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Sunday, 30 October 2011

The World’s Must-See Places



InkThe World’s Must-See Places is a compilation of 103 sights not to miss. All the places mentioned are human-made – from famous spots such as the Taj Mahal and Versailles to less widely known places such as Krak des Chevaliers in Syria and Pura Ulun Danu Batur in Bali.

If you’re interested in natural wonders this is not the book for you, but if you’re inspired by architectural wonders and human history these places are great choices to visit. Many traditional castles and cathedrals in Europe are highlighted as well as modern designs such as the Guggenheim.  All of the recently voted ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’ such as Machu Picchu, Petra, and the Great Wall of China are included with the notable exception of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue.

This coffee table book is loaded with pictures and has 3-D drawings of each building or monument and a brief history with highlights of what to see while you’re there. It covers every continent though the large majority are located in Europe and Asia.

If you need ideas about where to go next pick up The World’s Must-See Places for inspiration.


The World’s Must-See Places, DK Publishing, 2011

(c)Christina Bolton

Published in ink
Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Lunatic Express


LunaticexpressThe Lunatic Express, by Carl Hoffman, is the story of a journey on some of the world’s most dangerous trains, buses, boats, and airlines. Hoffman travels over mountain passes and through jungles in Peru, journeys on the notoriously bad ferries of Bangladesh, and rides the local train in Mumbai that takes the lives of over 4,000 people a year.  Despite these death defying feats, it wasn’t until I read of his flight into Afghanistan in the midst of the war that I truly thought ‘maybe he really is insane.’

The book is well written and compelling. I read it quickly, both to find out what would happen to him next, and also in an effort to try to understand him. When someone undertakes a project like this, there is a tendency to think they have a death wish.  However, it seemed as though when Hoffman lives on the edge, he becomes more alive, more free, and more self-aware. The psychology of the book was almost as interesting as the travel stories. I found myself relating to both the connection he felt with the people he’d end up traveling next to as well as the isolation he experienced even in the midst of being squeezed in between hundreds or thousands of people.

The book illustrates what so many people endure to travel, in some cases on a daily basis. Hoffman also explores the lives of some of the bus drivers and boat captains he meets along the way and discovers the thin margins that these cheap modes of transportation catering to the world’s poor survive on. One reason they are so dangerous is the simple fact that there are no rules preventing someone from driving a bus for 28 hours straight. I don’t know about your judgment after that amount of time without sleep, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I drove off the road either.

The stories of the people he meets along the way are the highlight of the book, from the men on an African train that look out for him to families on an Indonesian ferry that share their food with him. He is continually surrounded by the generosity of the invariably poor people he meets, many of them insisting on paying for him to show their hospitality. They always seem to be baffled by him, “Why don’t you fly?” is the most common question he’s asked, because if they had the money, surely they would.  Who would endure five days below deck on a stinking ferry crawling with cockroaches when they could take a short flight instead?

For me, it is these personal narratives that make The Lunatic Express such an interesting book. Most readers are probably wondering the same thing as his fellow passengers, but for adventurers who’ve been on similar journeys themselves – not because they were the most dangerous, but just because they were the cheapest or only way to travel to a certain destination – you may find a kindred spirit in Hoffman and enjoy his sometimes crazy stories.



©Christina Bolton

The Lunatic Express, Carl Hoffman, Broadway Books, 2010.

Published in ink

Drifting Through the Sands of Time: A Saharan Adventure by Ron Laikind is like a picture book for adults. The story recounts Laikind’s camel trek from Timbuktu, Mali through the vast desert north to Taoudenni, one of the most remote salt mining villages in Mali.

Published in ink

We were on our way out of Aukstaitija National Park on the Eastern border of Lithuania near Russia, a beautiful, peaceful park filled with lakes and trails.   We were winding down a little road thorough a tiny village (rapidly escaping the place we’d stayed the night before that I refused to stay in again) when we saw the sign for Hotel Labanoras.

 

 

Published in innkeeper

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