TDA September book reviews
South America has such a mystical allure. It seems a little dangerous, somewhat untamed, and rather exotic, especially from a South African’s perspective. We have our own curious creatures and cultures but there is something so enthralling about names like Guatemala, Nicaragua, La Paz, Puerto Torro and Lake Titicaca. And what true adventurer has not dreamt about exploring the heart of the Amazon and imagined fighting off piranhas and mosquitoes? If you are signing up for our South American tour, the Vuelta Sudamericana, or want to see if the world will truly end on 21 December on our Doomsday Ride expedition, you will especially enjoy Mark Adams’ insights.
Adams is a prolific writer and editor who follows the footsteps of the peculiar Hiram Bingham III who ‘discovered’ Machu Picchu. Bingham III was later accused as a villain who stole both priceless artifacts and credit for finding the great archaeological site. Adams sets out to discover the truth armed with a pack of donkeys and a very odd and thick-skinned Australian guide. This book is part travelogue, a history lesson presented humorously and accurately, and part philosophical journey. It is a lot more cerebral than your average travel literature but Adams skillfully makes his writing accessible and enjoyable whilst still being very informative. I am sure it will be a keeper to read over and over again.
If inner city madness is more your thing you will love Bangkok Days. I found myself trapped in Bangkok at the height of last year’s floods. The train tracks were under water and I could not get to Chiang Mai. At my backpackers I had to leap over sandbags to get into the foyer. The Chow Praya river had bursts its banks and the locals were escaping en-masse by bus and car. I decided to sit it out, found a dry and safe haven at the Buddhist temple, and got myself a copy of this gem.
Osborne loves to visit Bangkok because of its cheap dentistry and, well, its general cheapness. His account of this mad city is spot on as I slowly discovered during my forced stay. He so perfectly captures the sounds and tastes of the city. If you have been to Bangkok’s Khao San Road you will have wondered about the miraculous way that people are not electrocuted on a daily basis. The electricity wires are like massive tangled birds’ nests drooping dangerously low down to the flooded streets. They never seem to take away the dead wires and simply keep adding on layer upon layer. Just get the book to read his explanation of this phenomenon.
Osborne befriends ex-pats and describes them accurately as I discovered later on after meeting some of them. The ex-pats in Bangkok, and the rest of Thailand, are a curious bunch. They are also there for the cheapness, the gorgeous weather and beaches, the ladies, of course, and some of them for doing some dodgy business that seems to easily slip under the radar. A really beautiful and evocative read.
And, of course you can experience Bangkok and draw your own conclusions on our Bamboo Road Bicycle Expedition next year.
By Astrid Stark