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Bangkok Babylon: The Real-Life Exploits of Bangkok's Legendary Expatriates are often Stranger than Fiction

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In the colorful tradition of Hemingway's A Movable Feast, Jerry Hopkins recalls his first decade as a Bangkok expatriate by profiling 25 of the city's most unforgettable characters. Among them are the man thought to be the model for Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, an advertising executive who photographs Thai bargirls for Playboy, an Oscar-winning screenwriter who moved t In the colorful tradition of Hemingway's A Movable Feast, Jerry Hopkins recalls his first decade as a Bangkok expatriate by profiling 25 of the city's most unforgettable characters. Among them are the man thought to be the model for Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, an advertising executive who photographs Thai bargirls for Playboy, an Oscar-winning screenwriter who moved there to die, a Catholic priest who has lived and worked in the Bangkok slums for 35 years, a circus dwarf turned computer programmer turned restaurateur, three Vietnam war helicopter pilots who opened a go-go bar, a pianist at one of the world's best hotels who ended up on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list, a detective who tracks runaways who fake their deaths and a documentary filmmaker who lives with elephants. All of them "escaped" to Thailand to reinvent themselves and live out their fantasies in one of the world's most notorious cities.


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In the colorful tradition of Hemingway's A Movable Feast, Jerry Hopkins recalls his first decade as a Bangkok expatriate by profiling 25 of the city's most unforgettable characters. Among them are the man thought to be the model for Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, an advertising executive who photographs Thai bargirls for Playboy, an Oscar-winning screenwriter who moved t In the colorful tradition of Hemingway's A Movable Feast, Jerry Hopkins recalls his first decade as a Bangkok expatriate by profiling 25 of the city's most unforgettable characters. Among them are the man thought to be the model for Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, an advertising executive who photographs Thai bargirls for Playboy, an Oscar-winning screenwriter who moved there to die, a Catholic priest who has lived and worked in the Bangkok slums for 35 years, a circus dwarf turned computer programmer turned restaurateur, three Vietnam war helicopter pilots who opened a go-go bar, a pianist at one of the world's best hotels who ended up on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list, a detective who tracks runaways who fake their deaths and a documentary filmmaker who lives with elephants. All of them "escaped" to Thailand to reinvent themselves and live out their fantasies in one of the world's most notorious cities.

30 review for Bangkok Babylon: The Real-Life Exploits of Bangkok's Legendary Expatriates are often Stranger than Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Christian

    Entertaining and short

  2. 5 out of 5

    Clint Browning

    Enjoyed "meeting" a most interesting group of people Enjoyed "meeting" a most interesting group of people

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ben Mokaya

    Some profiles are fascinating, some are downright dull. I guess the writers voice isn’t spicy enough to capture your attention throughout the entire book. My best profile? Jumbo Shrimp

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sara Patrin

    There is a lot of good in Jerry Hopkins' Bangkok Babylon. He sheds some (dim, bar-lit) light onto the shenanigans of some of Bangkok's more notorious expats. Some of those stories are kind, sweet stories that have or almost have happy endings. Some of the stories are darker, less optimistic, and part of what you might imagine lurks in the shadows of a Bangkok alley. Both kinds of stories show pieces of expat life in Bangkok. What's more interesting to note, however, is that Bangkok Babylon profil There is a lot of good in Jerry Hopkins' Bangkok Babylon. He sheds some (dim, bar-lit) light onto the shenanigans of some of Bangkok's more notorious expats. Some of those stories are kind, sweet stories that have or almost have happy endings. Some of the stories are darker, less optimistic, and part of what you might imagine lurks in the shadows of a Bangkok alley. Both kinds of stories show pieces of expat life in Bangkok. What's more interesting to note, however, is that Bangkok Babylon profiles a particular kind of expat story--male, of a certain age, of similar national background, and having certain proclivities (or lack thereof). As far as this particular perspective goes, I imagine it's as good as any but to think that this book give a broad perspective on expat life in Bangkok is to be barking up the wrong klong. If you're looking for a picture of a particular kind of Thailand expat, mostly living in Bangkok in the '70s, '80s, and '90s, this might be a good place to start.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    This book is a collection of stories that the author has picked out from individuals he has met and befriended during his time in Bangkok. The stories are interesting to read because most of the people he writes about are from America who have come to Thailand or Bangkok to get away from all the values and upbringings of the USA for a lifestyle of more seclusion and ease. The night life consists of drinking in bars and leaving with a either a new or same prostitute. The prostitution industry is This book is a collection of stories that the author has picked out from individuals he has met and befriended during his time in Bangkok. The stories are interesting to read because most of the people he writes about are from America who have come to Thailand or Bangkok to get away from all the values and upbringings of the USA for a lifestyle of more seclusion and ease. The night life consists of drinking in bars and leaving with a either a new or same prostitute. The prostitution industry is big there and drives most of the businesses, as is interesting to learn about. Most bar owners also have a Mama who is hired to manage the girls and part of the bar itself. The cover is a good depiction of life there because its all about drinking and women. The women are beautiful and plentiful. For the most who end up there, many are trying to get away and hide from a past life and some are just looking for adventure. If you want to read about interesting and exciting lives, then this is the book to pick up. Enjoy!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Karl Arney

    I quite enjoyed a lot of this - it's a bit front-loaded, but that made for all kinds of memorable and wild stuff in my early time with it. There are some truly ridiculous tales recounted here, and some memorable characters to be sure (he leads off with a serious whopper, and then there's the slum priest, who becomes a recurring force of good throughout, the guy who swam the river to free his girlfriend, etc) That said, it all starts to run thin and feel a bit same-y by the home stretch - the stor I quite enjoyed a lot of this - it's a bit front-loaded, but that made for all kinds of memorable and wild stuff in my early time with it. There are some truly ridiculous tales recounted here, and some memorable characters to be sure (he leads off with a serious whopper, and then there's the slum priest, who becomes a recurring force of good throughout, the guy who swam the river to free his girlfriend, etc) That said, it all starts to run thin and feel a bit same-y by the home stretch - the stories (generally) become less remarkable, and I got tired of reading so many stories about old white dudes with young local girlfriends. I generally would have liked a tad more diversity in the range of people covered, age very much included. I get that Hopkins was writing about people he knew or moved in similar circles too, but it just added to the mounting disinterest I had as it went on.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paul Glanting

    While this book has some occasionally interesting insights into travel and "escape", my primary gripe with this book is that it's sold as some kind of risqué, wild-&-crazy examination of expatriates in Bangkok. Therefore, I was expecting explorations of depravity and subsequent reflections on why Thailand provided an outlet. However, this memoir is essentially one romanticized hippie narrative after another. I'd argue many people who decided to read this book were hoping for tales of vice, not j While this book has some occasionally interesting insights into travel and "escape", my primary gripe with this book is that it's sold as some kind of risqué, wild-&-crazy examination of expatriates in Bangkok. Therefore, I was expecting explorations of depravity and subsequent reflections on why Thailand provided an outlet. However, this memoir is essentially one romanticized hippie narrative after another. I'd argue many people who decided to read this book were hoping for tales of vice, not just, what felt like, hyperbolic tales of altruism and entrepreneurial acumen. Further, this book could benefit from alternative perspectives(e.g. a female expatriate, a Thai native who befriends expatriates, etc.). Finally, the syntax felt a bit sloppy. The way the book was written doesn't feel cohesive nor does it flow.

  8. 4 out of 5

    William Graney

    This book didn’t give the in depth look at life in Thailand for the expat that I was hoping for. Instead it was more of a brief biography on numerous individuals who happened to settle in Thailand. The fact that they were in Thailand seemed to play a very small role in the telling of the stories. Some of the people who were profiled were interesting to read about, others weren’t. The reasons for “why Thailand” were only briefly touched upon and to me that would have been among the most interesti This book didn’t give the in depth look at life in Thailand for the expat that I was hoping for. Instead it was more of a brief biography on numerous individuals who happened to settle in Thailand. The fact that they were in Thailand seemed to play a very small role in the telling of the stories. Some of the people who were profiled were interesting to read about, others weren’t. The reasons for “why Thailand” were only briefly touched upon and to me that would have been among the most interesting aspects of a book like this. In summary, my opinion is that the book doesn’t have much to offer in either the Thai-vibe department or on why these people were drawn there.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alexi Lawless

    This book was... let's just say I can absolutely see it as a gritty set of vignettes directed by Guy Ritchie. Thailand in and of itself is an insane ride. Anyone who's spent any meaningful time in Bangkok knows what an acid trip that place can be. But the antics in this short, snappy read were hilarious, disturbing and probably totally real. I think it'll be a tough read for someone unfamiliar with Southeast Asia. It requires a certain field knowledge to really "get", but it's a definite recomme This book was... let's just say I can absolutely see it as a gritty set of vignettes directed by Guy Ritchie. Thailand in and of itself is an insane ride. Anyone who's spent any meaningful time in Bangkok knows what an acid trip that place can be. But the antics in this short, snappy read were hilarious, disturbing and probably totally real. I think it'll be a tough read for someone unfamiliar with Southeast Asia. It requires a certain field knowledge to really "get", but it's a definite recommend.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Juha

    Having heard about this book, I got it when I saw it on the street near my home for $1. Hopkins is a former Rolling Stone reporter who's lived in Thailand for years. This is a collection of biographical sketches on people he's met there, many in bars. Most are foreigners and Americans. Some stories are amusing, even interesting, some lives amazing. On the whole, they didn't really interest me enough. Hopkins' writing is fine, but surprisingly bland for a journalist from such a background. Having heard about this book, I got it when I saw it on the street near my home for $1. Hopkins is a former Rolling Stone reporter who's lived in Thailand for years. This is a collection of biographical sketches on people he's met there, many in bars. Most are foreigners and Americans. Some stories are amusing, even interesting, some lives amazing. On the whole, they didn't really interest me enough. Hopkins' writing is fine, but surprisingly bland for a journalist from such a background.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    This is a relatively fun, brainless, and kind of skeevy read. The author does a nice job of portraying a whacked out range of characters: namely expats who hang out with the bar girls in Bangkok. These are all interesting characters, especially the possible real-life Colonel Kurtz. The book is a little creepy too, since the author is clearly one of those kinds of expats as well who settled in Thailand and married one of those bar girls.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stefano

    An interesting collection of some of the most (in)famous Bangkok's expats. Very readable even if some of the characters are not so special and probably didn't deserve a place in this collection. A good introduction to the expat community in Thailand. An interesting collection of some of the most (in)famous Bangkok's expats. Very readable even if some of the characters are not so special and probably didn't deserve a place in this collection. A good introduction to the expat community in Thailand.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Not exactly high lit here, writing's passable, but it does reveal interesting people who end up in Bangkok. All men who were drifters and came to Thailand when it was "on the cusp" and have made a life for themselves here, usually with a Thai girlfriend in tow. Not exactly high lit here, writing's passable, but it does reveal interesting people who end up in Bangkok. All men who were drifters and came to Thailand when it was "on the cusp" and have made a life for themselves here, usually with a Thai girlfriend in tow.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Boozy

    I read this on the way home from Thailand. Interesting read. Although the stories of the expats were sometimes funny, most ended on a down note with them dying of liver failure, alone and without anything.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Saturday's Child

    A collection of stories about why some expatriates choose to live in Bangkok, it makes for an interesting read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    interesting...author is kind of a blowhard though...too cool for school

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christine Fears

    The second half of the book made me want to sell everything I own and leave on a lifelong adventure around the world!! Maybe soon :)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Randolph Breschini

    Interesting and quick read...Several short stories about Bangkok expatriates!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    An interesting and entertaining collection of tales and characters, mostly expats in Thailand.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Martin K

  21. 5 out of 5

    John

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gwendalyn Mae Skipper

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rafal

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dave Hinchliffe

  25. 4 out of 5

    Peter

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nick

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jacques

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bo

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mark Mulvey

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