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Books forum

Travelfish Reading Room: please read this first! Sticky!

Posted by somtam2000 on 3/7/2009 at 07:33

So it seems new branches are growing on the forum like mushrooms in the wet season. The Travelfish Reading Room is a forum for suggestions and asking after good books to read on your travels -- after all there's no better way to kill a few hours at the bus station than with a good book -- especially if it isn't the one that told you the bus was supposed to leave three hours earlier ;-) I've moved across a few of the other book-related threads from other parts of the messageboard, but they' ...

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Book Review: Bangkok Found by Alex Kerr

Posted by somtam2000 on 1/5/2016 at 22:49

Bangkok Found by Alex Kerr pierces deeply into the art, culture and people of Thailand in a book that reads more like an inspiring travel narrative than a stuffy research project. Countless cultural intricacies will surface if you read this before a trip to Bangkok. As an American scholar of Japanese arts, Kerr learned Japanese fluently and wrote the acclaimed book, Lost Japan, before taking up a residency in Thailand during the middle of his life. In Bangkok Found, his comparisons with Japanes ...

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Book Review: Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Posted by somtam2000 on 24/4/2016 at 22:55

It’s not focused on Southeast Asia — Indonesia gets the briefest of mentions — but if you’re a surfer (as so many travellers to this region are), you love a surfer (ditto), or you’re just intrigued by the culture (double ditto), Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life is for you. William Finnegan’s book is a quiet, meditative autobiography of, well, his surfing life. He covers his childhood in California and Hawaii, where he was introduced to surfing and all the intricacies of its nascent cu ...

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Book Review: Under the Volcano

Posted by somtam2000 on 12/4/2016 at 00:25

Under the Volcano by Cameron Forbes is one of the better easy-reading histories and modern reportage books on Bali. Given the Western fascination with Indonesia’s Bali, you’d think a vast and good literature on the island would exist in English -- but it doesn’t, really. While Under the Volcano might be a little uneven, and its journalistic style occasionally a touch breathless, it’s an intriguing potted history. Plenty of colourful anecdotes will inform even those somewhat familiar wi ...

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Book Review: The Malay Archipelago

Posted by somtam2000 on 5/4/2016 at 02:48

They just don’t make them like they used to. Alfred Russel Wallace was an amazing character: naturalist, scientist, passionate traveller, and luckily for us, writer. His extensive travels in Southeast Asia -- 60 separate journeys (before planes!) -- led him to devising the theory of evolution. He did so either before or at the least contemporaneously with Darwin, to whom he had written with his original ideas. (Wallace always deferred to his more well-regarded peer — and was a pall-bearer at ...

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Book Review: Stalking The Elephant Kings: In Search of Laos

Posted by somtam2000 on 28/3/2016 at 02:35

While Stalking the Elephant Kings was published nearly 20 years ago, it remains a fascinating and fun general introduction to Laos — and sadly there aren’t too many of those. Specifically though, the book follows Kremer as he sets off in search of Laos’ lost royal family, a 600-year-old dynasty that ended when the landlocked country was horrifically sucked into the Cold War. This is the kind of travel memoir we love, as it successfully illuminates little examined parts of history with col ...

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Book Review: King Norodom's Head

Posted by somtam2000 on 13/3/2016 at 06:25

If you have any affection for the growing city of Phnom Penh — and nostalgia for its disappearing past — you’ll love King Norodom’s Head: Phnom Penh Sights Beyond the Guidebooks. This December 2015 paperback is a rather haphazard but fascinating collection of stories about various historical fragments found in the city. Remains of an Angkorian-era building at Wat Ounalom (we have a photo of it at the bottom of our listing here) are explained; the grave of a mysterious Frenchman is f ...

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Book Review: Burmese Days by George Orwell

Posted by somtam2000 on 7/3/2016 at 03:16

If you last read Orwell back in high school and vaguely remember struggling through the political implications of assigned texts Animal Farm or 1984, you might be reluctant to pick up Burmese Days. Don’t be! This fictional account of John Flory, a white British officer sent to an outpost of the empire in Burma, is extremely readable. It follows Flory and his friendship with an Indian, Dr Veraswami, who wants to join the all-white social club and focal point of the tiny and rather tiresome exp ...

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Viewed 504 times, with 1 reply. Last reply by exacto on 7/3/2016 at 15:30

Book Review: The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Posted by somtam2000 on 29/2/2016 at 02:30

The 2014 Man Booker winner is a deep, dark and important read. While the story is about far more than the Thai-Burma Death Railway — think love, hope, humanity, memory — the setting of a Japanese POW camp along the railway looms large and dominates in this beautiful novel. The story is woven around the main character, Australian Dorrigo Evans, a doctor in camp. The camp is brought hauntingly to life in a way possibly not captured in any other book — if you plan to visit Hellfire Pass and ...

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Book Review: Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan

Posted by somtam2000 on 22/2/2016 at 06:51

This huge and highly awarded book is crucial reading for anyone with an interest not just in the Vietnam War, but Vietnam today, as it recovers from the aftermath of that tragedy (and also, war in general). Good news: the lengthy book is an utterly compelling and stunning read. The 1989-published Bright Shining Lie covers the life of US Army Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann and the US involvement in the Vietnam War. Vann was a critic of US strategy and befriended (or manipulated) journalist Ne ...

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Viewed 571 times, with 2 replies. Last reply by somtam2000 on 23/2/2016 at 19:03

Book Review: The Trouser People: Burma in the Shadows of the Empire

Posted by somtam2000 on 15/2/2016 at 04:13

This is our go-to recommended read for those heading to Burma (Myanmar). In an offbeat, compelling tale, Andrew Marshall seeks to follow in the footsteps of Victorian adventurer Sir George Scott. Having found Scott’s diaries in the no-doubt dusty aisles of the British Library, Marshall strikes out to explore modern Burma, in all its rich diversity, complexity and brutality. Marshall’s writing strikes that rare sweet spot between reportage and memoir as he traverses the sprawling territory h ...

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Book Review: Holiday in Cambodia

Posted by somtam2000 on 8/2/2016 at 00:04

While perhaps popularised by the Dead Kennedys, Holiday in Cambodia is also a great book well worth a read. Holiday in Cambodia is an invigorating, nuanced portrayal of life in the kingdom today. Laura Jean McKay’s characters, described with empathy and affection, sashay through a series of crisp but well-rounded vignettes. McKay moves beyond the usual cliches of the beauty of Angkor Wat and the horror of the Khmer Rouge, though these do feature too. With a light hand, McKay explores the c ...

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Book review: Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey

Posted by somtam2000 on 31/1/2016 at 20:11

Looking for some inspiration to get off the map in Indonesia? Lawrence Blair will fill your bucket list with incredible places to go. Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey is a rollicking, old-fashioned adventure tale that hops, skips and jumps through remote and fascinating parts of the Indonesian archipelago. Originally published in 1988, and based on an Emmy award-winning documentary series of the same name, Lawrence Blair tells the story of various trips he and his brother Lorne made intermit ...

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Viewed 814 times, with 2 replies. Last reply by julep60 on 2/2/2016 at 15:41

Book review: Indonesia Etc. Exploring the Improbable Nation

Posted by somtam2000 on 25/1/2016 at 00:45

If you’re heading to Indonesia, or seeking to get even a slight understanding of this complex archipelago nation, Elisabeth Pisani’s beautiful Indonesia Etc: Exploring the Improbable Nation is essential reading. The former Reuters correspondent and epidemiologist travels extensively to research for the book, but entwines her experiences with her earlier stint as a journalist based in Jakarta, and the country’s fascinating history. For those familiar with Indonesia and frustrated to one-di ...

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Viewed 961 times, with 2 replies. Last reply by sambrown on 25/1/2016 at 20:40

tagging books you leave behind

Posted by caseyprich on 14/4/2010 at 19:54

I've gotten in the habit of writing (my name - season/month reading - and location of reading) in every book i pass on or leave behind or sell to a used shop. In China the best books are expensive so we share a lot, and in SE Asia it goes the same. But what I like is seeing where these things have been and where they go. Please, in the future - do the same. Fill the back cover. Why not? ...

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Viewed 4,884 times, with 6 replies. Last reply by Adventurer707 on 3/11/2015 at 13:45

Looking for a good book on history of Cambodia

Posted by wheelse on 13/4/2009 at 04:15

Hi everyone, thought i'd ask here since the crowd seems so generally knowledgeable - I'm heading to Cambodia in early July and sadly know little about the country besides the general outline and was looking for a book recommendation that discusses the khmer rouge, killing fields, the genocide generally. I don't want to read a textbook, per se, but want more background and context than I'll get in a guidebook. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Thanks! ...

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Viewed 12,952 times, with 20 replies. Last reply by AFClatouche on 29/7/2015 at 04:44

books on travelling round the world

Posted by Dhagmara on 21/1/2012 at 05:57

Any recommendations as far as books dealing with lazy travelling round the world are concerned? Would you know about any fairly recent accounts of prolonged land trips around more temperate regions of the world on a shoestring? Not that much interested in polar regions, posh hotels or touristy destinations. But we'd appreciate any funny or educational stories, in-depth guidebooks, gripping and factual accounts - just a good read or two that will enhance our idea of an elderly couple spending a y ...

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Viewed 6,325 times, with 12 replies. Last reply by ajarnalex73 on 28/4/2015 at 08:09

What books would you recommend for a trip to Thailand?

Posted by MikeSanto on 19/1/2014 at 02:23

It should be a good book, preferably easy to read and interesting, somehow related to thai culture, history or people. Fiction or documentary doesnt play a beeg role. I am looking for something that can put you in a right mood to feel this country better, to understand it deeper. I hate mindless sightseeng and photofetishism. Thanks in advance to you, devoted readers of this forum! ...

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Viewed 4,472 times, with 7 replies. Last reply by esseestpercipi on 9/3/2014 at 06:36

Travel Guide: Lonely Planet or Rough Guide?

Posted by carlakoopman on 23/2/2007 at 12:57

Hi all, In search on the internet for reviews which travel guide I should buy, I found this site, awesome! Loads of information here, great. But I still want to buy a travel guide (and print out/write done eFishes), which one do you think is better? Actually I tend to buy the Rough Guide, as almost everyone seems to have the Lonely Planet, and goes to the same recommended things. Which probably change the situation that it isn't recommended anymore. Besides that Rough Guide has a later ed ...

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Viewed 42,151 times, with 35 replies. Last reply by MADMAC on 18/1/2014 at 22:29

Great Books

Posted by Danlo on 14/3/2011 at 23:24

A Woman of Bangkok by Jack Reynolds. Found this on sale in Canterbury Tales Bookshop in Pattaya while staying there and found it an awesome read, although written in 1956 is still fresh and a very well written and many people I talked to had similar stories about the relationship with Thai Girls. Its great its back in print and a must for the Thailand traveler. ...

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Viewed 5,623 times, with 9 replies. Last reply by karibou on 1/1/2014 at 12:04


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