SSoP Podcast Episode 34 — Thailand: Come for the Food, Stay for the Spiritual Enlightenment

SSoP Podcast Episode 34 — Thailand: Come for the Food, Stay for the Spiritual Enlightenment

Monday, 9 May, 2022

Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand is 100-percent situated in the tropics. It’s hot and humid and, sometimes, there’s torrential rain. The capital city of Bangkok is a cacophony of color and humanity: traffic jams, food markets, flocks of monks in saffron-colored robes, temple spires, and gaudy neon. And all of that only enhances its appeal.

Thailand is blessed with otherworldly beauty. From the hills and forests in the north to the terraced rice fields in the central plains, it seems to embody every imaginable shade of green. But hit the coasts, and the colors explode into other rainbow colors: fuchsia flowers, aquamarine waters, red-brown rock formations, and blindingly-white sand beaches.

That vibrancy is reflected in the food (colorful, spicy), the people (friendly, Buddhist), the wildlife (diverse, majestic), and all the activities they invite you to try: hiking, cooking, snorkeling, splashing, eating, drinking, living.

In this episode, we discuss how a trip to Thailand will engage all your senses, get hungry for Thai food, learn about a jewelry heist for the ages, talk about a giant Buddha, and daydream about Bangkok. We also recommend five great books that transported us there on the page, including a tragi-comic coming-of-age story, a dreamy family saga, a gritty crime novel set in Bangkok, a fresh look at Buddhism, and a cookbook that’s really a travelogue.


Read the full transcript of Thailand: Come for the Food, Stay for the Spiritual Enlightenment.

The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth

buy | read review

Why Buddhism is True

buy | read review

Thai Street Food

buy | read review

Bangkok 8

buy | read review

Jasmine Nights

buy | read review

other books we mentioned


other cool stuff we talked about

Let’s set the scene:

Here are a few shots of Bangkok…

bangkok skyline at night
Bangkok skyline. Photo courtesy of Vitalijs Barilo/Unsplash.
monks in orange robes walking around the grand palace in bangkok on a sunny day
The Grand Palace in Bangkok. Photo courtesy of Euan Cameron/Unsplash.
people in canoes on the canal in bangkok
On the canal in Bangkok. Photo courtesy of Frida Aguilar Estrada/Unsplash.

… and rice fields.

green terraced rice fields in chiang mai thailand
Rice fields near Chiang Mai. Photo courtesy of David Gardiner/Unsplash.

… and the beach.

wooden boats with colorful flags sitting on the sand at phra nang beach
Phra Nang Beach. Photo courtesy of Sumit Chinchane/Unsplash.

thailand 101

  • As we discussed in the show, Thai is a tonal language. This is an excellent explanation with samples of how the tones sound.
a sandstone buddha head wrapped in the roots of a banyan tree in wat mahathat thailand
Wat Mahathat temple in Thailand. Photo courtesy of weichen_kh/flickr.
  • Finally, consider a khantoke dinner in Chiang Mai so you can try the cuisine of northern Thailand.

previous episodes we mentioned

two truths and a lie

  • Statement 1: In Thailand, the traditional way to greet a new baby is to say, ‘Welcome to the world, little one. I will show you the way.’ Get the real scoop on what Thais say to welcome a new baby right here.

  • Statement 2: In 1989, a Thai janitor started an international incident that reverberates even today. Learn more about the dramatic Blue Diamond Affair from The Daily Beast, Wikipedia, and The BBC.

  • Statement 3: The largest gold object in the world is in Thailand. For 20 years, it was stored in a tin shack. Feast your eyes on the Golden Buddha.

  • Veeraporn Nitiprapha is the author of The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth. Here’s a Q&A with her in English on ElectricLit, and a video in Thai so you can put her face to her name.
  • Robert Wright is the author of Why Buddhism is True. In this interview, he shares what he learned while writing his book.

  • And here’s the Tweet that Dave mentioned in the show:

  • David Thompson is the author of the cookbook Thai Street Food. The Guardian shares his recipes for Grilled Pork Skewers, Pat Thai, Stir-fried minced beef with chiles and holy basil, and more. If you’re a visual learner, we’ve got you covered:
  • John Burdett is the author of Bangkok 8, the first book in the Royal Thai Detective Series. Here are two interviews — one short, one long — in which he talks about his affection for Thailand and the inspiration for his detective character.



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Top image courtesy of Heidi Kaden/Unsplash.

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There are so many reasons to visit Thailand: dazzling cityscapes and peaceful countryside, vibrant food markets and serene temples, peaceful boats and nighttime scooter rides under Bangkok's neon. Take a look.

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