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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

101 Places (Not) to Visit

A travel guide with a difference. 101 Places (Not) to Visit (Robson Books, ISBN 1-86105-858-6) has been compiled by an Adam Russ, who incidentally gives no details of himself, which is probably a wise thing as there are 101 places who would like to visit him!
The front cover advises that this book is “Your essential guide to the world’s most miserable, ugly, boring and inbred destinations.” If that has not convinced you, turn to the back cover which advises “This book is not for those who think that using unhygienic toilet facilities is exciting, but is a perfect companion for those who prefer to stay at home, safe in the knowledge that beyond their comfortable bed lies a world truly rich in ways to rip you off, scare the crap out of you, give you some filthy disease or just plain bore you rigid.”
Inside, the book has its table of contents (but no index), and there’s not too many continents that escape, as even Antarctica gets its rightful place not to visit along with the USA, Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and Australasia.
Each place (not recommended) has a brief pithy opening paragraph such as that for Port Moresby: “Beautiful lagoons, open coastline, friendly people - just three of the things you’ll find no trace of in this septic wound of a city.”
After that there is a break-out box with the Boredom Rating (scale of five stars), Likelihood of a fatal visit (ditto five stars), Essential packing and finally, Most likely cause of death. In Glasgow, for example it is suggested that knuckledusters are essential packing and the most likely cause of death is Not being a Glaswegian!
Like most travel guide books, Adam Russ does give you a potted history, something about the culture, attractions and where and what to eat. These can be very illuminating. Take the Marseilles history. “Marseilles is, has been for 26 centuries and no doubt ever shall be a stinking port on the south coast of France that attracts the very worst elements of society.” Or the culture of Sofia, “tied together by a yellow brick boulevard, but has been stained over the years by generations of hard-drinking Bulgarians caught short between licensed premises.” Or the attractions in Darwin, “Beach lovers will be delighted to hear that shark attacks have dropped dramatically since the colonies of highly venomous box jellyfish took over the coastline.” And for where and what’s edible in Brisbane, “Mud crabs or ‘muddies’ are the local delicacy and can be up to 2 kilos in weight. And almost 100 grams of this will be actual crabmeat, the rest being shell, mud, grit and dried seagull droppings.”
Satirical writing at its best and maintained all the way through. There was a chuckle on every page, especially when I came across destinations that I had visited, or in a couple of cases had actually lived there for some period of time. However, when I looked at the price of B. 750, it really seems a little steep for a pick up and put downer. Your choice - your wallet.