Looking for an adventure and eager to make an exotic new friend?
Perhaps you just want to lie out and soak up some Thailand sun…
Or, are you the crazy world traveler, willing to head out on your own, no matter how dangerous it can get?
I’m all three, and I bet you are too – so these three travel adventures are for you!
As a reminder, Author Bill Buford wrote the terrific memoir about his friendship with Chef Mario Batali in the classic book “Heat.”
But another book of his – a terrific first-person travel memoir, is even more compelling: “Among The Thugs.”
Among The Thugs by Bill Buford
Here is Amazon’s description of this riveting book: Buford, a native of the United States, is the editor of the London-based literary magazine Granta . In 1982 he witnessed the takeover of a train, a football special, by English soccer thugs. He reveals how fascination for this distinctly English phenomenon of “soccer hooliganism” led him to follow a group of violent supporters of the Manchester United Red Devils.
Buford is accepted into the group and in time seems to develop a sixth sense about impending violence or when things, in English parlance, are “going to go off.”
Particularly riveting is his account of the aftermath of a match in Turin, Italy, where 200 or so Manchester supporters marched through the ancient streets leaving fire and destruction in their wake.
Buford’s original theories on football violence, fraught with notions about disenfranchised youth and the frustration of the working class, are forever dashed.
He concludes that the English working class is dead, and what remains is a culture so vapid that ” . . . it pricks itself so that it has feeling, burns its flesh so that is has smell.”
This book is dynamite – I cannot recommend it more highly!
Pass The Suntan Lotion, Please…
If you want to avoid violent confrontation, then you need to head to the beach…but beware, there is danger lurking there too…
The Backpacker by John Harris
I came across this book when I was in London – the story of a Brit who goes “on holiday” with his girlfriend in India – a two week trip that goes on for two years!
“Leaving the blinding sand for the cool shade of the trees, I walked carefully through the undergrowth to where Dave, using two twigs as chopsticks, was picking up a freshly severed human finger . . . ”
The Author’s trip to India starts badly when his girlfriend, with whom he is traveling, returns home. Left to his own devices, he soon finds himself looking at the sharp end of a knife in a train station cubicle. But his life is saved–and turned upside down–by Rick, an enigmatic fellow traveler who persuades John to question his mundane plans for the future, risking it all for much, much more.
Fast forward to the Thai island of Koh Pha-Ngan, where John, Rick, and their new friend Dave pose as millionaire aristocrats in a hedonistic Eden of beautiful women, free drugs, and wild beach parties. However, when they find themselves hotly pursued by the Thai Mafia, they embark on adrenaline-fueled journeys to Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, and Hong Kong, facing danger at every turn.
This is a terrific real-life thriller; the author makes a lot of mistakes – and has some wild, entertaining adventures!
Down Under by Bill Bryson.
Bill Bryson is also a legendary travel writer – his books are hilarious as well as packed with interesting information and insight.
Here is what Amazon says about “Down Under”: the book documents his exploits in Australia, where A-bombs go off unnoticed, prime ministers disappear into the surf, and cheery citizens coexist with the world’s deadliest creatures: toxic caterpillars, aggressive seashells, crocodiles, and of course, great white sharks…
Add to this deadly list snakes, and the deadliest of them all, the dreaded box jellyfish. And that’s just the beginning, as Bryson treks through sun-baked deserts and up endless coastlines, crisscrossing the “under-discovered” Down Under in search of all things interesting.
I went to Australia in 2009 and was fascinated by the country. I mean, look at the size of Australia – almost the same land mass of the US, yet they only have a tenth of our population! And 90% of the population lives within ten miles of the ocean!
When he isn’t dodging Portuguese man-of-wars or considering the virtues of the remarkable platypus, Bryson visits southwest Gippsland, home of the world’s largest earthworms (up to 12 feet in length).
He discovers that Australia, which began nationhood as a prison, contains the longest straight stretch of railroad track in the world (297 miles)…as you can see, the book is entertaining and informative!
I didn’t have the chance to go into the Outback, but the book goes there, and it’s fascinating to imagine life there. Bryson’s adventures there are really funny.
He finds ridiculous place names: “Mullumbimby Ewylamartup, Jiggalong, and the supremely satisfying Tittybong,” and manages to catch a cricket game on the radio, which is like
“listening to two men sitting in a rowboat on a large, placid lake on a day when the fish aren’t biting; it’s like having a nap without losing consciousness. It actually helps not to know quite what’s going on. In such a rarefied world of contentment and inactivity, comprehension would become a distraction.”
“You see,” Bryson observes, “Australia is an interesting place. It truly is. And that really is all I’m saying.” Of course, Bryson–who is as much a travel writer here as a humorist, naturalist, and historian–says much more, and does so with generous amounts of wit and hilarity. Australia may be “mostly empty and a long way away,” but it’s a little closer now.
I bought this book because of my interest in Australia – as a result of how funny this was, and because of what a great writer Bill Bryson is, I have purchased several more, so I can join him on his next great adventure.
This is my picture of Sydney from 2009 – a gorgeous city and great great people!