I just got my hands on two recent publications from what was once a small guidebook company specializing in Southeast Asia. The Africa Book and The Asia Book are the latest endeavors into big league publishing from Lonely Planet; and both are loaded with images as spectacular as anything one might find in the pages of National Geographic.
But what makes these books even better than anything National Geographic has ever produced, is that they continue to maintain that same Lonely Planet travel philosophy which has routinely produced some of the very best guidebooks in the world.
The Asia Book and the Africa Book are both patterned in the same manner. For starters, they both have the same subtitle: A journey through every country in the continent. And, they’re not lying.
Each glossy-paged, coffee table book dedicates 2 to 4 pages per country, briefly describing the landscape, history, people, marketplace, natural beauty, cuisine, the urban scene, and a handful of other topics that vary on a regional basis. The best section, however, details the top five to ten “essential experiences” for each country. This would be the best travel highlights, each of which makes me salivate every time I read them.
And then, of course, there are the photos. Just in case the text hasn’t won you over, a series of jaw-dropping photographs are there to complete the job. This, folks, is the one-two-punch to really get that travel bug itching.
Something else I quite enjoyed about this series is the thematic travel routes at the beginning of the books which tie many of these countries together for those interested in much longer travels. The Great Journeys section of the Asia Book, for example, features such grand expeditions as the Overland Trail, Island Hopping around Asia, the Silk Road, the Annapurna Circuit, the Empires of the East, and In the Footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia.
Very cool! If you’ve ever said, “I want to go to Asia/Africa,” but don’t know too much beyond that, you should really consider picking up one of these books. Keep it out on your coffee table like I do and leaf through it occasionally when you have some free time. Before you know it, your Places to Go list will be unmanageably long. And you’ll have Lonely Planet to hate for that.