A Traveler's Library in April: From SE Asia to Scotland

by pen4hire /
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May 05, 2009 / 2 comments




A big thank you to Wandering Educators for inviting me to join the crew of editors here that provide information for travelers.  Once a month I'll stop by and tell you what's hot over at The Traveler's Library.

First a word about what The Traveler's Library site is/does.  Simply, we discuss books, and sometimes movies, that inform and inspire travel. Guidebooks, for the most part, are covered adequately elsewhere, like right here at Wandering Educators. 

I talk with my readers about the other books we all like to read before, during and after traveling. Romance, biography, history, pure literature, travel literature and essays all are fair game if they are strong on place and culture.I find mysterys to be particularly good because good mystery writers have to pay attention to details of place. Movies, too, entice us and inform us about desinations, so sometimes films come up in the conversation.

People still come around to read what I wrote about the movie Slumdog Millionaire and how it did not make me want to go to Mumbai, India. My post and the two-part response from Monica Bhide, who is a big fan of Mumbai, continues to draw the most readers to my site, two months after it was first posted.

However, I want to talk about the three new posts that were most popular during April. Cambodia led the pack. Nearly tied for second place--Scotland and Vietnam.

Here are some of the books and movies recommended in each article. I do not have room to talk about all the books discussed. You can find more by following the links to A Traveler's Library and using Categories or the Search Box.


The movie The Killing Fields, recreates some of the horror of the chaos in Cambodia during the sixties and seventies, the Pol Pot times. Having watched the news while the atrocities happened in Cambodia, I had given up hope of every visiting there. However, my husband and I went to Angkor Wat and discovered a gentle land (although at the time, still being cleared of Khmer Rouge and their land mines.) The vast complexes of temples with their complex carvings both pleased the eye and stirred curiosity.

Cambodia Handbook by Footprint publishers, an unusual guidebook,went with us, and helped answer many of our questions. While it is true that I don't generally talk about guidebooks, this one is well written and delves into details about art, architecture and history that helped me immensely when I went to Cambodia.

Scotland  (Suggestions came from a reader of A Traveler's Library, Alisdair Petigrew, of Studies in Travel Writing)

     In Search of Scotland and In Sotland Again by H. V. Morton
Scottish Journey by Edwin Muir

Pettigrew likes older books like these written in the 1930's because, he says, "they proceed from an imaginative documentary impulse that is missing from recent travelogues.." 

He recommended several other books--too many to list here. He reserved his highest praise, however for a contemporary writer, Kathleen Jaime.

Findings by Kathleen Jaime poetically looks at the natural world. I read some excerpts from her work, and the taste made me want to lose myself in her beautiful words.


Catfish and Mandala by Andrew W. Pham. An expatriate whose family escaped to America when he was ten, writes about his return as a 30-year-old and weaves his recollections of what used to be with his observations of what is in post-war Vietnam. I read this book years ago, and was delighted when a reader also recommended it, along with several other books, which are listed at A Traveler's Library. I have yet to go to Vietnam, but have my fingers crossed. It shares much history with Cambodia--not just the part I saw unfolding on television, but much more ancient history as well. And the landscapes are similarly beautiful.

Apocalypse Now overlays the beautiful countryside with the madness of war in a masterpiece film. For generations, no American could go to Vietnam without having the shadow of "the American War" hanging over him or her. Like Cambodia, it is a country we thought we would never be able to visit. But beach resorts are happily thriving and if the grand old hotels do not have quite the glamour that they had in Graham Greene's novel, The Quiet American, they attract tourists, nostalgic or otherwise.

I hope that you will be able to sample some of the recommendations I made with the help of readers, for travelers to Cambodia, Vietnam and Scotland. And I look forward to seeing you next month, when I report on the Merry Month of May.

Vera Marie Badertscher, Traveler's Library Editor,  is a freelance travel writer who also blogs about books, movies and travel at A Traveler's Library.

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