Victor T. King is Emeritus Professor in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds; Professorial Research Associate in the Centre of South East Asian Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; Adjunct Professor at the Research Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development, Chiang Mai University, Thailand; and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Asian Studies, Universiti Brunei Darussalam.
He has a wide interest in the anthropology and sociology of Southeast Asia, particularly in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, and has conducted research there from the early 1970s as well as in Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. His recent academic books include five co-edited volumes: The Historical Construction of Southeast Asian Studies: Korea and Beyond (with Park Seung Woo, 2013), Rethinking Asian Tourism: Culture, Encounters and Local Response (2014) and Tourism and Monarchy in Southeast Asia (2016), both with Ploysri Porananond; Human Insecurities in Southeast Asia (2016, with Paul Carnegie and Zawawi Ibrahim), and Borneo Studies in History, Society and Culture (2017, with Zawawi Ibrahim and Noor Hasharina Hassan). His recent single-authored edited volume is entitled UNESCO in Southeast Asia: World Heritage Sites in Comparative Perspective (2016).
He continues his interest in scholarly-directed work on tourism in Southeast Asia. He has been an occasional lecturer on Swann Hellenic and Saga cruises since the mid-1990s, though he has since turned his attention to studying UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Southeast Asia on-land and not from the sea, and their importance in attracting tourism to the region. His more popular publications include Culture Smart! Malaysia (2008) and the translation of his The Best of Borneo Travel (in four editions from 1992) into Kalimantan Tempo Doeloe which was published in Indonesia in 2013
Southeast Asian cultures are characterized by spirituality and emotional awareness. They are alert to relationships of respect. They do not express their emotions other than in a formal and respectful way. This is a broad generalization and there are exceptions. But tourism can be stressful if you do not get the service you expect. But in Southeast Asia if you complain, stay calm, do not shout or insult local people in public. If they lose face, then your desire to seek redress or remuneration becomes more problematical. And you do nothing for yourself and your status in local eyes.
The experience of seeing the ancient Thai capital of Sukhothai, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, a site at the heart of Thai civilization, language, and culture, was a formative experience. What struck me was the magnificence of the monuments, the tranquillity of the park, the setting of ancient Buddhist remains in a beautifully maintained landscape, and the sense that you were involved in an expression of the essence of the modern Thai nation-state. Two leisurely days on a hired bike stopping off to gaze on the extensive monumental remains was one of the most exquisite experiences of my life.