Struck by how little had been published in popular literature about the enormous, dynamic metropolis of Jakarta that had become his home, in 2002 Daniel wrote ‘Jakarta Inside Out’, a humorous lexicon on what made Indonesia’s capital tick.
The book was warmly received and earned critical praise in Time Magazine, The Far Eastern Economic Review, Lonely Planet and other publications, and quickly became an Asia bestseller. It was eventually optioned as a television series by JakTV. Since the book’s publication, Daniel has regularly appeared on Indonesian TV and radio, and in print media, as a commentator on Jakarta and urban issues.
In 2004, Daniel published a follow-up volume, ‘Bangkok Inside Out’, co-written with Thailand-based journalist Guy Sharett. It sold briskly and earned glowing reviews in the media, until 2005 when the Thai government banned the book, deeming it “too realistic” and accusing its authors of shedding unwanted attention on ‘negative’ aspects of the city such as pollution, traffic jams, the sex industry, gambling and gay life. Police removed copies from the shelves of leading book chains, while the Ministry of Culture asked police to consider pressing criminal charges against the authors.
Daniel and his co-author issued a press release emphasizing their love and appreciation for Thailand and its culture but refusing to retract the contentious chapters in the book. The controversy was front cover news on Thailand’s leading daily newspapers Kom Chad Luek & Thai Rath, and was covered by the Wall Street Journal, BBC News and other international media outlets. The case was seen as another example of worsening state of freedom of expression in Thailand during that period.. In 2007, without any explanation from government, the book was permitted to be sold in Thailand once again.