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Book Review: by Lang Reid
The Rough Guide to Thailand’s Beaches & Islands
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?
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