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El Cheapo Hits the Road
on May 13, 2003
Unfortunately, Mr. Raff is only a mediocre writer. His descriptions are repetitive and he recounts mundane things in too much detail. We don't need to know that after the plane landed the flight attendant walked through the cabin to collect the empty cups and trash. It's tiresome to read about walking across the tarmac (describing it as dark), checking into the hotel (after walking up the sidewalk) and bargaining for a $5 room. If the author had such a great job in New York why is it that he became such an extreme penny pincher on the road? Was it to make a better story?
He's not a very smart traveler, either. After being kicked out of Russia for not having a visa he sneaks in again. Spring for the visa fee for goodness sake! Consequently, he spends a good part of his trip fretting about being deported. Who needs that unnecessary stress? He doesn't know that Europeans and many other nationalities put the day of the month before the month in their numerical dates, causing yet more anguish and concern about whether he's going to be allowed to cross the border into China before his transit visa expires. He and his friends suffer through a horrendous tuk-tuk ride to the airport in Bangkok, three of them piled onto one little vehicle with their backpacks and other bags. Fork over a couple more dollars and hire a second driver! Why suffer to save a dollar or two? Once again, were some of these adventures undertaken with the sole purpose of writing about them later? Didn't he do any research before he left? He gets to Taiwan just in time for typhoon season. Raff gives the impression that he thinks it doesn't do anything but rain there and he couldn't get away from the place soon enough.
Anyone expecting to read a bit about Raff's travels through India based on the book's cover will be disappointed. While the photograph appears to have been taken somewhere in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, the author doesn't go anywhere near those places! Just when and where was that photo taken? Did the publishers superimpose his image on a generic "travelers' street scene," was that part of the trip left out or was this another journey altogether? It's a small point but personally I was looking forward to hearing about India.
All in all, I'd have to say that only a few of Raff's tales are interesting, especially the descriptions of the people he hooks up with on the road. Was his relationship with the pretty, young blonde from Sweden purely Platonic? I'd like to know more. For the most part, however, the book fell flat. It's fairly short, with many frequent chapter breaks. Couldn't he have filled the story out a little more? He skips over major portions of the trip, only to flesh the book out with too much detail about personal minutiae and not enough about the places he visits.