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Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a shoestring (Travel Guide) Paperback – September 1, 2014
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Top Customer Reviews
The first thing to notice is the planning your trip section in the beginning. It provides a lot of quick summary information to get the imagination flowing that was lacking from recent editions. I count this as a definite positive step; it makes it easier for me to loan the book out to friends when they ask me why I like going to SE Asia.
In the individual country sections, the summary page at the start of the chapter has been expanded from 2/3 of a page to 1 3/4 of a page, with the highlights section on another page with the map. The expanded summaries are useful for getting a quick feel out for general initial planning.
Unfortunately, there had to be some bad to go along with the good. The city sections within the country are simply not catered to the budget traveler. Unless prices have doubled since 2010 (highly unlikely), the book is geared toward flash-packer and mid-range travelers. For example, while the summary section on Laos suggests that budget hotel rooms, I.E. the ones that a purchaser of this book would be looking for, cost around 10$, which is true. The rooms listed in the city sections, however, range up to $40, with most of them solidly in the $20-$30 range. That's what many people budget for a whole day in Laos. In one instance, the book suggests, not even in one their too plentiful treat yourself boxes, a $58 Bungalow in Vieng Vang, where backpacker bungalows for ~10$ are very common with a little sniffing and haggling.
This phenomenon of not catering to budget travelers is not unique to the Laos section. The Bangkok section lists (as a budget option! Only $ on their scale of $-$$$) a guest house for 1950 Baht. For frame of reference, you can get an hotel room from a name you would recognize for less than that. A search on Kayak or Agoda will reveal a plethora of options for significantly less, and any backpacker can tell you that prices are cheaper on the ground.
The summary is that while the summary sections of the book provide inspiration for the imagination that was lacking in previous editions, this newest version is no longer geared toward true budget travelers. It seems that the days of Lonely Planet having the best SE Asia cheap guidebook are over. And it's a damned shame too; there's nobody apparent to fill the void.
This book isn't aimed at your average traveller. It somehow manages to be pretencious, opinionated, and very subjective for something which is supposed to act as an informative guide book.
The biggest problem is the endless obsession of saying EVERYTHING is great. Don't get me wrong, positivity is a good thing - but when you're frequently deciding where to go next this becomes a huge issue. For example instead of admitting: "Phuket town is a bland place, serving as little more than a stopover point for most." (an opinion the majority agree with from my experience), they write, "There's good food in Phuket town!"
It quickly becomes apparent some of the authors have forgotten they're writing a book to help the majority, and instead cram their 'alternative' perspectives all over the place. Why on earth is my travel guide telling me what my opinion on elephant treatment should be?! Are we young and ignorant travellers not able to form our own conclusion?
If one author takes her 1 year old to Thailand to successfully boost her 'cuteness factor', then how is this helpful to the 99.9% of us who DIDN'T do that? Take a kid with you and I'm sure just about every single restaurant will appear friendly. "Thailand gets richer and happier with every visit" - seriously? The country is great fun but many locals are quite clearly sick to death with the amount of tourists. Did you give a tuk tuk driver 1000B and then notice how happy and friendly he is?
Then there's the parts which are just downright lazy. "Laos VOA available for most countries", great thanks, how about a rough estimate of how much the visa actually costs? How about mentioning I'll need to pay in dollars or else I'll get slaughtered on the exchange rate? This is the information I need! If there's not enough room for that, then take out the opinionated rants to make room. The structure is poor at times, next destination information was rarely where I'd expect to find it.
It's an impressive amount of information for the size of the book, and there are still helpful parts here. The highlights for each country is a nice touch and useful for planning. The scam points are good but should be consistent. The section on The Phillipines is well written, honest, and avoids many pitfalls the others fall into.
I think it might be time to get some younger writers who can give information to at least suit the majority. The sleeping sections are completely useless, the best hostels are rarely listed. Not every page needs to tell you to "soak up the culture".
It's still worth a purchase for a long trip, but it's by absolutely no means necessary. Hopefully the Lonely Planet can get back to being a helpful guide in difficult times, and not a book where writers tell you how you can enjoy SEA, 'like an experienced traveller'.
You'll have a great time by the way, it's brilliant.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This lonely planet describes every country I plan to vist and have many good information.Read more