Tourist hotspots, like Koh Samui in Thailand or Bali's Kuta beach, can isolate travellers almost completely from authentic local culture. If you confine yourself to these places it's quite possible never to take a local bus, eat a typical meal, or utter so much as a greeting in the local language"
Luckily the Rough Guide to Southeast Asia
provides a "springboard" for travellers who don't want to "mollycoddled". If you buy it planning a conventional trip to Thailand or Indonesia's beaches, you may well end up floating own Laos' Nam Xong river through dramatic limestone forest on a tractor inner-tube or witnessing Hindu devotees skewer themselves with steel in Malaysia. If you're going to Cambodia just to see Angkor Wat, you could end up exploring recently opened-up areas like Bokor National Park or obscure smugglers' islands as well.
Incredibly, it has taken Rough Guides 18 years to get around to producing this very first edition of Rough Guide to Southeast Asia. It goes head-to-head with the classic, original Lonely Planet book South-East Asia on a Shoestring, providing budget sleeping, eating, transport and sightseeing tips. It packs in details on the obscure corners of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Borneo, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam. Hong Kong and Macau are also featured while, unlike most other guides, it excludes Burma, respecting the tourist boycott requested by Aung San Suu Kyi.
If you're planning backpacking through more than a couple of counties, this book is very useful as it condenses all Rough Guide's other guides to the region. Unfortunately though, this means that some sections are less up-to-date than others. --Sarah Champion