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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming, funny, fascinating.
I had a wonderful time in Laos a few years ago so I was so pleased to finally see a book which celebrates its delicious cuisine, but which also celebrates the country and its people, and really manages to captures the spirit of the place. The food is the raison d'etre for Natacha's trip but on the way she has some great adventures and meets a whole cast of beautifully...
Published on 12 May 2004

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm...
A wasted opportunity. Another back backer who doesn't like other back packers because they aren't as real as her...

...now, the impact of drug-tourism, NGOs etc on host countries is well worth exploration but here we get the same tired sermons: Western tourists bad, local people worthy of Nobel prize, Western people get intoxicated bad/ Laos people intoxicated...
Published 7 months ago by Jman


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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming, funny, fascinating., 12 May 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos (Hardcover)
I had a wonderful time in Laos a few years ago so I was so pleased to finally see a book which celebrates its delicious cuisine, but which also celebrates the country and its people, and really manages to captures the spirit of the place. The food is the raison d'etre for Natacha's trip but on the way she has some great adventures and meets a whole cast of beautifully drawn characters, and delves into the country's troubled history too. The lengths this woman will go to for a new culinary experience! Ants' eggs, silkworm grubs, fermented fish sauce - just some of the delicacies she tucks into with relish. A 'must-read' for anyone considering going to Laos or who has been and loved it, but also recommended for anyone who loves a really good travellers' yarn.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm..., 9 Feb 2014
A wasted opportunity. Another back backer who doesn't like other back packers because they aren't as real as her...

...now, the impact of drug-tourism, NGOs etc on host countries is well worth exploration but here we get the same tired sermons: Western tourists bad, local people worthy of Nobel prize, Western people get intoxicated bad/ Laos people intoxicated magical (author in latter camp obviously), roughing is edgy (with mandatory faux euphoria for hot water shower) - includes the standard lecture on squat toilets... (oh, you prissy English people...)... there's even a moment where, without irony, a Westerner becomes more interesting as a person when it's revealed he's related by marriage to Asians.

A good writer climbs above their own prejudices to give us a new insight on the world - there is too much ego-driven judgement and not enough insightful observation or new understanding. The author may have travelled many miles, but as a writer has some way to go.

Some of the food stuff is quite interesting though.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ant egg Soup - Adventures of a food tourist in Laos, 24 May 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos (Hardcover)
This is the most delightful, charming, engaging and seductive description of Laos, its food and culture. Natacha du Pont de Bie has a lovely style and her decriptions are wonderfully entertaining and evocative leaving you with the feeling that you want to pack up and go there immediately!Long live food tourists!
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go buy this book!, 21 Mar 2006
This book took me right back to Laos! The atmosphere and the food are perfectly captured in this brilliant read!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good memories, 16 Feb 2009
By 
A. Freeman (Bradford, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Having been to Laos and loved it, this book brought back some wonderful memories. The anecdotes, and recipes make it a very good book for someone who likes the country. My only complaint is that I had to make my own index of recipes, cos there isn't an recipe index in the book. Having said that, don't get me wrong, this is not a recipe book, it's a well researched and put together travel book.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Food tourism in the Lao PDR, 25 Feb 2008
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Travel books and cookery books are not my normal fare. But on this occasion, following a terrifically good holiday to Laos I was lent a copy of Ant Egg Soup - an account of a food tourist's visit to the Lao PDR.

Essentially, Ant Egg Soup is an exercise in journalism rather than literature. The theme is reportage, even if there is a leitmotif of food and recipes through the text. And that is fine, Laos is an interesting country about which the world knows little. Natasha du Pont de Bie's food orientated travel broke down barriers with the Lao people, allowing her to gain very personal perspectives on the nation's troubled history. This comes into particular focus in the Plain of Jars chapter, where Natasha du Pont de Bie meets the cousin of a Lao chef she knows in London. This in turn leads to an introduction to a sleazy local entrepreneur who sheds light on both the legacy of the secret war waged on Laos by the US, and on the ongoing issue of corruption within a nation lacking in vital infrastructure.

But the question is really in why anyone would read Ant Egg Soup. Foodies may like the recipes - assuming they can get approximations of some of the exotic Lao ingredients. And armchair tourists are likely to be irritated equally by the abundance of food and the scarcity of glossy photos. I found myself most drawn to the sections that dealt with places I had visited or food that I had eaten. But this didn't offer me any great new insight. Rather, it just provided written confirmation of what I had seen myself: the pretty old buildings of Luang Prabang; the temples of Vientiane; the ubiquitous laap salad and barbecued meat. I identified with Natasha du Pont de Bie's lament that parts of the nation were ruined by druggy backpackers. But, to be fair, they are less common in Laos than in the rest of south east Asia. They also congregate around Vang Vieng, drinking themselves into oblivion whilst floating down a slow moving river in tyre inner-tubes, dreaming of an evening spent in a bar where all the chairs face the TV showing endless repeats of Friends - next door to a dozen more identical bars, each showing a different Friends DVD.

The sections that dealt with places I had not been, or with food that I had not encountered (primarily the last couple of chapters) seemed less interesting. That made me wonder about the wider appeal of this kind of writing. And there were some aspects of the book that did grate. Firstly, I wish Natasha du Pont de Bie had not reported Lao speakers in such a raw state. Did we need to have phrases like: "those found by tourist two months ago", or "nothing grow there now"? And when we have Lao speakers referring to their country as Lao, whilst Natasha says Lao, I wonder what point she is making. Laos is, after all, a French phonetic spelling of the name of the country in which the "s" is silent. And Natasha's somewhat pious reflections on all the other foreigners in Laos - who seemed to be having a worse experience because they were not as open-minded as herself - was rather hard to take. Even if it was true.

Travel books would also seem to have one weakness over a novel - the lack of a plot to drive the text forward. In Ant Egg Soup, Natasha du Pont de Bie seems to have made a frustrated quest to try ant eggs the driving factor. The trouble is, it looks like an afterthought. Apart from a mention at the beginning, and, if memory serves me well, one further mention in the forest, the ant eggs don't seem to be a crucial factor until they are mentioned in the last chapter. Thus, the problem doesn't really manifest itself until it is about to be solved. The result feels a bit gimmicky.

I really wouldn't want to damn this book, or travel writing in general, with heavy criticism - but faint praise, maybe. Ant Egg Soup was mildly diverting, and did appeal particularly given that I was in Laos only a month ago. I am sure the book will one day offer a fascinating insight into how people really live in Laos. But for now I would recommend going there rather than reading a second hand account of a trip there. I just can't understand who would pick up a book like this through choice.

And as an aside, I was intrigued to know how Natasha was able to get a visa to stay in Laos for many months.
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Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos
Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos by Natacha Du Pont De Bie (Hardcover - 26 April 2004)
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