Talking Location With… Fiona Valpy – Casablanca
Short Stories set in Thailand plus top tips from the author (“This is Thailand. Fine lines are what we do best”)
14th March 2016
Selected Short Stories of Thailand by William Peskett, short stories set in Thailand.
When short stories are brought together, it can be a good way to channel hop through a culture and country. And this is just what William Peskett achieves in this collection. Whether it is a brief look at the personalities and lives of the ubiquitous market stall holders across the country, or the farang (western man/foreigner) who are similarly evident at all levels, or indeed some of the ordinary people who live and die in Thailand – he captures the colourful mix of culture and peoples.
And what of the sex industry with which Thailand is sadly so often equated? Yes, he does look at the bar culture, the bar-fining (prostitution is in fact illegal, but a bar customer can pay the bar for the privilege of having a bar girl accompany them) and the proclivities of some of those in search of the sexual thrill. However, it is tastefully explored and is more of a curiosity, delving at times into the world of sex change and lady boys.
But the stories are more than just a prurient exploration. Each story examines the relationships between people, often men and women, often jaded, people scamming and on the make. It is difficult to stave off pessimism at some of the relationship interactions, the disregard and lack of care that pervades many of the stories. Essentially the writing reflects the love affair that develops between those looking in on Thai life and the between the Thai people themselves – stoic, loving, exploitative and ultimately human.
The cover is eye-catching in both colour and theme, and leaves the potential reader in no doubt about where this book will take you. One small disappointment in my copy was that there is a map of “Story Locations in Thailand“. Unfortunately the printing is so fuzzy that it is difficult to determine many of the places. (However I understand from the author that this is now rectified in subsequent editions).
Peskett’s old schoolfriend, Robert Johnstone writes an acclamatory Foreword where he says from their early encounter aged 12: “I couldn’t have predicted then that fifty years later he [Peskett] would have written a body of short stories that took the lid off the encounter between Thailand and the West…” Very true.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
Over to author William Peskett for his Top Ten Tips for Thailand
- Don’t worry about the monsoon. People always ask, ‘When should we go?’ but it doesn’t really matter. In the rainy season it doesn’t rain every day and when it does rain it’s all over in half an hour or so. It’s hot all year round so you won’t need anything with long sleeves.
- Strike out on your own. There may be comfort in sticking with the tourist crowds, but there’s nothing scary about the rest of Thailand. Away from the main centres you’ll find better food and cheaper hotels and you’ll take home more memorable experiences.
- Learn a few words. Thais are not great linguists but at least they know it and generally feel bad about not speaking English. Thus, they won’t make you feel bad for not speaking Thai. Learn ‘hullo’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and brush up your sign language and you’ll do fine.
- Look both ways. Thailand’s roads are among the world’s riskiest. Human life is not valued in the way you’re used to, so look out—that zebra crossing was put there to look pretty, not to tell drivers to stop for pedestrians.
- Don’t expect everything to make sense. Thais do what they need to do to get by, which doesn’t always fit with a Western sense of what’s reasonable. Enjoy it. You don’t go to Thailand because it’s the same, but because it’s different.
- Know what you’re paying for. Upmarket restaurants are expensive because they have proper napkins and waiters in uniform. Often, you’ll find better food on the street or in grubby dives with dusty fans and plastic chairs.
- You like it hot? You may be used to spicy curries and think you like it hot, but Thai food in Thailand is in a different league. When they see you’re a foreigner they’ll probably tone it down for you anyway but, to be safe, start by asking for ‘pet nit noy’ –a little bit hot.
- Don’t be an idiot. Thais will judge you not by your looks but by your behaviour. They don’t respect public displays of anger or other emotion. Learn to ‘wai’ in greeting, thank everyone for everything and be quietly unassuming. If you do this, you’ll be considered a ‘high’ person..
- Tip sparingly. Your hotel may tell you that tipping is the done thing, but really it’s not. In restaurants and bars leaving 20 baht is normal, perhaps 50 in a posh place. Thais are quietly astounded by Americans who pay 15% on top of the bill. They don’t refuse, though.
- Save your crowns and fillings. OK, most people don’t want to spend part of their holiday in a dentist’s chair, but tooth doctors in Thailand are good quality and very cheap so, if you’re contemplating major reconstruction work, having it done here could pay for your flight.
You can connect with William via his website.
For more books set in Thailand, simply click here – we feature many locales, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Koh Samet and many more……