The Pros and Cons of the Lonely Planet Morocco Guidebook – A Book Review

If you are into travelling as I am, you would agree that travel guidebooks are one of the essential tools one should have. They are a very helpful in the sense that a tremendous amount of time and effort has gone into creating them for accurate information. Some of them can be a little too patronizing and confusing sometimes.

I have learned from experience that it would be a big mistake to cling to them religiously as many travelers do, since most of them are often out of date before they are even published. It would really be nice to be able to get the most out of these guidebooks but believe me, it would be best that you learn how to use them sparingly and rely on your better judgment. Lonely Planet is an authority when it comes to creating travel guides.

Let’s take a look at some of the Pros and Cons of the Lonely Planet Morocco guidebook. I travelled to Morocco on a two-week trip to experience the “Red City” and immerse myself in an adventure of sorts and I used the Lonely Planet Morocco guidebook to help me throughout my trip. I don’t know how to speak any French or Arabic which made me solely dependent on the guidebook which was great because it contained basic phrases that anybody could use for basic communication such as for asking directions.

What’s great about the Lonely Planet Morocco is how the chapters and logistical information are organized. It also has some good information on accommodations and how to get around the place. There are even maps in the guidebook that I think are pretty basic but are really useful. I’ve heard some people comment that they find the map confusing rather than helpful. All I could say is “It worked for me”.

Well, there are a couple of things about it that I did not like. First off, the Lonely Planet Morocco guidebook is extremely heavy that it would be a chore to take it around with you. I was seriously contemplating on ripping out some pages but ended up just photocopying those pages I needed. Another thing that I don’t like is how Lonely Planet has devoted a significant number of pages to history and culture.

Sure, it’s interesting and informative but I don’t think it’s practically useful to a traveler on the road. I think people would really benefit from it if Lonely Planet devoted more pages on information regarding restaurants in Morocco, activities, entertainment, nightlife, relaxation and the like that I’m sure a lot of tourists are looking forward to experiencing and getting some useful information on.

I would say that the guidebook is generally useful even though it does have a couple of minor flaws. There’s one more thing that I want to share that I feel is really important that you be aware of. There are some hotels and hoteliers in Fes that are using their exposure in the guidebook to hawk their services and take advantage of some customers by raising their prices just because they got featured in Lonely Planet Morocco.

Visiting Morocco is one of the most memorable travel experiences that I had and even though it’s not entirely hassle-free, it’s been great! I’ve spent less time getting myself lost because I had a wonderful tool that has helped me research as well as make all the necessary arrangements a traveler needs ahead of time. Lonely Planet Morocco is certainly a great reference when it comes to travel, exploration and adventure.

Photography Book Review: "CHINA: Portrait of a People" Is the Best of the Decade

I want to share with anyone that might read this how much I enjoyed Tom Carter’s new photography book “CHINA: Portrait of a People”. I ordered the book because I recently returned from China and could not get enough of the life style I had just experienced. When I first received the book from Amazon I thought it was quite a unique size for a book of photography, but once I started looking at it I really enjoyed the small size in my hand; it made it easy to just sit on the couch with book in hand.

Carter’s 640-page book is divided into 33 chapters, one for each province, and before each chapter are his recollections of his difficulties traveling to the regions as well as episodes where Chinese individuals (see “I, Shen Mei Li,” page 134) are allowed to speak for themselves, as well as fragments of poetry and other uniquely Chinese related material, some gritty, some even grotesque.

With a country as big as China, there’s a lot to see and Tom Carter provides a vast array of images and views – glimpses of a country on the cusp of a sweeping transformation: a great nation that still identifies as Communist while embracing new Capitalist ways. These photos then also provide historical artifacts as modernization plows away thousands of years of history.

Favorite images? Hard to pick since there are so many. The photo-illustrated journey starts at Beijing (‘the epicenter of the “center of the world,”’ as Tom Carter writes) and concludes with Tibet (“Middle of nowhere, center of everywhere”). With more than 600 pages in between. (The images in this final section – Tibet – are among the most emotionally compelling and beautiful of the book.)

Of the places I’d like to go back and visit on account of Carter’s book, top of the list would be Tibet and places like the Portuguese-influenced Macau, and of course Beijing (“Chaoyang”). Then: remote Heilongjiang (“Harbin”), Inner Mongolia (which is one of the most beautiful sections of the book), coastal Shandong (birthplace of Confucius), Jiangsu (with its sad and bloody history of Japanese invasion), Fujian, Guangdong (“Dapu”), of course Hong Kong (for its urban, multi-cultural variety), Guangxi ( “Zhongliu”), Guizhou (“Zengchong”), Anhui (“Mukeng Zhuhai,” the Bamboo Sea where Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was shot), Hunan (“Zhangjiajie” and “Fenghaung”), Henan (“Song Shan” for its 800-year-old Shaolin temple and its ancient association with Kung Fu), Shaabxu (“Xi’an” for the Bingmayong vault), Gansu (“Hexi” and “Langmusi” for its Tibetan yet almost Peruvian-appearing culture), Sichuan (“Jiuzhaigou” and “Emei Shan”), Yunnan (“Lijiang”)…

China is an unavoidable nation in the 21st century. It is no longer simply a topic for adventure-seeking travelers or businessmen and diplomats. Even if you have never been to China or know little about it, it is affecting your life in ways large and small. And it will surely only do so more in the years ahead. Tom Carter’s China: Portrait Of A People is a fine place to start peeking behind the silk curtain at this fascinating country. And unlike a dry foreign affairs book, this book has the added bonus of teaching you about China while providing a feast for the eyes with its lush visual spectacle.

Mexico by Motorcycle: A Book Review

The popularity of motorcycling in Mexico has its modern roots in the first half of the 20th century. And through blogging and other online means of mass communicating, especially over the past decade writing about this particular means of seeing the country has increased exponentially. However the topic has not received comprehensive treatment in both an extremely informative and highly entertaining fashion – until now.

In Mexico by Motorcycle: An Adventure Story and Guide (Sombrero Books, 2015), Mexico expert and motorcycle enthusiast William B. Kaliher takes us for a ride spanning more than two decades. No, Kaliher has not been riding continually all that time; his first visit was in 1964, and the meat of his book is drawn from extended experiences in 1971 and 1993.

Kaliher immediately grabs your interest. At the outset he lets you know what’s in store in terms of his use of descriptive anecdotes interspersed with gems of travel advice. It quickly becomes apparent that the author is a talented writer and former biker who has been diarizing his travels over decades; not just the two main motorcycling adventures chronicled, but literally for fifty years using different modes of travel while traversing thousands of roads connecting Mexico’s villages, towns and cities.

The advice includes: night riding; what and how much clothing to bring and why (even bikers should have on hand one nice shirt and pair of slacks); climatic considerations; repair matters; modern day perceptions of drugs, violence, bribes and associated anxieties; insurance; maps; the border; relationships; size of motorcycle (a dumbfounding surprise for me); accommodations, restaurants and sights; parking; security; dogs; and all that makes the adventure worthwhile, and more importantly a life-altering experience.

Although a plethora of valuable advice is detailed in the first couple of chapters, Kaliher’s style is to intersperse additional nuggets of wisdom throughout the book. He imparts the fruits of his expertise through the use of richly descriptive, and at times humorous narratives such as referring to “the mother of all potholes,” and how traffic lights and stop signs suddenly become “obstacles to be overcome.” His knowledge of Mexico’s past, as well as its unique and diverse present-day traditions and personalities shines brightly.

Mexico by Motorcycle is an exquisite photo essay, a guide book packed with critically important advice and tips which will surprise you by virtue of the fact that Kaliher even considered mentioning them, and an adventure through the country’s landscapes, history and contemporary cultures.

My criticism is with the title, but only because prospective visitors to the country using car or van may miss out on one of the most important books in modern times about traveling in Mexico. The audience should include Mexicophiles who have no interest in driving in the country. The read will induce fond recollections of past experiences and pique the interest in a return, perhaps even on a motorcycle.