To Asia With Love- a book review

by Ernie Yap, Nov 24, 2007 | Destinations: Indochina

To Asia With Love

Edited & with contributions by Kim Fay

Photographs by Julie Fay


Imagine lush, evergreen forests with waving palm trees under the warm, humid tropical weather. Imagine a hutted village with friendly locals and curious children with perpetual shy smiles and sparkling eyes devoid of the mundane dim of city-life; old ladies lingering on the streets with their handmade wares. Imagine yourself sitting cross-legged on a rattan mat enjoying a full meal of spicy South East Asian delicacy that cost less than half a cheeseburger; or lying on a white sanded beach surrounded by crystal-clear sea that seems to be frozen in time.


            Yes, imagine. That is the operative word that To Asia With Love begins with.


            Spanning Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, author Kim Fay, an avid traveler herself, collected anecdotes and travel tips from Asia-lovers and skillfully compiled these snippets into a very readable book, helped much by seductive and poignant photographs. This book tells you where to get the best chow, see the most attractive sights, buy the most impressive souvenirs, and even how to get a holiday from your holiday, in case you decided to become an expatriate. For those inclined as such, even where to visit the most historical sites. Because they were written by different individuals; young and old; from loaded to clam-less, the information is extremely varied and colorful.


            What makes To Asia With Love stand out, compared to run-of-the-mill backpackers' experiences strewn about the internet is that the articles were actually written by veteran travelers; most of them bestseller authors in their own right. They provide interesting insights which are both informative and humorous.


For example, suppose the delicious dumplings you tasted at a nondescript stall in Phnom Penh turns out to be disappointing the following week, it is because the ownership has changed and will likely change again based on the rotating fortunes at the local gambling dens. Aside from the local loan sharks, I don't think anyone else would know these behind-the-scene goings-on; except maybe the foolhardy expatriate dumpling-hunter in the person of Nami Nelson.


            Of course, beneath the fantastic tales are the nitty-gritty details. What is the best way to travel? How to book tickets? What are the regional time differences? What are the languages spoken? These questions and more that one could hardly pump up in the excitement of ‘go first, think later' mode, are explored by those who have done it all.


Western travelers respond differently to what are seemingly destitute socio-economic conditions in these countries. The feelings generated could span a spectrum from utter indifference to the ‘guilt syndrome'. And if one stays in a place long enough, the urge to respond becomes increasingly stronger. In this, To Asia With Love proves to be more than just a fanciful title in the chapter ‘Paying It Forward.' Littered with touching anecdotes, it advises travelers on how to give back to the countries they enjoy; be it helping out in a foundation or eating at a charity-linked restaurant.


            Be warned. This book is not about going to Asia. It is about going to there again and again, and perhaps even staying there for good. A beautiful collage of travelogues with a seductive theme and convincing pleasures, I think I am going to book the first flight to South East Asia.


Oh wait a minute; I am from South East Asia; from Asia with love to you.