A little while back I reviewed a certain Thailand travel guide that was less than stellar. In fact, the book pretty much pissed me off. You can read the review if you like (I’d certainly appreciate the page views), but all in all I wasn’t able to put my recommendation on it.
At the end of that review, however, I alluded to other books I would feel comfortable putting my name behind (for whatever that’s worth). Today I’d like to tell you about the travel guide I like the most. I read this book before my 2009 trip, lent it to my Mom before we went, and just gave my old copy to a friend who is planning on traveling with me to Thailand this year.
Since the first copy I bought they have gone through at least one revision, with another due to be released in August 2010. That they have gone through two revisions/updates in a year would normally seem suspect, but this guide is of such high quality I can only assume that they are adding information and detail rather than correcting mistakes.
I’m talking about the Eyewitness Travel Thailand guide by BK Publishing.
First and foremost, what I liked the most about this guide is its readability. You can – and I did – read this guide like a book. You can certainly skip around to the sections you are most interested in if you want, but for me I started on page one and read the whole darn thing. The book starts with a section called “Introducing Thailand,” with information about Thailand’s history, geography, religion, weather, and all of the general information one expects in a travel guide. There is nothing overly unique about this section, aside from it being very well written and containing lots of full-color photographs.
The meat of the book is, of course, about the different regions of Thailand – Bangkok, The Central Plains, Northern Thailand, Northeast Thailand, The Gulf of Thailand, and Southern Thailand. Each of these sections is further broken down with maps, street guides, information about specific shops and attractions you might want to check out, and some general information about the region in general.
This is where every travel guide tries to set itself apart where this guide does just that. Again, a lot of it has to do with the writing style, but it’s not only that; it has a lot to do with the amount of information given as well. Not just “where to go and what to see” information, but side notes and cultural explanations that really give you a good understanding of what to expect when you go to Thailand.
For example, pages 348-349 is a section called “Coral Reefs,” where the authors go into great detail about coral reefs, including a diagram that shows you exactly what a coral reef is, what plant and animal life is found there, and their uniqueness in Thailand. It’s almost as if they’re providing me with something of a science education!
Now, I understand that some of this information might be distracting for some who just want a quick and dirty guide to getting around the country. Don’t be discouraged by the amount of “other” content you will find in the book; there are hundreds of listings of specific places to check out, including their name in Thai, address, phone numbers, and brief descriptions of what they are.
The back of the book has sections called “Where to Stay” and “Where to Eat” with several hundred listings categorized by region and includes general price ranges so you can find things that suit your travel budget.
Also in the book is an excellent section called “Practical Information” that tells you about everything from etiquette to communications, Internet to renting a car or moped. There is also a small but useful phrase book section at the very end of the book, with just enough common terms and expressions to help you get where you need to go.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the overall picture. If you have any interest in Thailand, which I assume you do because you are reading this, I highly recommend you purchase Eyewitness Travel Thailand. Even if you aren’t necessarily planning on going to Thailand anytime soon but just want to read about the country, this is a great book to do it.
I will definitely be picking up the updated version when it comes out in August, and I recommend you do, too!