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This review is from: Lonely Planet Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & Northern Thailand (Travel Guide) (Paperback)
I picked up this guide for a trip to Southeast Asia later this year. However, I don't think that I'll be bringing it along. This guidebook is sadly lacking in just about every department.
My first complaint is the amount of detail, or, rather, the lack of detail. I expected this book to be somewhere between the 'Southeast Asia' guides and the individual country guides when it comes to the amount of information. I had not quite expected this to be three guidebooks merged into one (though that would have been entirely possible, the LP to Vietnam + Laos + Cambodia together have less pages than the LP to China by itself), but this is not even close. This book is simply the Southeast Asia guide chopped in half, repackaged, rebranded and then sold at full price. It's telling that this guidebook has less pages than the Lonely Planet to Vietnam alone! To me this is unacceptable. I guess it's fine if you plan to spend one week in each country but otherwise quite useless. The one area where you would expect it to have an advantage over individual country guides (border crossings, getting a visa to country x in country y) is also disappointing.
A general criticism of recent Lonely Planet guides is the new layout. Older editions had useful information on the inside of the cover, always at your fingertips, such as currency exchange rates, temperature / measurement conversions, phone numbers etc. The inside of the back cover used to have a map legend. The new one has a useless 'browsing guide' inside the front cover telling you where to find information (I thought we had the actual 'Content' for that) and shameless promotion for other LP guides inside the backcover. Yes, I know that LP also makes city guides, thank you. Inside the guides all is not well either. The climate graphs are completely unreadable (and so completely useless) for lack of horizontal rulers. Looking at them, I have no idea if it's going to be 15C or 25C. More valuable space is wasted with useless 'infographics' like "If Cambodia were a hundred people..." and then one hundred little men are drawn in different shades of blue to depict the ethnic distribution of the Cambodian people. Though that information is not really useful it might still be semi-interesting, but you don't need to fill pages and pages with graphical depictions when you can say the same in three sentences. Also new in some guides are 3D-like 'cutaways' of popular destinations. These are more commonly found in Eyewitness travel guides, and that is not a compliment. I've always regarded those guides as made for either armchair explorers or pensioned people who go on organised tours. Not that there's anything wrong with either -- it's just not what I expect when buying a Lonely Planet.
I'll have to buy individual Rough Guides instead of dragging this along.