Ordering the Past:
In the early 1970s in Bangkok, you could not find a Thai greeting card for love or money. Dusty Hallmark cards and special-purpose Thai cards for funerals, weddings, birthday and New Year's greetings with designs that looked Euro-American could be found in some department stores. By the late 1980s, beautiful cards with greetings in Thai and English could be found in bookstores, often produced in limited numbers by charitable organizations. Cards selling for around $1.00 (US) each featured Thai women in traditional dress, in muted colours against idyllic rural backgrounds.
In 1996, on the outskirts of the night market at Hua Hin, a resort city in southern Thailand, tourists and Thais swarmed around vendors, selecting cards from among dozens of garish and elegant designs, bargaining for four or more cards for $1.00 (US). And the images! Thai classical dancers with their graceful upturned fingers, portions of old mural paintings showing women engaged in household tasks, beautiful children with topknots, women musicians in classical dress playing antique instruments, women carving fruit and vegetables into floral shapes, women wearing different versions of Thai dress – shoulders bared, one shoulder bared, modest high-necked jackets with long skirts, in all shades of sensuous looking silk with gold and gilt embellishments. A veritable feast of delectable commodities. Even women farmers transplanting rice in their conical hats looked graceful and full of joy. Flowers, jewels and silk – the gendered accoutrements of Thai beauty.
The visual appeal of Thailand attracts the eye and subverts the gaze from prostitution, pollution, poverty, and traffic jams. Thailand appeals