Tourist guides are essential travel companions to help us navigate the unfamiliar. We trust them implicitly to give us sage advice, to identify the key places to visit in an often constrained amount of time and to present a city or region in a way that supports our quest for discovery. In many ways they represent the view of a place that we perceive rather than the place itself because it’s such a strong filter. It’s also a difficult job for a cartographer to determine what to include or exclude because they’re effectively making choices that thousands and more will follow blindly.
The best maps and guides become well known for their accuracy and utility and the more a product is revered the more we trust it. This applies to Nancy Chandler’s maps of Bangkok. They are unique. They don’t necessarily give you the top attractions but that is entirely the point. Since the first edition in 1974 right up to the current 26th edition they provide a rich window on the quirky and unique places to eat, drink and visit. And they do it in style with a fantastic colour scheme and hand drawn approach. The colours give the map a unique aesthetic that somehow captures the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. They make the map sing and dance and give the reader a sense of colour, vibrancy and excitement. In support of a product for tourists this is great cartography.
The double-sided map splits Bangkok into sections and the central shopping areas. The information is detailed on all sorts of museums, restaurants, hotels, galleries, temples and many other features. There’s copious text which acts to annotate locations. Without the text there would be a great deal of white space but that simply evidences the judicious editing and careful selection of the content. This map highlights a very personal geography but one that many people identify with. The map has become a staple companion for countless people who visit and has become part of the excitement of the city itself.
Making a tourist map that becomes part of the enjoyment of the tourist experience itself is an achievement. This map certainly holds a special place for visitors to Bangkok.
You can see more of Chandler’s work and other maps at her web site here.