Bangkok is the sponge that absorbs those who have lapsed into dilettantism, writes Osborne (The Accidental Connoisseur) in recounting his time in the fabled city of recreational sex and Buddhism. As he encounters characters questing for sensation and knowledge, he muses on how easy it is for Westerners to remake themselves in the East—much as the 19th-century English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens did when she tutored the royal children of Siam and fashioned herself into a mythologized literary figure. As he discovers in an encounter with a Catholic missionary, it is the ideal place to lose the burdensome grip of the self. In Osborne’s narrative, Bangkok serves as an existential crossroads for a cast of British, Australian and Spanish expatriates who are haphazardly searching for and running away from responsibilities; in the labyrinthine city, these tourists have established a playground for adult pleasure. As their documentarian, Osborne is at once incisive and romantic. He creates a character-driven travelogue that reveals but does not exploit the salacious subtext of Bangkok nightlife. It is a journey flush with atmosphere but tempered with a subtext of lonely Western wonder.