I usually read up on places I am visiting before a trip. Whether it is travel guides, blog posts, recommendation sites, I read them all.
I picked up <<To Vietnam with Love: A travel guide for the connoisseur>> as an afterthought. I was at the library and my arms were already heavy with two other guidebooks.
But I’m glad I did.
<<To Vietnam with Love>> is one of the rare travel guide books that breaks away from the tradition guidebook structure. (I believe the <<To Asia with Love>> series have have the same format.)
The “traditional” travel guide structure is the main reason I don’t review travel guides here.
In a regular guidebook, I find:
->History of City
->Sights to see
->Things to be careful of
->Nearby fun stuff
<<To Vietnam with Love>> is structured differently. Instead of having cities as chapters, it has different themes: Eating, Shopping, Sightseeing, Local culture and etc.
A break from tradition
I was very much in love with this refreshing structure and the layout. The stories were short enough to keep me captivated. They were also useful since the authors give a part of the Vietnam they know to us. (But not very useful if you want a This is What You Should Do kind of travel advice.)
The introduction of the guidebook is spot on. After reading the stories, I felt like I was listening to someone’s travels in Vietnam after a dinner at someone’s house.
The book is also a contrast to other travel compilations.
One thing I don’t like about travel compilations such as <<The Best Women’s Travel Writing>> (please don’t blacklist me) is the length of the stories and the layout of the page.
Most of the pieces of such compilations are long short-story. The text spans from the left border to the right. Adding these two together makes a rather unpleasant pleasant reading experience, even though the stories are great.
A caution to crybabies
Most of the writers in the book are Americans. Since the US has fought in the Vietnam War, a lot of the stories were about revisiting the country as a veteran or a relative of the veteran.
A warning to emotional people like me, these war-related pieces made me weep over my lunch. (Heck, I wept when Hedwig died in the last Harry Potter book.) I had to wipe tears off my cheek or risk eating my tears in my porridge.
Overall, it is a very good book to have, especially if you are not visiting Vietnam. For folks who want itineraries, it’s much better to get the normal travel guidebooks.
Check out other interesting travel book reviews here:
I’m heading to central Vietnam soon. Any reading recommendations?