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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and interesting book about a fantastic trip, 29 May 2006
This review is from: Himalaya (Hardcover)
"Himalaya" is a book written by Michael Palin as an alternative account of a trip that was filmed and first shown as a TV program on BBC TV. (This program has also been shown on many other TV stations, and is now available on DVD.) In addition to the text in the book there are many beautiful pictures by Basil Pao, the stills photographer who accompanied the BBC team on the trip.

This was a very interesting trip in beautiful and exciting places. Many countries around the Himalayan Mountains were visited, some of them well off the tourist track and some of them with security problems such that the team needed armed guards. Specifically, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Nagaland, Assam, Bhutan and Bangladesh were visited. A total of 3000 miles was traveled during 125 days (6 months), and many beautiful and exciting images, encounters and interviews resulted.

High points (ha, ha) of the trip include several treks on foot up into the mountains, visiting the Dalai Lama, milking a yak, talking to a retired headhunter, buying booze in Pakistan, having an almost-encounter with Maoists in Nepal, watching bull racing and no-rules polo, and giving an elephant a rub-down. There are also many interesting encounters and interviews with local people who are special in one way or another.

In my review of the DVD version of "Himalaya" I complained that the program wasn't really about Michael Palin's trip, as such, but was simply a string of encounters and events that made "good TV". The program ignored the travel aspect almost completely, and jumped from place to place in search of the images and people that the TV viewers would find exciting.

The book version of "Himalaya" is a more complete account of the trip, including a lot of material that was skipped in the TV program, and some experiences not even included in the extra material on the DVDs.

But still, the book account of the trip is not really a day-by-day account of the trip either. For example, I'd like to know what happened on "day 6" and "day 11", etc. These days are simply not mentioned in the book.

One nice thing about the book, as compared to the TV program on DVD, is that Michael Palin's personal opinions are more evident, as is his enjoyment of traveling and experiencing new people and places. There is more of a "personal touch" to the book, and his wit and charm make it very readable and enjoyable. Michael also writes candidly about the health problems he experienced and the reservations he had about travel in the places where there were security problems. All of which makes the book better than the DVD version in my opinion.

Finally, a note about the audio versions of this book. There are both abridged (6 hour) and unabridged (11 1/2 hour) versions in existence, and some resellers are selling the abridged version as unabridged, so beware. Michael Palin himself reads both versions, and he does a great job.

Highly recommended.

Rennie Petersen
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Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

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