Tom Vater

Tom Vater

Irreverent, informed and downright eclectic crime fiction and reportage from Southeast Asia and beyond

Tom Vater RSS Feed

Thailand’s Sacred Tattoos – A Secret Tradition Goes Global


My article in this month’s InDepth Magazine on Thailand’s Sacred Tattoos with images by Aroon Thaewchatturat, co-author and photographer of Sacred Skin – Thailand’s Spirit Tattoos, the first English language book to look at Sak Yant.

On a sultry Monday morning, Ajarn Neng Onnut’s studio, known locally as a samnak, which sits tucked away in a quiet back street on the eastern outskirts Bangkok, is packed. Monday is the most auspicious day for women to see a tattoo master and to receive a sak yant, a sacred tattoo. The visitors believe that the tattoos will afford them protection from accidents or enemies, increase their attractiveness, help them get rich, or simply calm their troubled minds.
For Thai men, this tradition goes back hundreds of years. For women, it’s a sign of changing times….

Read the full story here….


Burmese Light reviewed at Woasis


Burmese Light, the beautiful illustrated book by photographer Hans Kemp with a text by myself, gets a great review at Woasis this week.

“…both a wonderful introduction to as well as a useable memoir of a country that is increasingly the focus of travelers seeking to explore a world less traveled.”

Read the full review here.


burmese light cover

New Titles from Crime Wave Press


Upcoming titles from Crime Wave Press, Asia’s crime fiction imprint, for this spring!

We’re excited.

An Asian Crime Wave – Crime Wave Press & Detective Maier in Publisher’s Weekly


My creation Detective Maier and my publishing house Crime Wave Press and several of its authors get a great plug in Publisher’s Weekly.

Thanks to Lenny Picker. Check out his story ‘An Asian Crime Wave’ on pages 26 and 27.

As Lenny reports, Detective Maier will be back in The Monsoon Ghost Image later this year.  I am three chapters from the end, the third and last part in the trilogy is set in Thailand in 2003 and I am super excited to close in on the end of Maier’s most explosive case yet.

Meanwhile my publishing house Crime Wave Press is lining up five new titles this spring. We are entering into a new relationship with UK distributor Kodansha and we are very excited to have a new PR Manager, Henry Roi, on board.  After closing down our submissions for some months due to a deluge of manuscripts we are now reading new material to find new exciting titles for the second half 0f 2016.


With writer Marco Ferrese in Penang, Malaysia


One of the great boons of being a writer is hanging out with other writers.

Here I am celebrating the dying hours of 2015 with my friend, writer Marco Ferrarese who is currently in the very enviable position of having had his bestselling debut novel NAZI GORENG banned in the country he dissects so effectively, hanging out in Penang, Malaysia.

Thanks to Laure Siegel for capturing the moment.

The Newar and their Tattoos

Another great story from Nepal by Laure Siegel with photos by Dom Pichard, Laure Siegel and myself. Published in French magazine Rise Tattoo back in July.

The Newar people have a unique tattoo tradition which only survives on a few old people in the Kathmandu valley, primarily in Bhaktapur today.  We visited Bhaktapur, a stunning UNESCO world heritage site, a couple of days before the Nepal earthquake in April which destroyed some of the architecture we photographed and killed many of the inhabitants of this beautiful city, half museum, half living heart of Newar culture.

newar1   newar2

newar3   newar4


Mohan Gurung – Nepal’s Tattooist Extraordinaire

My story on Mohan Gurung, one of Nepal’s greatest tattoo artists and an incredibly kind and generous man to boot.

I interviewed Mohan both before and after the Nepal earthquake which coincided with Nepal’s fifth international tattoo convention in late April.

Not a day goes by when I don’t think about the quake and the country I love and have been visiting since the mid 90s. Virtually none of the donor  money has reached the Nepalis and in recent weeks India has been blocking the Nepal Indian border. The much larger neighbor is showing its displeasure of Nepal’s new constitution. Kerosene and medical supplies keep running out in the Kathmandu valley. Such a pity this beautiful small Himalayan country is so harshly punished twice in one year.

Published in French in RISE TATTOO Magazine in July. Click on the images to read the full story.

mohan1   mohan2

mohan3   mohan4

mohan5   mohan6

Kota Kinabalu Tattoo Convention


Uff, the year is almost done and it’s been busy. I am still juggling several assignments and have just arrived in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, to cover the city’s first international tattoo convention here with journalists Laure Siegel and Dom Pichard for the very excellent French magazine RISE TATTOO.

Really looking forward to the coming days as I will not only get a chance to meet a great bunch of contemporary tattoo artists from Borneo and beyond but will also take a boat into the jungle in Sarawak to connect with the Iban minority to explore their traditional way of tattooing.

All of this thanks to the incredible Stef Ness from Strasbourg who invited me on this wonderful trip. Hopefully it will be a less dramatic experience than my last tattoo convention back in April in Kathmandu, Nepal, which was rudely interrupted by the terrible earthquake that hit the country. Onwards into 2016.

kk tattoo

The Daily Telegraph Bangkok Hotel Guide


I have completed a long term project for The Daily Telegraph, reviewing 20 or so luxury hotels in Bangkok. It’s been an intriguing assignment, stretching over several months with great insights into the hotel and restaurant business in the Thai capital.


Working with a host of PR staff has been a joy. Many of the hotel employees I encountered went out of their way to make the job a great experience. And some of the views from rooftops and hotel rooms have been stupendous and gave me a chance to see the city from a new perspective.

hotel3 hotel4

The Daily Telegraph Bangkok Hotel Guide is now online.


Moon Angkor Wat Reloaded – Second Edition out now


I have been busy promoting the new second edition of Moon Angkor Wat, published by Avalon Publishing in the US, which is out now.

Some of my thoughts on community tourism, gay and lesbian travelers, volunteering and travel photography in Cambodiacan be found here.