Category Archives: Travel

Running a Hotel on the Roof of the World by Alec Le Sueur

Le Sueur’s account of the several years he spent working at a highly dysfunctional hotel in Tibet will be enjoyed by readers interested in visiting the country and it has some pretty funny moments. It has been dubbed Faulty Towers in Tibet by many, but for me this was, in part, its problem.

While Le Sueur comes to understand Tibet, he seems to get to know few Tibetans well. After all, he is working in a hotel populated by an ever-changing contingent of tourists and manned largely by foreigners.

Le Sueur gives a great account of what it might be like to run a business while dealing with the whims of the Communist Party of China, in a politically-charged atmosphere. This is sometimes interesting, but can become tedious to read about with lots of red tape and random, arbitrary decisions.

I find commenting on the short comings of non-fiction travel writing difficult, as it seems a pretty tall order to expect the author to bend the truth into some sort of narrative structure, when life is in fact often haphazard and meaningless by nature. But for me this book did feel like a lot of random occurrences strung together, and as a result I found myself fairly indifferent to whether I actually finished it or not.

 

DK

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Thailand, Camboda, Vietnam and Singapore

In November I went on an amazing holiday in South-East Asia. I thought I’d share a few photos from the trip.

At The Grand Palace, Bangkok.

Inside The Grand Palace, Bangkok.

Me in front of Angkor Wat, Cambodia, at sunrise.

Monks wandering around inside Angkor Wat.

My tour group at Angkor Wat.

Me at another temple in Cambodia.

The “Tomb Raider” temple in Cambodia.

The “Tomb Raider” temple in Cambodia.

My fried tarantulas with a lemon pepper sauce in a restaurant in Cambodia.

Me eating the fried tarantulas.

Me at Halong Bay in Vietnam.

Me out the front of Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam,

Enduring Cuba by Zoe Bran

Cuba is on my list of travel destinations I’d like to make it to one day, and so when Enduring Cuba by Zoe Bran caught my eye one day I suggested it to my library as an acquisition (because I’m cheap like that).

The back cover reads:

“Zoe Bran has always been fascinated by the gap between the ideals of the world’s socialist countries and the arduous hand-to-mouth struggles of the people who live in them. Castro’s Cuba is one of the last such places on earth. Seeking to understand the realities of Cuba today, Zoe travels the length of this beautiful island. Beneath the surface of music and dancing, cockfights and animal sacrifice, she finds a land of complex ambiguities: a fertile land where many hunger; an educated country with scant knowledge of the outside world, a nation exhausted by socialism but proud of its independence and history of revolutionary struggle. From Havana to the pastoral hinterland, Zoe talks with writers and artists, with expatriates, with committed revolutionaries and those desperate to escape abroad. Enduring Cuba presents a kaleidoscope of Cuba and its people, whose tenacity and endurance is both inspiring and humbling.”

As someone who had only a limited knowledge about Cuba’s history before reading this book, I can honestly say it taught me a lot. Bran gives a very detailed account of historical events as they come up in her conversations with Cubans and fellow travellers. This can make the book a bit heavy going at times and for that reason I probably wouldn’t recommend it to someone looking for light, armchair travel, but it suited me. My only complaint is that I would have liked a few more accounts of Bran actually doing things in Cuba, as the majority of the book is made up of her conversations with people, which are interesting, but I did expect a bit more doing from a book under the Lonely Planet brand. That’s not to say there isn’t any action, Bran’s accounts of a cockfight and a religious festival involving animal sacrifice are vividly gruesome and capture the intense atmosphere. While these events were slightly uncomfortable to read about, they were a strong point of Enduring Cuba and I think it would have benefited from more captivating passages like them.