Friday, August 31, 2007
I finally got my hands on the New Lonely Planet Vietnam 2007 (released this month). I was delighted to see that I was credited in the back by name, and my own website www.MuineBeach.net was recommended in the book. I was disappointed to see however that some of the same mistakes (which I pointed out to them) have been carried over from the past 2 or 3 editions, without being corrected.
Overall it’s a good guidebook. This edition is written by Nick Ray, a veteran writer for the region who lives in Cambodia, and two authors who seem to be newcomers to the area, Peter Dragicevich and Regis St. Louis. One has to wonder if Lonely Planet could have written better bios for latter two. When the noteworthy connections to Vietnam listed are that one’s “first taste of Vietnam was in the restaurants of Mebourne and Sydney” or the other read a lot about the country, it’s probably not a great selling point.
As always, Lonely Planet has the best, most durable binding of any guidebook (that's actually one of the many reasons not to buy the cheap, pirated photocopies you find in Vietnam). Surprisingly, it's also one of the lengthiest, yet manages to still be the smallest and lightest due to their choice of paper stock. Unfortunately this has a drawback—because the paper is so thin and the lettering tends to bleed through, the maps are all very difficult to read in this edition.
The book has great expanded sections on Vietnam history and Minorities. Otherwise, the sections unrelated to specific destinations were much more abbreviated than guidebooks from other publishers. This has the advantage of not overwhelming the reader with too much information (a problem with other guides), but it means readers seeking more in-depth background information must consult other texts.
The well-organized restaurants and hotels sections, along with the use of icons in the text, make the sections much easier to skim.
Lonely Planet is the only guide to offer a phrasebook that includes sections for the most common hill tribes (albeit a small section). They are also the only guidebook to offer reasonably correct information on Visas—particularly business visas.
I did find the layout and style of the book unattractive compared to some of the other guides on the market, especially Rough Guides.
My main complaint, like any expat, I’m sure, is that the guidebook tends to focus on attractions, activities and restaurants catering mainly to foreign tourists. I feel like in many instances it misses the “real” Vietnam. This is a problem with all popular Vietnam guidebooks on the market however. I think this stems from the fact that none, to my knowledge, are written by residents of Vietnam.
Overall, it’s probably still the best guidebook on the market, with an encyclopedic presentation of the country.
Posted by Adam Bray at 10:09 PM