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The Great Hill Stations Of Asia Paperback – May 31, 1999

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (May 31, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465014887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465014880
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,018,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Upon arriving in India, the first English settlers found the humid, unforgiving climate almost unbearable. Malaria, cholera, and dysentery ravaged their beleaguered ranks, making the average life span for both men and women no more than 30 years. To escape these epidemics, they found refuge in the temperate climate of the hills. Above the clouds, Europeans built numerous hill stations, not just in India, but also in Burma, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Indonesia. From the luxury of these curious establishments, they ruled their colonies with imperial aplomb.

Colonialism lapsed and the foreigners were eventually expelled from these countries, yet the hill stations still remain. In early 1997, Barbara Crossette, the United Nations bureau chief for the New York Times, embarked upon an ambitious journey through Asia to visit the hill stations that still function as tourist attractions. Part travel narrative, part historical retrospective, Crossette's book eloquently depicts each region's history, politics, religion, and economics in a series of thoughtful reports. Crosette is also careful to demonstrate that these areas today are not exclusive to European tourists, but for the most part are frequented by the indigenous population. For example, 10,000 Indian tourists--mostly prosperous middle-class families--visit Kodaikanal daily, one of many hill stations that flourish today.

Crosette points out that far from being derided as symbols of imperialism, the hill stations have come to embody, for middle-class Asians, the same obsession with social standing that occupied their former colonizers. This entertaining and informative book should be regarded as essential reading for anyone planning a journey into Asia. --Jeremy Storey --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Created nearly two centuries ago by Europeans in Southeast Asia as refuges for their health, relaxation, and even sanity, the "hill stations" have become today's popular hotels and golf courses for international tourists. Travel writer Crossette (New York Times UN bureau chief; So Close to Heaven, Knopf, 1995) has faithfully recorded the significant changes after revisiting the former colonies of Asia, where she had lived for a decade. She begins her book with the fascinating chapter "How It All Began," then takes us on her several-months' journey to Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The absence of any conclusion makes this writing more a work of travel reporting than a traditional book. Photos of the hill stations complement the vivid description. Highly recommended for larger public libraries, East Asia collections in academic libraries, and armchair travelers.?Steven Lin, American Samoa Community Coll., Pago
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 4, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Crossette's narrative of her journey to a selection of Asian hill stations is much more than just a personal travel journal. She provides an entertaining mix of history, politics, religion, and native lore. The stories in the book are not limited to the hill stations alone, but concern the entire regions South and Southeast Asia. Her descriptions of the unpleasant lowland cities and some distinctly Asian traditions are particularly engrossing. This is a great book for someone who would like an introduction to the area delivered in an easy-to-read format. Those who are already familiar with hill stations and the history of the region may find the book dull. The book is written from an Anglo-Western perspective, with a chapter of rather surprising American flag-waving at the end. Americans will be delighted and surprised by accounts of historical figures' visits to the area, such as Mark Twain's trip. Brits, I assume, will already have some knowledge of the area, its history, and famous characters. The average American will get a thorough introduction to Asia's culture and history and most will be surprised by how interesting it is. On the negative side, I found the meandering writing style a bit disruptive. Crossette jumps from travel journal to political commentary to regional descriptions without smooth segues. While the material is compelling (to someone interested in the region), the inconsistent style gives the book a choppy feel which detracted from my enjoyment. Overall, I recommend The Great Hill Stations of Asia for anyone interested in learning about South and Southeast Asia from an unusual and insightful perspective.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. P. Anderson on February 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
The subject seems promising enough. I've always been fascinated by the colonial experience. And what better way to shine a light on that than by looking at hill stations, exclusive resorts that colonials built in the mountains to escape the tropic heat and feel, for a little while at least, like they were back in their home country. What interesting histories might be uncovered. How evocative it would be to revisit the places now. How fascinating to compare the past with the present.

Unfortunately, none of this is really in the book. The author covers a number of these stations, from Pakistan to the Philippines, and actually visits each in turn. What she does at each, though, is very limited. She typically describes the journey there, her hotel room, the hotel dining room, and a quick walk around the main square or streets. This might be supplemented by a few passages from some old memoirs she finds at the hotel or in a local bookstore (she loves to describe her search for these sources, successful or not), and also by the occasional, rather cursory interview she's had set up for her with some local notable.

What she doesn't do is ever give me a real feeling for the place. Her descriptions tend to be rather flat, abstract, and colorless, as if she were describing a UN Security Council meeting rather than an Indian bazaar. This may be because she is very much a journalist (she's the UN correspondent for the NY Times), and not really a travel writer.

One other reviewer mentioned the jumpiness of her prose. I saw that too, as well as several other, related problems.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 27, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ever since I learned about this book on Booknotes I have wanted to read it, but never had the time until now. I enjoyed the book a great deal. I had no idea what Hill Stations were, was pretty vague on the colonial history of India, nor have I been able to clearly understand the cultural transitions since independence and partition. My sense of the British and American exploits in southeast Asia prior to the Second World War are even more slight.
The Hill Stations were places the colonists (particularly the British) built up in the mountains to get away from the heat and disease of the tropical lowlands. They tended to live lavishly and in the case of Simla, built the summer capital there. This book is a wonderful introduction to that history in Pakistan, India, Sri Lank, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Since the end of the colonial period these stations have been taken over by the governments in some cases and in others by private enterprise. The author visited all of the stations she talks about in the book and gives us very interesting observations on what has been kept intact (if decayed) from the former times (including bad cuisine and slow service in one station) and what has been modernized and to what effect. In almost all cases the vastly increased domestic populations have led to more building at the expense of the local flora and especially the fauna.
I think the saddest visit she describes is the military ruination of Burma (now Myanmar) by its removal of history, education, and learning from its population. Just hideous, but unfortunately, far from unique. The detail and personal experiences of this tragedy add to the value of the really marvelous little book.
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