Lonely Planet Nepal (published August 2003)

Another pre-trip purchase, I opted for the Lonely Planet’s guide to Nepal over the Rough Guide’s mainly on the basis that the LP was published more recently, and so should be more up-to-date. Given the curtailment of our trip, and in particular the fact that we didn’t get to Pokhara, I didn’t really get to test out the book, but the background information and maps fpr Kathmandu and the places we explored in the Kathmandu valley were excellent…. and I’m certainly hanging onto my copy in anticipation of a return the Nepal, in more peaceful times.

Buy it: Amazon link

Blue is the Colour of Heaven – Richard Loseby

Another book about a “westerner”‘s (albeit that Richard Loseby hails from New Zealand) travels in and impressions of Afghanistan, but Blue Is the Colour of Heaven is a million miles away from Asne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul.

Following a childhood dream, Richard Loseby’s travels took him to Iran and Iraq before managing to meet up with one of the many Mujahedeen and persuading them to take him across the border and into the west of Afghanistan. From then on, he found himself passed from group to group and village to village travelling by jeep, horse and on foot, and finally making an illegal crossing over the border into Pakistan. A far cry from Kabul, and a fascinating account, with good photos of people and places that news reports make and made sound altogether different and less likeable.

Buy it: Amazon link

And looking at Amazon, I see Richard Loseby went back in 2002 to try to trace some of the Afghans who made such a deep impression on him. Looking for the Afghan is now on my Amazon wishlist!

From Sea to Shining Sea: Present-day Journey into America’s Past – Gavin Young

I’ve only recently discovered Gavin Young, but he’s fast become one of my favourite “travel” writers. “Travel” because by and large he’s not an explorer or a visitor passing through the places he writes about. Rather, he describes people and places that he has met during spells as a foreign correspondent, giving you a far deeper insight into all three.

From Sea to Shining Sea is the first of his books I’ve read where he does travel around, but the book does not suffer from the “brief glances from the moving train” approach. In it, Gavin Young focuses on a selection of places in the US which have drawn him due to their historical, literary or geographical significance. Starting in New York, he travels from east to west, from the eastern seaboard’s whaling past, through Altanta and the Civil War, to the Alamo and San Antonio and the cession of Texas from Mexico to a Republic, to LA in the era of Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, ending up in the Yukon, drawn by Jack London‘s tales of the wilderness and the gold rush, and many more places, and people past and present, in between.

Buy it: Amazon link

Worlds Apart – Gavin Young

I wasn’t too sure about reading a collection of travelogues whilst lazing on the beach in India – I thought that Gavin Young’s collection might make me miss our more usual exploratory-type holidays. Fortunately, my fears proved unfulfilled. This collection provides insights into countries and peoples far and wide, over many years, and most of which were originally published as pieces in The Observer. For me, the section covering the 20 or so years Young spent in Vietnam, and his friendship with a vietnamese family in Hue was the most memorable – and the most heart-rending.

One of my favourite travel books and travel writers – and in looking up The Observer link, I’ve discovered he died in 2001.

Buy it: Amazon link

In the Empire of Genghis Khan: A Journey among Nomads – Stanley Stewart

Stanley Stewart tells of his travels from London to Dadal in Outer Mongolia (and Ghengis Khan’s birthplace) by way of Istanbul, Sevastapol, Volvograd, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Olgii, Qaraqorum and Ulan Batur. Starting off by boat, moving on to train and jeep, but predominantly on horseback, he travels in the footsteps of William of Rubruck, a 13th century franciscan friar who travelled west to the court of the emperor of the Mongol Horde, the infamous Genghis Khan.

But the book is much more than the journey of a 13th century friar told by a 21st century travel writer. As well as evocative descriptions of the steppe, Stanley Stewart provides insights and understanding of the worlds of Central Asia past and present, and the people, infamous and less well known, who populate(d) them.


Buy it: Amazon link