Visid Hongsombud makes maps for a living, and many consider him Thailand's finest cartographer. Aged 49, Visid hails from Sisaket in Isarn. He attended the University of Louisville, Ohio State and Eastern Kentucky Universities in the U.S.A., before graduating with a bachelor's degree in environmental design from the University of Oaklahoma.
Visid Hongsombud

In 1987, Visid was inspired to start mapping when he encountered a young Westerner on Koh Samui who asked Visid for instructions because the map he was carrying had the barest of details. Visid thought that it wasn't fair that people should be coming to his country and traveling around without the proper information. And so, ever since, besides making his own maps, he’s been urging the government to hand out proper maps that are true to scale. He fears that if tourists come here and receive inadequate information and poor directions they may not want to come back.

ImageVisid has an interesting method of mapmaking. Taking his handy compass along he walks everywhere. Everywhere!! This is no small feat when you consider the distances he covers. So far he has mapped Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan, Koh Tao, Krabi, Chiang Rai, and Traad & Koh Chaang. He wants to map the whole country, but he can't do it.

Visid is frustrated that few people in this country take mapmaking seriously. He says he is still trying to find a proper map of Thailand; most our knock-offs, or the mapmakers have not performed proper surveys. One example he cites is that if you look at almost any map of southern Thailand you will still see highways number 4189 and 4188 between the district of Phi-pun and the sub-district of Nop-pi-tam, but both highways have been gone for almost ten years, yet they still remain on every maps.

Commenting on his methodology, Visid says, "The initial map takes me about a year to complete then the updates take about me a month at a time. I need the government to help protect my copyrights, and if I had some financial assistance I could hire people to help me make maps, and then I would be prepared to give all the maps back to the government in ten years."

A picture of Visid with his signature appears underneath a red sun on the cover of his maps, but he needs a catchy title like Apa or Nelles, maybe something as simple as “Visid's Maps.” Many people have a hard time locating his maps, or even knowing what to ask for.

Visid has received letters praising his maps from Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and England. Mr Roger Edwards of Manchester, California even wrote to ask Visid to make a map of Northern California.

ImageKhun Visid is an exception because he is backpacker- friendly. He doesn't think that backpackers deserve such a nasty reputation. "Backpackers may not spend a lot of money in one day (Bt500 compared to the average tourist who spends Bt4,000) but they do, however, stay for a longer period of time, they take boats, taxis etc., and they eat at the local restaurants. They also do things like go scuba diving, and that costs money. It all adds up. Many call the backpackers cheap, but Thai people can also be very key
nieow too."

Visid makes postcards as well, and he can shoot up to twenty roles of film for just two or three postcards. He has also created a calendar for Koh Tao in which he reminds us that the island served as a jail to house political prisoners from 1943-45. Visid's maps are accompanied by a number of beautiful photos, all taken by the mapmaker. He also provides boat, bus and train information (+ costs), a glossary, and the names and locations of bungalows and guesthouses.

Visid's maps are so good that he claims that the people at Lonely Planet (tut tut Joe Cummings), among others, have copied his work without asking his permission.

Asked what vacation spot he prefers in the "Land of Smiles" Visid says,"Koh Tao because it is a small island and it has good weather all year,even in the rainy season."

Besides continuing to map Thailand, Visid would also like to start charting places in Indochina.

Visid cares about his country and his maps and he takes great pains to make sure that tourists who come here know where they are going, and how to get there.

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