Nov 25, 2010

Lonely Planet Laos 7th Edition to go on sale soon

I usually greet the publishing of yet another addition of the Lao guidebook with a yawn. It's always fun to see what guest house got mentioned or not and what the new spin on certain towns is, but as far as reading and new views.... well... not so much.

Links on LP site just below the photo of book

I have an idea this edition might be different.

First of all a hat tip to Ms. Straycat who writes the insightful blog lao*miao* , for sending me the heads up and link to the new edition.

I already was aware that Austin Bush a food blogger from Bangkok was working on a new book. There was more to Austin and the guide than I realized.

From the bio and the photo in the portions of  the guide available on line Austin is unlined, young, probably young 30s at the oldest. I've listened to enough of  the "back in the good old days before steam power Laos communication was by elephant courier" and all that stuff. The good old days are now.

Austin speaks Thai, he studied it at Chang Mai University, and being "not old" he might well be fairly fluent. I'd bet some money he also can wing it in Thai Nua and now some Lao, and Lue too. It can't be overstated how helpful speaking the language can be. When I read a guidebook I want an insiders view  telling me things most people wouldn't be able to find out. From his blog, Austin actually has opinions, and from snippets of the guide he's subtle enough to let them leak through on to the pages for anyone willing to read carefully.

The contents I can see look very different. The index begins with abseiling and ends with ziplines. Udomxai gets three pages not three paragraphs. Ou Tai, Ou Neua, and 9 pages on Phongsali Province. I wouldn't be happy to see my favorite places over run but it's nice to see something besides Vang Vien and Luang Prabang. Fifteen National Protected Areas (NPAs) are covered!

Austin had two other people assisting, one of whom lives in PP and so is a local of sorts. Safety in numbers, best to have more than one person to blame mistakes on.

Another part that stuck out for me is that there is a trekking eco tourism portion written by someone fluent in the languages and who has worked for and with many of the international orgs developing hopefully sustainable tourism in Laos. (Must be tough to be known as the inventor of Vang Vien.)

On the down side.... "join pious locals in making a ceremonial offering to the saffron-robed monks during their tak bat dawn procession" Translation "join a million other camera snapping rude tourists by getting right in the face of some monks". When they make me king of the earth I'll make using the phrase, "saffron-robed monks" a capital offence. In fairness it's probably in the fine print of any LP contract with a writer for SEAsia.  "Every guidebook writer shall upon pain of not recieving pay use the cliche "saffron robed monk" at least 15 times  further writers about Luang Prabang must suggest becoming Budhist for a quarter hour at tak bat."

Another downer, the guidebook was researched and written before the Northern Lao/Boat Landing cookbook, (wonder if a shorter way to say all that has evolved.) I'd think it pretty difficult to get a handle on a culture's cooking in a country with hardly any restaurants and those that exist sell mostly restaurant food. I can't imagine learning the food outside of a kitchen of a resident, and until now there was hardly any literature explaining what it is you're looking at.

Should be shipping sometime after Christmas.


Anonymous said...

after reading this post i went to take a look at the preview PDFs. happy to see there's a section for 'north of Boun Neua', wonder what the details are like :P for some reason the Nam Ou boat trips are described under 'Nam Tha' instead, maybe a header went missing. thankfully still many 'blank areas' on the map :)

- straycat

Kees Sprengers said...

Well, as soon as the website of "" went live, I tried to contact LP in Australia, to offer them a book for review. Unfortunately, their website has a loop, which means pressing the button "Contact us" leads to a different page which says "to contact out editorial office Press THIS button" (or something like that) which then leads you back to the first page. I emailed their webmaster about that and asked them to FWD my email, but never heard back.
I also put a link on Austin Bush's site (Didn't know his connection with LP, but didn't get a response. I suppose he was busy getting HIS book ready.

Anonymous said...

about 'saffron-robed monks'...used to be the odd cycle tourist who stopped by in Chiang Khan, but it has gotten quite a bit of publicity in the Thai media...saw an increasing number of posts on Thai blogs & photo forums from cold season 2009...& now it's starting to sound like Luang Prabang:

- straycat