We speak today to Simon Landy MBE, a long term resident of Thailand, highly successful real estate executive and property expert plus the author of The King and the Consul (River Books), a recent non-fiction history about the events surrounding the signing of the Bowring Treaty in 1855.
by Leonard H. Le Blanc III
When did you first come to Thailand?
I first came to Thailand in 1980. I was working in Singapore and came for a break. My most vivid memory is of travelling to Chiang Mai, getting very drunk with the hostel owner and agreeing to go the very next morning on a four day hilltribe trek. It was a wonderful experience, only marred by my lack of suitable footwear. I bought the largest trainers I could find in a shop in Fang. But they were two sizes too small and I ended up with gangrene of the foot. That experience somehow inspired me to apply for jobs (and accept one) in Bangkok as soon as I got back there.
What has changed here the most and the least?
Bangkok for both. I don’t share the nostalgic whingeing for an imaginary utopian Bangkok in the past that some people have. Perhaps I’m just too young! As long as I have known the city, it’s been a noisy, polluted, traffic jammed, chaotic and sometimes violent city that is simultaneously colourful, vibrant, exciting and even charming. One big change is air conditioned cars. The traffic is as bad or worse than before, but now drivers aren’t sweating at interminable red traffic lights, leaning on their horns and cursing the world in general and the vehicle in front of them in particular.
What got you interested in writing your latest book?
It was the sale and demolition of the British Embassy on the corner of Wireless and Ploenchit roads. Looking at the history of that site led me to the story of how the British were granted land on the river in Bangrak by King Mongkut in the 1850s. I felt that the little known story of intrigue and human tragedy that lay behind that gift needed to be told. Plus, it had a gruesome death! And for me it also shed a fascinating light on the history of property rights in Thailand that explained issues that had always puzzled me in my day job in property.
What do you do for enjoyment?
Covid has taught us to either enjoy the simpler pleasures of family, reading and Netflix or go bonkers. If the world were to return to what we used to consider normal, my wife and I would probably be travelling more and doing more of those cultural activities that we used to enjoy, although, weirdly, we might miss the predictability and equilibrium of lockdown life a little.
Where are your favourite places to visit?
We love to travel just about anywhere in Europe and Asia. In the former, Tuscany would have to be at or near the top; in the latter, it’s hard to beat upcountry Thailand. During lockdowns, my favourite place to visit is the kitchen.
Can you tell us about your family?
I have a small family. My daughter, Salisa, is married to Patrick and they have a young daughter, Raya. They live in Thailand, so my wife, Napaporn (Ad), and I try to spend as much time as possible here.
What are your favourite foods to eat?
I’m not a fussy eater, so can enjoy most cuisines. In Thailand, it’s hard to beat a great bowl of noodles for lunch and spicy curries (kaeng liang, kaeng tai pla) with jasmine rice, but I try to eat fewer carbs these days so often end up with a Mediterranean wrap or Japanese food.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to move to Thailand to live?
I don’t – have advice, that is. There are few things as irritating as some old fart dispensing generalised wisdom from personal experience. On second thoughts, I would advise getting the right visa.
What do you see in the future for yourself?
I see great fame and riches when my book hits the top of international best seller lists, a contract to turn it into a mini series for a global streaming platform and a series of follow on projects that would rival the Harry Potter and James Bond franchises for popularity. At least that’s what I think the mor du said.