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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

The Rough Guide to Thailand’s Beaches & Islands

There have been claims recently that some travel writers do not even visit the countries they are supposed to write about. Seeing the “Rough Guide to Thailand’s Beaches & Islands” on the Bookazine shelves, I decided to look critically at it. Just how do we rate in the eyes of others, and did the guide reflect the current situation?
This Rough Guide, ISBN 9-7818-4353-6 and published in November 2006, is then 18 months old, so I believed should be reasonably current. After all, whilst Pattaya, for example, is a dynamic tourist beach city, its facilities in the past 18 months will not have changed too much.
The publishers have chosen to include full coverage of Bangkok in this 568 page tome, but between ‘Basics’ and Bangkok this takes up around 200 of those pages, and history and other facts takes up another large chunk, so your actual “Beaches and Islands” is around 400 pages.
Knowing the Pattaya, Jomtien, Koh Si Chang, Koh Samet and Koh Chang regions reasonably well, I was interested to see if their guide and information fitted in with my own experiences.
The book does offer the reader good information on getting around and how to avoid the Khao San Road tourist rip-offs, making me feel initially that the book was written for back-packers.
The section on Pattaya begins with the warning, “Pattaya is the epitome of exploitative tourism gone mad, but most of Pattaya’s two million annual visitors don’t mind that the place looks like the Costa del Sol because what they are here for is sex.” Nothing else? How old scuttlebutt is maintained.
The accommodation choices listed are minimal, considering the number of hotels in Pattaya, but room rates are coded, so you have to continually flick back to P 48 for the explanations. Stupid.
At B. 750, this is not a cheap exercise, and to be perfectly frank, I was very disappointed in it. The information was sketchy, at best. Omissions were rife, and the publication did not seem to know which tourist group it was aimed at. If it were the back-packer, budget group, then why include the five star hotels? Even though these listings were extremely deficient - for example, the Marriott Pattaya Resort and Spa is included, but not the Royal Cliff Beach Resort. The former does not have a private beach, while the latter has. A guide to beaches?
The guide has the temerity to state, “Overall the food in Pattaya and Jomtien is expensive and pretty dire, but there are some good spots.” It then suggests the reader eat at construction site food stalls, as these are very cheap. I would definitely take the authors to task over this sweeping statement, “expensive and pretty dire”. Compared to what? If the traveling reader from overseas can afford B. 750 for the guide, he or she can afford to eat anywhere in Pattaya-Jomtien, including the fine dining restaurants, but the guide only goes on to list Bruno’s Restaurant and Wine Bar and omits Casa Pascal, Mantra, Mata Hari and other excellent restaurants. There must be better guides, surely?