Before everyone was tweeting every aspect of their environment, there was a time when all expats in Thailand knew of Nancy Chandler. This was before the internet when the only resource for information on Thailand was a Lonely Planet guidebook or possibly Moon’s Southeast Asia Handbook. Few farang women were a part of Bangkok life and even fewer embraced the disorganized and dense street life.
Against this backdrop, Chandler’s take on the Thai environment was a revelation. Her delightful maps cataloged every notable food stall and picturesque alley. She reveled in the disorganization of the urban environment. Her maps were a required purchase for the visitor to Thailand and allowed one to appreciate all the city had to offer.
The maps were the equivalent of tweeting or blogging today–pointing out the little unique details of the environment that would never appear on a “proper” map. These boldly colored maps were works of art on a human scale that stood in contrast to typical maps bent on rigidly documenting streets and borders.
As the years passed, Chandler’s groundbreaking style of map-making—maps that enable a walking human to discover other interesting human-scale things in an environment—was copied in many tourist maps around the world and may not seem particularly novel any longer.
But once, it was thrilling to be in Thailand, a completely alien world practically devoid of intelligible information, and crack open the latest Chandler map to find that another person loved the chaos and peculiarities of the Thai landscape as much as you did.