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To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies, and the Art of Extreme Tourism

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The guru of extreme tourism sets out to face his worst fears in Africa, India, Mexico City, and—most terrifying of all—at Disney World In the widely-acclaimed Smile When You're Lying, Chuck Thompson laid bare the travel industry's dirtiest secrets. Now he's out to discover if some of the world's most ill-reputed destinations live up to their bad raps, while confronting a fe The guru of extreme tourism sets out to face his worst fears in Africa, India, Mexico City, and—most terrifying of all—at Disney World In the widely-acclaimed Smile When You're Lying, Chuck Thompson laid bare the travel industry's dirtiest secrets. Now he's out to discover if some of the world's most ill-reputed destinations live up to their bad raps, while confronting a few of his own travel anxieties in the process. Whether he's traveling across the Congo with a former bodyguard from notorious dictator Joseph Mobutu's retinue or diving into the heart of India's monsoon season, To Hellholes and Back delivers Thompson's trademark combination of hilarious stories and wildly provocative opinions, as well as some surprising observations about America's evolving place in the world.


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The guru of extreme tourism sets out to face his worst fears in Africa, India, Mexico City, and—most terrifying of all—at Disney World In the widely-acclaimed Smile When You're Lying, Chuck Thompson laid bare the travel industry's dirtiest secrets. Now he's out to discover if some of the world's most ill-reputed destinations live up to their bad raps, while confronting a fe The guru of extreme tourism sets out to face his worst fears in Africa, India, Mexico City, and—most terrifying of all—at Disney World In the widely-acclaimed Smile When You're Lying, Chuck Thompson laid bare the travel industry's dirtiest secrets. Now he's out to discover if some of the world's most ill-reputed destinations live up to their bad raps, while confronting a few of his own travel anxieties in the process. Whether he's traveling across the Congo with a former bodyguard from notorious dictator Joseph Mobutu's retinue or diving into the heart of India's monsoon season, To Hellholes and Back delivers Thompson's trademark combination of hilarious stories and wildly provocative opinions, as well as some surprising observations about America's evolving place in the world.

30 review for To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies, and the Art of Extreme Tourism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Really mixed feelings on this one. Parts were so laugh-out-loud funny that it deserved five stars just for that. And I have to love anyone who loves Mexico City as much as I do, and for many of the same reasons. (His story about the kind people in the subway is similar to a group of women I encountered in the subway who, after Tim and I got separated in the chaos of getting onto the subway, gave me free instructions on how to push my way into a crowded subway car in rush hour.) On the other hand Really mixed feelings on this one. Parts were so laugh-out-loud funny that it deserved five stars just for that. And I have to love anyone who loves Mexico City as much as I do, and for many of the same reasons. (His story about the kind people in the subway is similar to a group of women I encountered in the subway who, after Tim and I got separated in the chaos of getting onto the subway, gave me free instructions on how to push my way into a crowded subway car in rush hour.) On the other hand, I felt like he was just trying too hard -- trying too hard to be in-your-face, to be politically incorrect, to be "different." I think what it came down to is I didn't really like him as a person in a lot of ways, so traveling to all these interesting and crazy places with him wasn't as interesting as it would have been with a travel companion I liked. Still glad I read it, and some of his insights and descriptions will stay with me for a long time.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tim Hainley

    I don't really have much use for these 'Poochie the author' type writers who expend so much energy showing me how much attitude they have and getting Totally In My Face. That said, Thompson is a more talented version of those than most, and when he's not needlessly dropping Dirty Sanchez references, much of his story and commentary is really interesting. That said, if you're a former features editor for Maxim, you're really not allowed to spend multiple pages decrying how Britney Spears has comm I don't really have much use for these 'Poochie the author' type writers who expend so much energy showing me how much attitude they have and getting Totally In My Face. That said, Thompson is a more talented version of those than most, and when he's not needlessly dropping Dirty Sanchez references, much of his story and commentary is really interesting. That said, if you're a former features editor for Maxim, you're really not allowed to spend multiple pages decrying how Britney Spears has commodified the sexuality our nation's youth. Seriously, bro.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rob Maynard

    Chuck Thompson is a revelation as a writer. Most of his light has been hidden under the bushel of niche lad mags like Maxim or Outside. I first read part of this book excerpted in Outside, his segment on the cultural meaning of the Monsoon Season to Indians. In this book he goes to the most dangerous travel destinations in the world, according to his friends, travel experts, and his own darkest fears. He spends a month or more in the Congo, India, Mexico City, and, shiver, Orlando. Thompson expose Chuck Thompson is a revelation as a writer. Most of his light has been hidden under the bushel of niche lad mags like Maxim or Outside. I first read part of this book excerpted in Outside, his segment on the cultural meaning of the Monsoon Season to Indians. In this book he goes to the most dangerous travel destinations in the world, according to his friends, travel experts, and his own darkest fears. He spends a month or more in the Congo, India, Mexico City, and, shiver, Orlando. Thompson exposes the cultural imperialism endemic to most travel writing, while paying fixers and bribes in Africa, exploring the dank horrors of low-end prostitution in India, or the subtle ambiance of a Mexican football game. He is no relation to Hunter S., but Chuck Thompson is his spiritual heir, with amazingly funny, smart, hellraising observations that tell truth to power and make you feel like you're right there.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    For some reason I just didn't like the author. Not sure what it was about him, but he just grated on me. This is a huge problem in travel writing, of course, when you're seeing the world through the author's eyes and, more or less, accompanying them on their travels. The subject matter was quite interesting though. The sections on the Congo and India kept me interested, but, by the time I got to the last one about Disneyland, I felt the book had lost the momentum it'd had at the start. Overall, For some reason I just didn't like the author. Not sure what it was about him, but he just grated on me. This is a huge problem in travel writing, of course, when you're seeing the world through the author's eyes and, more or less, accompanying them on their travels. The subject matter was quite interesting though. The sections on the Congo and India kept me interested, but, by the time I got to the last one about Disneyland, I felt the book had lost the momentum it'd had at the start. Overall, an okay read, but I'm not sure I'll hunt down anything else by the author.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    How refreshing to read someone who refuses to see Africa as a cesspool of victimhood (Thompson argues against the view made popular by Joseph Conrad), but overall his hellholes aren't really all that hellish ("India? my husband said. "People do study abroad there. He should have gone to Afghanistan."). That's part of the point, I suppose. Nevertheless, any book that encourages people to get out and see the world for themselves is OK in my, um, book. How refreshing to read someone who refuses to see Africa as a cesspool of victimhood (Thompson argues against the view made popular by Joseph Conrad), but overall his hellholes aren't really all that hellish ("India? my husband said. "People do study abroad there. He should have gone to Afghanistan."). That's part of the point, I suppose. Nevertheless, any book that encourages people to get out and see the world for themselves is OK in my, um, book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Redparrot

    Chuck Thompson spent a year visiting tourist hell holes. That is – the Congo, India, Mexico and Walt Disney World. Thompson is a veteran travel writer and his experience both with travel and with the writing of it benefits the reader in ways that make this armchair travel log infinitely amusing while thoroughly disguising the extensive education it provides. He has a writing style that is unflagging engagement with his reader. He concocts some of the best similes I have ever encountered. These s Chuck Thompson spent a year visiting tourist hell holes. That is – the Congo, India, Mexico and Walt Disney World. Thompson is a veteran travel writer and his experience both with travel and with the writing of it benefits the reader in ways that make this armchair travel log infinitely amusing while thoroughly disguising the extensive education it provides. He has a writing style that is unflagging engagement with his reader. He concocts some of the best similes I have ever encountered. These similes are so good, in fact, I started writing them down whenever I encountered a new one. Throughout his travels, he has a variety of close calls and when they don’t readily appear, he goes in search of them. Particularly during his trips to the Congo and India, he frequently finds him self completely and utterly at the mercy of questionable and often self appointed help. His adventures are periodically hair raising and he relates them with wit and self-depreciating humour. The reader remains grateful, however, that he has gone on our behalf since some of his adventures relate to food and the ensuing gastrointestinal hilarity when a meal disagrees with him. This is always more hilarious when it is not happening to you. His Epilogue is profoundly satisfying and he is right to leave it to the end since his thesis has all the more impact being arrived at retrospectively. This thin chapter is worth waiting for and connects the four disparate threads of the book in an unexpected way that belies the off-handed sometimes cavalier tone he takes with the rest of the book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chris Duryee

    I started off enjoying this book but then the author gets rather overbearing. I was looking forward to reading a book about how he makes his way through a few difficult places to travel but he only does this in small doses. I feel like I should have known when I saw that one of the places was Disney World. I did not finish this book. The author spends way too much time deriding politics he doesn't agree with, religion and just people in general whom he seems to feel are below him. I made it thoug I started off enjoying this book but then the author gets rather overbearing. I was looking forward to reading a book about how he makes his way through a few difficult places to travel but he only does this in small doses. I feel like I should have known when I saw that one of the places was Disney World. I did not finish this book. The author spends way too much time deriding politics he doesn't agree with, religion and just people in general whom he seems to feel are below him. I made it though only a quarter of the last chapter where he visits Disney and stopped for good when I realized this was just in the book so he could whine about it, the people who work there and the people having fun there. He believes himself to be of such superior intellect and travel experience that it becomes boring and predictable. Sorry, Chuck. Way too much complaining and verbal jabbing. Your feelings on religion and politics are what they are but this was supposed to be a book about traveling, not about lambasting everything you don't like on every other page. If you want to complain go meet up with your buddies and do so. Believe me, I'm sure there are plenty of ways in which others find you to be rather uninformed and misled.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Loved this. Really loved it. I thought Thompson's anecdotes were consistently hilarious and the subject matter engrossing, as a huge fan myself of travel to "difficult" countries. Maybe I'm just behind the curve, but it surprises me that Chuck Klosterman/Nick Hornby etc. get so much more attention than Thompson. I'll definitely read his other books. Loved this. Really loved it. I thought Thompson's anecdotes were consistently hilarious and the subject matter engrossing, as a huge fan myself of travel to "difficult" countries. Maybe I'm just behind the curve, but it surprises me that Chuck Klosterman/Nick Hornby etc. get so much more attention than Thompson. I'll definitely read his other books.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Barb Pemberton

    I like the subject matter and the actual writing is fine. The writer, however, has a limited audience. He went from crass, to crude, to vulgar. I felt like he was writing for a teenage boy in an article in Forum magazine circa 1970s. The whole interaction with Shanghai Bob I wish I could have filtered this section out of the Mexico City chapter. Unpleasant book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    A fun, quick non-reverent account of the author's experience in Congo, India, Mexico and the USA's Disneyworld. For people who've done a fair amount of travel in third world countries, and in the case of the USA, experience with the culture of Disneyland, this work brings your own experiences back to life and brings laughter as well as frustation. And for others who haven't travelled to these places, it may cause you to think twice about boarding the plane. A fun, quick non-reverent account of the author's experience in Congo, India, Mexico and the USA's Disneyworld. For people who've done a fair amount of travel in third world countries, and in the case of the USA, experience with the culture of Disneyland, this work brings your own experiences back to life and brings laughter as well as frustation. And for others who haven't travelled to these places, it may cause you to think twice about boarding the plane.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Occhi Aperti

    Fun look at some of the places we had wanted to visit such as Congo and India, but which we took off our list a couple of years ago. Had me laughing out loud in some parts. The idea of going out of one's comfort zone is always thought provoking. If you enjoy unusual travel books, this is a good one. Fun look at some of the places we had wanted to visit such as Congo and India, but which we took off our list a couple of years ago. Had me laughing out loud in some parts. The idea of going out of one's comfort zone is always thought provoking. If you enjoy unusual travel books, this is a good one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Cray

    This book and PJ O'Rourke's Holidays in Hell would vie for top slot among the most hilarious travel books ever written. The good thing imho is that Thompson's politics are much better than O'Rourke's. He travels to the DRC, India and Mexico City. He doesn't make you wanna visit any of these places, which I guess is why the book is commonly described as part of the "extreme travel" genre. This book and PJ O'Rourke's Holidays in Hell would vie for top slot among the most hilarious travel books ever written. The good thing imho is that Thompson's politics are much better than O'Rourke's. He travels to the DRC, India and Mexico City. He doesn't make you wanna visit any of these places, which I guess is why the book is commonly described as part of the "extreme travel" genre.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I like to read books about places I have no desire to go to. That being said, I was really irritated by Mr. Thompson calling a fellow traveler a hermaphrodite simply because she didn't fit his misogynist view of what a female should look like. This was unnecessary to the book and irritated me enough that I quit reading. I like to read books about places I have no desire to go to. That being said, I was really irritated by Mr. Thompson calling a fellow traveler a hermaphrodite simply because she didn't fit his misogynist view of what a female should look like. This was unnecessary to the book and irritated me enough that I quit reading.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Valeria Recalde

    This is a really unusual travel book. Chuck Thompson spent a year visiting tourist "hell holes" (the Congo, India, Mexico and Walt Disney World). The book is full of cool anecdotes and sarcastic humor, makes you laugh out loud and disagree with a lot of opinions too, i enjoyed it though. This is a really unusual travel book. Chuck Thompson spent a year visiting tourist "hell holes" (the Congo, India, Mexico and Walt Disney World). The book is full of cool anecdotes and sarcastic humor, makes you laugh out loud and disagree with a lot of opinions too, i enjoyed it though.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dagny Taggert

    I can overlook even extreme misogyny when the author is funny or talented enough. That is not the case here, however. Thompson has an entire thesaurus worth of knowledge on words for loose women. He uses every bit of it in this unremarkable travel diary.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

    4.25 stars

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rick Harris

    The best travel writer around. unfiltered and honest.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elorra

    Super fun and entertaining book on travel. How he mixes his humour with the hellish reality of the Congo and India are particularly of note!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pablo Snazzy

    well written, interesting, funny. a perfect book, at least for me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marnie Z

    Didn't finish... Didn't finish...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sheila Hooker

    thouroughly funny, if a little profane. O.k., more than a little profane.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Desmond

    Gross characterization of America. Couldn't get into it because it was bad. Obviously, didn't finish. Gross characterization of America. Couldn't get into it because it was bad. Obviously, didn't finish.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarina M

    Thompson is a little bit of a douche, but this book was so funny and had a zillion great quotes. It was very fun to vicariously go on his adventures. "Shanties fall apart like bad alibis. " “The first hippo is signaling for a challenge.... he began kicking dirt over a dried pile of existing dung, the property of the dominant male, who took in the whole scene with an expression of supreme hippo mortification." "I’m normally skeptical of self-promoters who pepper their personal anecdotes with phrase Thompson is a little bit of a douche, but this book was so funny and had a zillion great quotes. It was very fun to vicariously go on his adventures. "Shanties fall apart like bad alibis. " “The first hippo is signaling for a challenge.... he began kicking dirt over a dried pile of existing dung, the property of the dominant male, who took in the whole scene with an expression of supreme hippo mortification." "I’m normally skeptical of self-promoters who pepper their personal anecdotes with phrases like “By the time I grabbed my machete.” " "For the entire flight from South Africa, the hairy Greek arms dealer in aviator shades beside me had maintained aggressive dominion over the armrest. " "Despite having roughly 3 percent of India’s population, Kerala racks up 10 percent of the nation’s traffic accidents. " "According to the World Bank, the Congo is one of the top five countries in the world with the largest number of children out of school. At least 50 percent are completely outside of the school system. Henri tells me only about 15 percent advance beyond primary school; less than 1 percent attend university. " “One of the cabinet members was friends with a Lebanese businessman who imported these small extinguishers. But no one was buying them and he was stuck with tens of thousands of them. So they passed a law—every vehicle owner must carry a fire extinguisher or face a severe fine. The Lebanese man has made millions. He’s the nation’s sole supplier.” "famous quote, not quite a joke, from Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president: “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”" "Sometimes it’s just as valuable to reaffirm your belief system as it is to disprove it." "As in Tepito no one bothers me, thought one Mexican tells me later, 'Everybody left you alone because they saw those sunglasses and assumed you were a drug dealer'". “I love New York, but whenever I end up leaving, the one thing I’m not going to miss is the sound of those rats fighting outside my door.” To which longtime New Yorker Dave replied, “Chuck, I’ve got news for you—those rats aren’t fighting.” "acquiring a driver’s license in Mexico City requires no test of any kind. All it takes to get licensed is proof of residence and forty-three dollars." "Another common refrain roughly translates as “Your mother fucks like a dog.” This phrase is shouted in the same door-knocking cadence we often associate with the old “shave and a haircut, two bits” lyric. I’m told the insult is so well known across Mexico that simply knocking on someone’s door with the familiar syncopated rhythm can potentially land you in a fistfight." "Given its reputation for all-purpose hazard, for many, travel to Mexico City has become the equivalent of the old Seinfeld joke about scuba diving: “Another great activity where your main goal is to not die.”" "I’ve privately kept a list of not-for-me destinations where beyond disease, crime, filth, intestinal viruses, and the possibility of rectal bleeding, I’m equally turned off by prejudices against pushy lo- cals, monstrously bad food, paralyzing constipation, and hotel beds with only one pillow "

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christine Zibas

    Chuck Thompson is not your typical travel writer, but his book “Smile While You're Lying” made that abundantly clear. In this book, Thompson takes the issue of fear head on, traveling purposefully to places that few would consider vacation spots (albeit his last stop on this worldwide series of journeys). His travels to the Continent of Africa, the country of India, and the capital of Mexico (along with Walt Disney World, a section he titles "To Sneer or Not to Sneer?") each provokes some type o Chuck Thompson is not your typical travel writer, but his book “Smile While You're Lying” made that abundantly clear. In this book, Thompson takes the issue of fear head on, traveling purposefully to places that few would consider vacation spots (albeit his last stop on this worldwide series of journeys). His travels to the Continent of Africa, the country of India, and the capital of Mexico (along with Walt Disney World, a section he titles "To Sneer or Not to Sneer?") each provokes some type of underlying anxiety and other worldliness. Africa and the Congo For most travelers, even those among us who are considered well-seasoned and fearless, there's something a little anxiety provoking about traveling to the Congo, the main stop on Thompson's journey to Africa. Even shaking off the mystique of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," there is plenty to fear: disease, war, corruption, and a general lack of infrastructure that makes even potable water a daily concern once one leaves the main cities. Among the most annoying (but certainly not life threatening) problems in Congo is bribery. It's rampant and soon becomes a factor in every move Thompson and his hired entourage make (in part a fact of daily life because of the meager resources, so that nearly every civil servant who can find a way to capitalize on a little side income takes full advantage). Facing the fear and doing it anyway However, the horrors one supposed (and which Thompson's friends and family members warn against) never come to pass. That's the lesson in all these places. There are certainly dicey situations, but far less than one might suppose for travels to lands known for their inherent danger. In part, one can blame the sensationalist media, but travelers also have to look at themselves and the travel industry generally (a point well made in his first book, Smile While You're Lying). Do any of these places reflect the essence of what ideas have been pre-ordained and spouted over and over again in government warnings and media stories? Is Mexico City any more dangerous than Los Angeles or Detroit or Chicago (my own hometown)? Embracing the unknown The unknown and what we (the public) have been told doesn't always match up with the reality, Thompson so ably demonstrates. Sure there needs to be caution in certain situations, but one can say that about everyday life, too. The larger point that Thompson makes so entertainingly is that travel removes the barriers to understanding. Whether its our own snobbish superiority (at the happiest place on earth, Disney) or creeping anxiety about adapting to unfamiliar cultures (like India) or blatant fear of becoming a victim of crime (Mexico City), travel has a way of melting away the images seared in our minds and very often replacing them with something totally unexpected. That is its magic.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Patrick McCoy

    Chuck Thompson is a very entertaining travel writer, and his latest, To Hellholes And Back, reaffirms this greatly. There are many of the elements that I found so endearing and entertaining about his previous book, Smile When You’re Lying, were on full display here: straight talk about the travel industry, illuminating commentary about the places he visits, entertaining similes and pop cultural references. The premise of the book is that he will visit places that are largely deemed dangerous and Chuck Thompson is a very entertaining travel writer, and his latest, To Hellholes And Back, reaffirms this greatly. There are many of the elements that I found so endearing and entertaining about his previous book, Smile When You’re Lying, were on full display here: straight talk about the travel industry, illuminating commentary about the places he visits, entertaining similes and pop cultural references. The premise of the book is that he will visit places that are largely deemed dangerous and unsuitable for travel, Africa, India, and Mexico City and his own personal version of hell-Walt Disney World. Like Thompson I have been trying to get out of my personal travel comfort zone as well with last year’s visit to Bangladesh and this year’s planned trip to Kyrgyzstan. Not sure if the Congo will ever be on my list, but Africa definitely is, as are India and Mexico City. I’m sorry to say that he didn’t convince me that WDW is ever going to in my future travel plans. He does a good job of explaining why it is that I detest the crass commercialization of Disney and the commoditization of dreams. In fact I’ll hold onto the book for his recommendations about India and Mexico City in particular.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    So far quite humorous, if you like sarcastic humor. I just read a few pages each night. Paul picked it up in Afghan and loved it, so he recommended it to me. Finished it over Thanksgiving, the author has a very sarcastic and funny sense of writing style that I would laugh out loud at during parts. Not good when I bring it to read after taking a test and get looks from classmates as I try to stifle a giggle to myself!! Chuck Thompson basically decides to visit the worst places he can think of- Ind So far quite humorous, if you like sarcastic humor. I just read a few pages each night. Paul picked it up in Afghan and loved it, so he recommended it to me. Finished it over Thanksgiving, the author has a very sarcastic and funny sense of writing style that I would laugh out loud at during parts. Not good when I bring it to read after taking a test and get looks from classmates as I try to stifle a giggle to myself!! Chuck Thompson basically decides to visit the worst places he can think of- India, Congo, Mexico City, and Disneyworld over the course of a year and immerses himself into the city/culture so he can really get a "feel" for it and hope to make it out alive. I gave it a 4 because while India had good parts, I struggled in the middle of it to get through that section of the book. I'm glad I finished it as the end of the trip was more interesting (very sad but interesting). I found it to definitely be a book to read a little bit at a time rather than sit and read it in one sitting but maybe also since I had other books going on at the same time. Overall pretty good.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jrobertus

    Thompson is a professional travel writer. IN this book he pis himself against the horrors of travel to 1. the Congo 2. India 3. Mexico City, and 4. Disney world. He ha some anxious moments but is never in real danger. The Congo is a sump of corruption and actual warfare prevents him from visiting the most dangerous areas. Mainly it is just bribe, bribe, bribe. India also has problems with effective government and health, which he mostly blames on lack of toilet paper. Mexico is a happy surprise. Thompson is a professional travel writer. IN this book he pis himself against the horrors of travel to 1. the Congo 2. India 3. Mexico City, and 4. Disney world. He ha some anxious moments but is never in real danger. The Congo is a sump of corruption and actual warfare prevents him from visiting the most dangerous areas. Mainly it is just bribe, bribe, bribe. India also has problems with effective government and health, which he mostly blames on lack of toilet paper. Mexico is a happy surprise. there is poverty to be sure, but most people seem happy and he really likes the place. At first he is down on the plastic Disney world, but side trips to other Orlando parks, like Universal Studios and Jesus Land, start to make Disney look organized and professional. In the end, he opines the the USA is tending toward third world status, with our homelessness, callousness, and breakdown of regard for legitimate government; he says we are not up to the standards of, say, Japan or Denmark.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lea

    Well, since I've decided to start reading books again this was definitely a good one to start with. I have a definite weakness for non-fiction memoirs/stories, especially funny ones. The book is divided into 4 parts: Africa, India, Mexico, and Disney World. Of the four I skipped India and probably enjoyed Africa and Mexico the most. I felt like the comedic aspect of his writing was at its best in these parts. The situations he ended up in were the funniest in Mexico and Africa as well. I found m Well, since I've decided to start reading books again this was definitely a good one to start with. I have a definite weakness for non-fiction memoirs/stories, especially funny ones. The book is divided into 4 parts: Africa, India, Mexico, and Disney World. Of the four I skipped India and probably enjoyed Africa and Mexico the most. I felt like the comedic aspect of his writing was at its best in these parts. The situations he ended up in were the funniest in Mexico and Africa as well. I found myself laughing out loud throughout a lot of this book, but the ending fell flat. Most of Disney World and the entire epilogue was just a long lecture on social change in the US. Now there is a place for this but if I wanted to read socio-political messages I would pick up a book on that. I don't like to be unexpectedly lectured by comedy writers, so I ended up not reading the end of the book. Summary: Funny book, ending fell flat, definitely an adult read (for content and language).

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    Extremely opinionated, with a lively,engaging and sometimes very earthy style. Sometimes he unwittingly displays his ignorance. For example, he tells a story about a hollow tree in Boma supposed to have sheltered Stanley on some occasion, but declares it untrue because the section of the tree in question is still at ground level "as though the tree hasn't grown an inch over the past 140 years." (He clearly has no idea how trees grow.) And again when he talks about UNESCO world heritage sites whi Extremely opinionated, with a lively,engaging and sometimes very earthy style. Sometimes he unwittingly displays his ignorance. For example, he tells a story about a hollow tree in Boma supposed to have sheltered Stanley on some occasion, but declares it untrue because the section of the tree in question is still at ground level "as though the tree hasn't grown an inch over the past 140 years." (He clearly has no idea how trees grow.) And again when he talks about UNESCO world heritage sites while in India and makes it pretty clear that he thinks they should be selected on the basis of what may appeal most to traveling amateur photographers, rather than cultural significance. (He mentions the Cahokia site in Illinois as a bad choice, clearly knowing nothing of its great archeological significance to the history of pre-Columbian Native American civilizations.) But let that go and just sit back and enjoy the ride!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    Wickedly snarky, ROTFL-funny experiences of a travel writer facing up to his worst travel fears: Congo, India, Mexico City and Disney World. If you are planning a trip and expecting a guide book, you'll be disappointed. This is not that kind of book. Instead it is a reflection of the author's preconceived notions, fears and prejudices and the actual experiences he encountered when exorcising his own travel demons. Warning: The reader must be willing to put up with a good bit of political incorre Wickedly snarky, ROTFL-funny experiences of a travel writer facing up to his worst travel fears: Congo, India, Mexico City and Disney World. If you are planning a trip and expecting a guide book, you'll be disappointed. This is not that kind of book. Instead it is a reflection of the author's preconceived notions, fears and prejudices and the actual experiences he encountered when exorcising his own travel demons. Warning: The reader must be willing to put up with a good bit of political incorrectness and machismo. (I was not surprised to learn after finishing the book that Thompson is an editor at Maxim). If you can get past that, this was a witty, fun read. A writer's writer Thompson most definitely has a way with words that left me reading sections aloud to my husband -- who is also a writer. All in all an entertaining read that left me wanting to look for more from this author.

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