the buffalo funeral: soundbites from a songbird in siam

the buffalo funeral soundbites from a songbird in siamAsia is exotic, quirky, bizarre, beautiful and above all completely captivating. In fact Ange Takats was so betwitched by Thailand during an Intrepid trip that it led her to many more amazing adventures throughout the region and eventually the writing of her very own book…

“It’s not every day that an Australian girl finds herself attending a funeral for a water buffalo in Thailand… but that’s exactly what happened when I took up a job as a foreign correspondent in Southeast Asia.

The buffalo’s name was Boonlert and his big dead body was hanging inside a shed in a remote Thai village, with fairy lights wrapped around his horns and flowers stuffed into his ears. There were Buddhist monks, draped in orange robes, praying in front of him when I arrived with my cameraman and the spectacle of that story proved to be so memorable that it inspired the title of my memoir: The Buffalo Funeral: Soundbites from a Songbird in Siam.

I was 22 years old when I quit my job in Sydney and moved to Bangkok… and I can thank an Intrepid trip for being the catalyst! I had fallen in love with the Land of Smiles during a life-changing hilltribe trek, four months prior, and decided I wanted to move there.

My parents weren’t exactly sold on the idea (I think my father’s words were: “Why don’t you move to London like all the other Aussie girls?”) but I was determined and after several weeks of emailing the major media organisations, I had secured myself a job with an international news company.

Little did I know that my new gig would involve running from rockets at a rainmaking festival, interviewing heroin addicts in Hanoi, being chased by a tiger in a Buddhist monastery, witnessing a drug bust in the hills of Northern Thailand, and having my breasts massaged with Tiger Balm whilst filming a story about Thai boob jobs!

It was during my time in Asia that I was sent to cover the most significant story of my career – the release from house arrest of Burmese Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2002. I feel so blessed to have been in Burma on such an historical day and to have had the chance to interview a truly remarkable woman.

Strangely enough, it was in Thailand that I was also able to pursue my passion for music. I landed a second job as a singer in a folk rock band and spent my weekends drinking sweet Thai whisky and performing old hippie songs with some of Bangkok’s finest musicians. The guys in my band not only taught me a hell of a lot about singing, but they became my family, and showed me a magical side of Bangkok that I never would have discovered on my own.”

Ange Takats is a Queensland-based songwriter, journalist and first-time author of The Buffalo Funeral: Soundbites from a Songbird in Siam. For more information and to view Ange’s travel gallery, go to

If a book has inspired you to travel or simply makes for great reading while on the road, please email – let us know a little of what it’s about plus an indication of the size, as we would love to hear your recommendation for a great backpack book!

You can check out other recommendations from Intrepid Express readers by clicking on the ‘books for your backpack’ travel theme in this blog or seeing the latest book reviews on the Intrepid travel website.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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Mick Hazelman sent Intrepid this great review of Ange Takat’s book:
“I read ‘The Buffalo Funeral’ while travelling through Vietnam recently…and it is an absolute cracker! It describes her placement as a journalist in Bangkok at a young age, and subsequent work assignments to regional Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. She captures the smells, chaos, hilarity and heartbreak of this incredible part of the world in an endearing, cleverly-self-deprecating way – and the book measures 200x130x25mm so it’s small and light enough to fit into any backpack. Oh yeah, and she’s an incredible songwriter with a voice that will blow the lid of your mind. Check it out at'

I’m a Thai and this book bring me another interesting side of Thailand which inspired me to explore more of my country. Great job!

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