Top critical review
32 people found this helpful
Packed with content, and very little is used.
on 8 January 2015
A few years ago I toured around the Middle East and the Lonely Planet was a great comfort. Several years on, WIFI has gone mainstream and the travel books need to convince people they're still a useful companion.
This book isn't aimed at your average traveller. It somehow manages to be pretencious, opinionated, and very subjective for something which is supposed to act as an informative guide book.
The biggest problem is the endless obsession of saying EVERYTHING is great. Don't get me wrong, positivity is a good thing - but when you're frequently deciding where to go next this becomes a huge issue. For example instead of admitting: "Phuket town is a bland place, serving as little more than a stopover point for most." (an opinion the majority agree with from my experience), they write, "There's good food in Phuket town!"
It quickly becomes apparent some of the authors have forgotten they're writing a book to help the majority, and instead cram their 'alternative' perspectives all over the place. Why on earth is my travel guide telling me what my opinion on elephant treatment should be?! Are we young and ignorant travellers not able to form our own conclusion?
If one author takes her 1 year old to Thailand to successfully boost her 'cuteness factor', then how is this helpful to the 99.9% of us who DIDN'T do that? Take a kid with you and I'm sure just about every single restaurant will appear friendly. "Thailand gets richer and happier with every visit" - seriously? The country is great fun but many locals are quite clearly sick to death with the amount of tourists. Did you give a tuk tuk driver 1000B and then notice how happy and friendly he is?
Then there's the parts which are just downright lazy. "Laos VOA available for most countries", great thanks, how about a rough estimate of how much the visa actually costs? How about mentioning I'll need to pay in dollars or else I'll get slaughtered on the exchange rate? This is the information I need! If there's not enough room for that, then take out the opinionated rants to make room. The structure is poor at times, next destination information was rarely where I'd expect to find it.
It's an impressive amount of information for the size of the book, and there are still helpful parts here. The highlights for each country is a nice touch and useful for planning. The scam points are good but should be consistent. The section on The Phillipines is well written, honest, and avoids many pitfalls the others fall into:
"At first, the Philippines may likely disarm you more than charm you, but peel back the country's skin and there are treasures to be found - aplenty."
Excellently put, why can't the rest of the book be up front yet also encouraging like that?
I think it might be time to get some younger writers who can give information to at least suit the majority. The sleeping sections are completely useless, the best hostels are rarely listed. Not every page needs to tell you to "soak up the culture".
It's still worth a purchase for a long trip, but it's by absolutely no means necessary. Hopefully the Lonely Planet can get back to being a helpful guide in difficult times, and not a book where writers tell you how you can enjoy SEA, 'like an experienced traveller'.
(note that many reviews have been written before travelling)
You'll have a great time by the way, it's brilliant.