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By this Author: bex76

Korea: A Walk Through The Land Of Miracles

By Simon Winchester

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After a recent trip to South Korea, I was keen to find out some more about this fascinating country so was pleased to discover that author and journalist Simon Winchester had written a book about his travels in this little-known land. He was retracing the steps of a group of Dutch sailors who were shipwrecked off the coast of Korea in the 17th century, and the book describes his walk from the South of the country to the North Korean border-as far as he could go. It was written in the 1980s so I was aware that some detail was going to be outdated but still hoped to learn some more about the fascinating Korean culture that I had just had my first taste of.

Unfortunately I was disappointed with most of the book and it didn’t really provide the insight into the country that I was anticipating. I found the book disjointed and it was hard to get a feel of exactly where he was in the country, partly because he walked, rather than using any form of transport. As a result of this, much of the scenery and incidents he encounters along the way are described in detail but there are not enough descriptions of the people, culture, customs etc to provide any useful insight into the country. He does not visit most of the sights and attractions that the country has to offer, which would have been interesting to read about and similarly in Seoul he barely describes the city at all. Furthermore, many of the people that the author comes across in the book are non-Koreans, for example Irish missionaries and American servicemen, so they are seeing the country through a foreigner’s eyes, as is the author. He also meets several prostitutes and some tour guides along the way, neither or which provided a typical view of the country so as a result fails to explore Korean culture in any real depth. Several times the author makes sexual references to some of the women he meets on his travels, which I found to be rather tasteless and unnecessary.

One of the most interesting passages in the book was the description of ginseng, detailing its significance in Korean society and its health benefits. There were a few other interesting sections and anecdotes throughout, but if the rest of the book had been written in a similar style it would have a much more engaging and interesting read. By far the most interesting part of the book was the final part, when Winchester spends some time at the DMZ, near the border to North Korea. Although he was again predominantly with non – Koreans (American servicemen) while he was in this area, this section provides a fascinating insight into the history behind this massively fortified border area.

This book is a fairly quick, easy read with a spot of humour in parts, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone seeking to learn more about South Korea and its culture and people.

You can find this book on Amazon: Korea: A Walk Through The Land Of Miracles

Posted by bex76 12:32 Comments (0)

Take Me With You

by Brad Newsham

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Having read Brad Newsham’s first book ‘All the right places’ and thoroughly enjoying it, I was delighted to discover he had written a second book about his travels in the Philippines, India, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and South Africa over the space of 100 days. This is a refreshingly different travel book however, as the author’s mission is to choose someone to visit him in America, at his expense, from the people he encounters on his trip.

Brad’s plan was hatched when he was a 22-year old backpacking through Afghanistan, and 14 years later as a taxi driver in San Francisco, he finally manages to achieve his ambition.

His mission to take someone home with him is interwoven subtly into the book, rather than dominating his day to day travel experiences. The people he meets are described in detail and with sensitivity, and he takes time to talk to and get to know many of them. The book is packed with interesting descriptions about the places he visits, and he has the balance between humour and the serious issues just right. He is constantly observant and honest about the bad times that go with travelling, such as his realisation that India is not as great as he found it during his first visit: his journal is revealing as he glances over it and reflects on some of his more negative observations about the country. Similarly, he is aware that he shouldn’t take travelling for granted and that he must enjoy and remember the $2.50 rooms and the 50 cent beers.

Brad travels frugally and is not looking forward to getting back to the rat- race at home in America and also realises that he would love to travel for much longer if he had the financial means to do so, things that many travellers will be able to relate to. It would be hard not to warm to Brad and his generous, humble nature.

The writing style could have been better, but I was fascinated throughout by everywhere that Brad visits, and intrigued as to who would be the lucky person chosen to visit him in America. I think many readers would be able to relate to his insights along the way. The end of the book is heart- warming as he describes who he chose and their experiences together in America. Earlier editions of the book did not include this epilogue because Brad’s plans took several years to come to fruition; it would have been a less than fitting end to the book if the reader did not find out who was chosen. Overall, a compelling and enjoyable read.

You can find this book on Amazon: Take Me With You

Posted by bex76 13:46 Comments (0)

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