is soaked with smells and flavors of all kinds.
- Chatuchak Weekend Market: Possibly the largest open-air market in Asia.
- Wat Pho: A 16th-century shrine that houses a magnificent 46m-long reclining Buddha sculpture adorned with gold and mother-of-pearl.
- Wat Phra Kaew and The Grand Palace: The ground was consecrated in 1782, and today is the city’s main tourist attraction and a pilgrimage center for devout Buddhists and nationalists.
So, if you like big cities, you will surely enjoy this one!
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Novels and Fiction set in Bangkok
The sad part was by Prabda Yoon
Translated by Mui Poopoksakul
Are you a short story lover? Then The Sad Part Was might just be the right choice for you.
Prabda Yoon is a Thai writer, novelist, filmmaker, artist, graphic designer, magazine editor, screenwriter, and media personality. He is also a Thai to English-translator.
This collection offers twelve stories about grief, friendships, the differences and difficulties between rural and city life, as well as memories of growing up. However, you’ll also find here sci-fi stories and even read about vampires.
It’s a good book that will not fail to help you understand modern life in Bangkok that are often at odds with many traditional Thai ideas on family, relationships, work, and school.
Married to the Demon King: Sri Daoruang and Her Demon Folk by Susan Fulop Kepner
The volume is ingeniously built around six short stories called “Tales of the Demon Folk” by Sri Daoruang, one of Thailand’s leading fiction writers. These stories are based on the Thai National epic Ramakian.
This humorous tale explores the secrets of modern marriage life and deals with various themes such as love, jealousy, laziness, and of course humor. Is a superbly funny tale inspired by an ancient epic and is set in contemporary Thailand.
The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth by Veeraporn Nitiprapha
Translated by Kong Rithdee
If you love romance novels then you’ll love this beautifully written melodrama about a shipwrecked relationship. The story follows Chareeya and her sister as they grow up in a beautiful riverside town near Bangkok.
On the day when Chareeya was born her mother found out that her father had an affair and this betrayal will forever change all of their lives.
The culmination of the story comes as none of the three main characters prove able to exit safely from the intertwined labyrinth of their fates.
The author’s lyrical prose is enchanting: the book is filled with the colors, sounds, and fragrances of Thailand. This romantic story will introduce you to modern Thailand as well as its myths and ancient customs.
Four Reigns by Kukrit Pramoj
Translated by Tulachandra
This classic novel is essential reading for anyone interested in the literature of Thailand and is the second book on our list by Kukrit Pramoj.
Four Reigns tells the rich and entertaining story of the life of Phloi and her family, both inside and outside palace walls. The story begins in the early 1800s and ends in the mid-1940s.
As she grows up and lives her life through the reigns of kings Rama V to Rama VIII, she witnesses the social and political changes in the country leading to and following the abolishment of absolute monarchy in 1932, the growing Japanese presence in Thailand, the outbreak of World War II, and the Allied bombing raids on Bangkok.
The novel covers Phloi’s childhood, her teenage years and first love, her marriage, motherhood, widowhood, and death.
Bangkok Wakes To Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad
If you’re wondering about what’s it like to live in Bangkok then you’ll love this beautiful novel that shows a brand new side of this ancient city.
All of the characters of this novel connect with Bangkok, or what Bangkok once was, in a meaningful way.
The book contains many separate stories of different characters so that the chapters flow back and forth between different centuries and disparate individuals. The distinct stories begin to merge as the narrative progresses so that the city of Bangkok itself becomes a point in common.
Some of these characters include a doctor and an engineer working for a 19th-century Christian mission, a student lover lost in the 1976 October massacre at Thammasat University, an American jazz pianist relocated to postwar Bangkok, a Thai photographer wandering the globe, an upper-class family at the Thai embassy in London, among others.
The end of the book illustrates the fear of many for Bangkok’s inevitable future. Between haunting and compelling, Bangkok Wakes to Rain depicts the way both locals and foreigners have come to love Bangkok.
Many Lives by Kukrit Pramoj
This novel, set in Bangkok in 1950, tells the story of eleven people who lost their lives in a boating accident. Eleven lives, all different in duration and character, but almost all of them are drenched in tragedy.
In the story, we get to know the characters from their birth to their early death, and also some complex emotions about Thai society and its values.
It is a moving and charming story, you will not want to stop reading it until the end.
A Woman of Bangkok by Jack Reynolds
A classic of Thai fiction, the novel is set in the 1950s. This is the story of a young Englishman’s infatuation with a ballroom hostess named Vilai, who is known throughout Bangkok as The White Leopard.
Vilai becomes for him an obsession, an obsession that brings Reggie moments of ecstasy, months of anguish, and the threat of total disaster.
Non-fiction books about Bangkok
Bangkok Days by Lawrence Osborne
Bangkok Days is a love letter to the city that revived Osborne’s faith in adventure and the world.
An interesting reflection on the city, the author takes the reader to hidden corners of the city, and generally writes well observed and well-written travelogue – a must to gain another dimension to understanding Bangkok. This is excellent travel writing: witty and insightful.
Lonely Planet Bangkok (Travel Guide) by Austin Bush
This book was written by Westerners who have lived in Thailand for years, and they share everything you need to know before visiting Bangkok.
Lonely Planet’s Bangkok is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. This isn’t just a list of temples and restaurants to go see, it’s a true guide to every level of experience you could want to have in Bangkok.
A book packed with illustrated maps and color images, including prices, itineraries, honest reviews of accommodation, restaurants, and a shopping guide so you can tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests.
A Secret History of the Bangkok Hilton by Chavoret Jaruboon
The story behind this prison is captivating and Jaruboon has done a wonderful job of researching and describing it in his book.
Bang Kwang Prison is one of the most notorious penal institutions in the world. It is located seven miles north of the city of Bangkok and houses more than 8,000 inmates. Prisoners outnumber guards at 50 to 1.
Until now, the reality of life inside Bang Kwang has remained a secret. If you want to understand Bang Kwang, his guards, prisoners, and his unwritten rules, you must read this book.
Vanishing Bangkok: The Changing Face of the City by Ben Davies
This stunning black and white photographic book takes us on a journey through the forgotten backstreets and hidden neighborhoods of Bangkok revealing the beauty and faded charm of the city that is about to disappear forever beneath the tidal wave of development.
It evokes a city that despite successive waves of modernization still boasts an extraordinarily rich and diverse cultural heritage.
Children’s books set in Bangkok
Bangkok: City of Angels by Marisha Wojciechowska
Super fun and engaging activity book to learn a lot about Bangkok and the culture of the Thai people! There are 28 pages of games, educational puzzles, and fun, for children 6 to 12 years.
Brightly illustrated pages brimming with activities to explore culture and customs, some history, sites of interest, food, language, and much more.
Aya & Bobby Discover Thailand: Land of Smiles by Christina Kristoffersson Ameln
A perfect and entertaining book if you want children to learn about Thai culture!
Aya and Bobby are siblings who love discovering and traveling to new places. They learn so much when they’re away. On this adventure to Thailand, Aya and Bobby discover the bustling city of Bangkok traveling by Tuk Tuk and long-tail boat.
They also spend time on one of the gorgeous beaches of Thailand and enjoy the activities and sites with ice cream, shark spotting, and making new friends.
B Is for Bangkok by Janet Brown
It is a bilingual English/Thai book for children ages 5-8. It tells the story of a boy who explores one of the most magical places in the world, Bangkok.
The readers explore the traditions and culture of the capital such as riding to school on a ferry, eating fried bananas and coconut cakes for breakfast, buying fruits and flowers for the spirit house at home, playing in Lumpini Park, and more.
What Are Some Of Your Favorite Books In Bangkok?
Have you read any of these books set in Bangkok? Do you know some great books that I’ve missed? What is your favorite book set in Bangkok? I’d love to hear your thoughts on your favorites in the comments below!
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