Lonely Planet Thailand 12
First published 12th September, 2007
You've just finished your final morning of two weeks basking on the Perhentian Islands in northeast peninsular Malaysia, and you're ready for Thailand. You'll get to the border late afternoon, giving yourself enough time to cross at Sungai Kolok and get to the first provincial capital of Narathiwat before nightfall. You've heard the BBC, CNN and your Mum talk about the troubles in Thailand's far south, but you're confident that as long as you travel in daylight and sleep in the major centres you'll be fine. After all, you've got the latest edition (August 2007) of Lonely Planet's Thailand guidebook stuffed in your pack -- what could go wrong?
Well, unfortunately a lot.
I'd like to thank Lonely Planet for their complimentary copy of the Thailand 12th edition and co-ordinating author China Williams who generously spent time answering questions about the title via email.
Despite having a swack of extra pages, overall Lonely Planet's 12th edition of its Thailand title succeeds only in delivering less than previous editions. While some sections, notably Chiang Mai province, have improved, other coverage drags down what should have been a far better title.
For starters, coverage of Thailand's strife-torn far south has been largely gutted. Maps of the provincial capitals have all been deleted and accommodation listings drastically cut, border-crossings are either vaguely treated or simply not mentioned. So there you are, in the very situation when you really need a guidebook -- crossing a border into an area known to have security concerns -- and the book is close to worthless. The coverage of this unstable region is far superior in Lonely Planet's previous edition, so if you're heading that way, be sure to pop into the library and photocopy the relevant sections. Of course it could be worse -- the recently released (June 2007 -- review coming soon) Footprint title, doesn't cover the region at all -- not even Songkhla province.
Compare this to Thailand 12's west coast border-crossing coverage: there's timetable information, costs and trip durations -- even notes on how many people a chartered boat will hold. Comparing these two sections, it's very difficult to take Lonely Planet's claim that "when we update our guidebooks, we check every listing, in person, every time" at face value.
Lonely Planet has a number of overlapping books, including "Bangkok" and "Thailand's Islands and Beaches". Both of these, will probably, I'd hope, have more comprehensive coverage than the respective sections in this new edition.
Bangkok's Khao San area has just six budget guesthouses -- all of which were in the previous edition. Other examples: Mae Nam beach, Ko Samui (three listings), Ban Tai and Ban Khai, Ko Pha Ngan (one listing). On the other hand, Chiang Mai (which unlike Bangkok and Southern Thailand doesn't have it's own title) has two dozen budget listings (admittedly for the entire city rather than just one area).
While you could argue that somewhere like Khao San Rd is self-explanatory, I think a few more recommendations -- especially from among the bevy of places that have opened since the last edition -- would have been good. Bangkok does do better on its flashpacker and mid-range scene and a new section for Ko Rattanakosin, including little-known gems like Ibrik, Chakrabongse Villas and Arun Residence stands out.
Likewise when you're talking about beach bungalows you could argue "they're all the same" but the fact is they're not, and you may find yourself more than a little disappointed being supplied with a single listing for Ban Tai and Ban Kai on Ko Pha Ngan -- an area with well over 50 places to choose from. Entire beaches, including one of the best on the island, entirely escape mention. On Thailand's west coast, Ko Phi Phi's coverage pointedly avoids mentioning any of the budget haunts on the east coast of the island and instead steers budgeteers to Ton Sai village and it's immediate surrounds -- arguably the least attractive part of the entire island and certainly not the place to go if you're looking for a quality budget bungalow. Many of Phi Phi's luxury places though -- including Zeavola (16,000 - 37,000B a night) -- do get a mention, which leads to my next point.
There is a detectable shift in the focus of the book, at least regarding accommodation, with more space seemingly given over to flashpacker and mid-range places. Seeing over half a page dedicated to "Samui's top five top-end resorts" may have the old backpacker stalwarts rolling over in their hammocks, but it's a valid reflection of a tourist scene that is attracting travellers, backpackers, flashpackers and top-end-resort layabouts -- unfortunately this title will struggle to satisfy them all.
It's not all bad though.
The coverage of Chiang Mai is about as comprehensive as a guide can be.
The accommodation listings are thorough and numerous. Likewise the food, entertainment and shopping sections are all done well. Filling out the package nicely are cut-out sections for pummeling and pampering, quirky sights and markets -- should keep the flashpackers and shoppers happy.
The northeast section is also very good. Big-ticket destinations here are covered just as well as the more obscure, lesser known haunts, there's plenty of maps and some encouraging pointers to homestays dotted through the region. A long, informative, boxed text detailing the Phi Ta Khon festival is included. If you're planning significant time in Isan with this title, you'll be well served.
Thailand 12 carries 150 maps -- including 17 pages dedicated to Bangkok.
Aside from the above mentioned shortcomings in the far south, the majority of spots you're likely to need a map for are covered. The colour, countrywide map is easy to read though oddly doesn't mark the border crossings.
Thailand's a photogenic country and the selection of photos does a good job of selling the Kingdom. A 16-page full colour insert on "Thailand's Natural Wonders" succinctly covers Thailand's environmental state of affairs.
I was surprised though to see a photo of the Tiger Temple placed atop a list of environmental volunteering opportunities -- while I assume the placement is incidental, it's unfortunate given the ongoing controversy regarding the conservation "value" of breeding tigers in a stone quarry as the Tiger Temple does.
So if you're going to Thailand, are not going to the far south and don't plan to cross any borders, how is the book? Well it depends.
If this is your first time to the Kingdom and you don't consider yourself to be too demanding when it comes to guidebooks, then you'll find Thailand 12 to be just a satisfactory buy. Likewise, if you're happy just to be pointed in the right direction, you'll probably find it to be ok.
On the other hand, if you're a bit more demanding and you like to have a good range of accommodation recommendations to choose from, then you'd be well advised to either stick with the previous edition or consider an alternative guidebook.
Buy Lonely Planet's Thailand 12 from Amazon.com
Have you used the latest edition of Lonely Planet's Thailand guidebook? If so, please add your feedback on the Travelfish forum here. Thanks!
Other book reviews
Lonely Planet Laos 6 -- worth every kip -- 9/10
Quite simply, Australian co-authors Andrew Burke and Justine Vaisutis have put together what is the best offline resource for travel in Laos. From a tourism perspective, Laos is a rapidly developing nation, especially in the major tourist centres where new accommodation options multiply at a seemingly ever-increasing rate, yet they've done a fine job of boiling down a snapshot of the country into a guide that will be more than enough for the most demanding traveller. ... Read the full review
Rough Guide Laos 3 -- just a very rough guide -- 6/10
Four and a half years of change have washed through Laos since the excellent second edition of Rough Guide's Laos was published. If you expect the new edition, released in February 2007, to be in the same league, prepare to be disappointed. Where Laos 2 was easily the best on the market, Laos 3 falls into the "read before departure ... and leave at home" category. ... Read the full review
Lonely Planet Vietnam 9 -- LP's best try yet -- 8.5/10
For the first-time visitor to Vietnam, Lonely Planet's Vietnam 9 overall is a fine production -- and is easily Lonely Planet's best swing at Vietnam -- even if the style police are trying to ruin the show. It covers all the big-ticket destinations comprehensively, with detailed sleeping, eating, drinking and sights information ... Read the full review
Read 5 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (19)
- All stories
- Angkor Hospital For Children
- Blue Dragon Children's Foundation
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Free the Bears Laos
- Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Khlong Toey Music Program
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- MyME Yangon
- Soi Dog Foundation
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma ()
- Cambodia (9)
- Indonesia (4)
- Laos ()
- Malaysia (1)
- Singapore ()
- Thailand (28)
- All stories
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Great Thai food blogs
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai?
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (5)
- Accommodation guides (2)
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (17)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Great river trips in Southeast Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- Ten thoughts on ten years with Travelfish
- Where is the best place in Southeast Asia for ...
- How do I? (6)
- Cycling Asia (12)
- Health and safety (5)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (1)
- Photo essay ()
- Guest blog (1)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (18)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Asok
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Siam
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.