Southeast Asia Wanders

Your guide to travelling, living and working in Southeast Asia

Travel Books

It’s a nice idea to travel by the seat of your pants, but sometimes you just need a little guidance. And as nice as it would be, you won’t always have access to Internet on the road (hence no cool sites like this to give you the downlow on cool accommodation, sights, restaurants and bars). When that’s the scenario, a guidebook can be your life raft. The following are some great travel guides that can help you plan your adventure and decide where to travel. And as an added bonus, we’ve thrown in a great range of compelling travel books about Southeast Asia that will inspire you to get out there and explore the world and keep you company on all those lazy beach days when you’ve got nothing better to do than laze in a hammock and read.


Lonely Planet Southeast Asia: On a Shoestring (Shoestring Travel Guide)

This is the ultimate comprehensive guide to backpacking in Southeast Asia. With complete guides for each country in Southeast Asia, including affordable accommodation, restaurants, shopping, transportation and detailed maps, this guide is the bible of travel in this region. Learn about the history, culture, and people of your chosen destination, plan complete itineraries ranging from two days to two months, and best yet, do it all on a budget. For backpackers and travelers who want to travel cheaply, this is a must have travel accessory.


Frommer’s Southeast Asia (Frommer’s Complete Guides)

For those looking for a guidebook with higher end options, Frommer’s is the way to go. This guidebook gives the lowdown on all the small things you need to know before you go, including travel tips on currency, weather, shopping, beaches, city highlights, off-the-beaten-path sights and complete maps of each region. In addition, it covers details of mid-range and high end accommodation for those that like to travel in a bit of style. Although, this Southeast Asia  guidebook lacks colorful pictures, it makes up for it in expert advice, independent travel reviews, and complete coverage of all of the countries in Southeast Asia.


The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia On A Budget (Rough Guides)

Another budget travel guide, The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget contains useful travelling tips for cheap travel in Southeast Asia. The guide has easy-to-use maps and tips on the best hostels, budget hotels, cheap restaurants and inexpensive trips and sights. From sailing down the Mekong to partying in Bangkok, chilling out on a beach in Malaysia and eating street food in Jakarta, this guidebook covers all the bases. If you’re looking for a book that can help you decide where to travel without breaking the bank, this is the travel guidebook for you.


First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

Not an easy read by any means, First They Killed my Father is Long Ung’s memoir about her life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Prior to the age of 5, Long Ung enjoyed a comfortable life in Phnom Penh until the Khmer Rouge raided the city in April 1975 and forced her family to flee and scatter. What follows next is a harrowing story of forced labor, violence and brutality, child soldiers and the incredible tenacity of the human spirit. If you’re seeking to understand what life was like in Cambodia during this time period, this book is both tragic and incredibly enlightening.


Finding George Orwell in Burma

It is perhaps no surprise that George Orwell wrote his famous novels 1984 and Animal House after spending a considerable amount of time in Burma (now known as Myanmar). Author Emma Larkin uses the life and writing of George Orwell as a guide and lens to view modern Burma, and the result is an illuminating picture of a country living in what could be described as an Orwellian. Throughout the book, she visits various cities and towns and meets fascinating people who give us a rare glimpse into the realities of living under a military dictatorship.


The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War

The day was June 8, 1972 and a South Vietnamese village had just been hit with napalm. As the houses blazed to the ground, a small girl ran from the carnage crying in agony and naked, as all her clothes had been burned off. Nick Ut caught the image on film, and the photograph soon became one of the most poignant images of the 20th century, and a major wake-up call to the world about the horrors of the Vietnam War. This is the story about what happened to the girl, Kim Phuc, before and after the photo was taken, and it offers us a glimpse into the Vietnam War and the after effects from a Vietnamese civilian point of view.


Tell Them to Get Lost: Travels With the Lonely Planet Guide Book That Started it All

The concept of this book is just plain cool—author Brian Thacker decides to embark on a trip around Southeast Asia using only the first Lonely Planet Shoestring Guide to the region from 1975. As he follows in the footsteps of Tony and Maureen Wheeler, he finds that some places are completely unrecognizable, while other places don’t seem to have changed a bit. Throw in witty writing, bold adventures and amusing mishaps, and you have yourself a truly entertaining read. We only wish we thought of the idea first.


Bad Karma: Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in Southeast Asia

This book is incredibly amusing because of the author’s loose style of writing and at times politically incorrect prose. This is a humorous travelogue about an Australian girl travelling through Southeast Asia with her good mate. They have no plan so to speak of, and no qualms when it comes to pissing off the locals or getting into spots of trouble. At times cynical and bitchy, the author also manages to present a realistic portrayal of the spots they visit in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. While definitely not a guide book, or even a trip you may want to emulate, this is a funny look at the trials and tribulations of travelling in Southeast Asia.


Fragrant Rice: My Continuing Love Affair with Bali

Much like many people who visit Bali and fall in love with the island, Janet De Neefe instantly felt a connection to the culture, people and cuisine of Bali from the minute she stepped off the plane in 1974. Perhaps it was fate then that she met her Balinese husband here and went on to raise 4 beautiful children in Bali, open three celebrated restaurants, a cooking school and a guest house, and found the world-famous Ubud Writers & Readers Festival. This is the story of her journey, her love for the island and her passion for all things Bali. As an added bonus, she even includes a plethora of recipes for traditional Balinese dishes.


A House in Bali

When composer Colin McPhee first heard the haunting rhythms of the Balinese gamelan at a party in New York City in the 1929, he became obsessed with visiting the island and learning more about this unique form of music. Once he arrived, he became entranced with the people, arts and culture, and ended up building a house in Ubud and spending the better part of the 1930s on the tropical island. Although the book focuses mainly on Balinese music and dance, it also offers a rare glimpse into what life was like on the island decades ago.


Thailand Confidential

Told by an American expat living in the ‘Land of Smiles’, Thailand Confidential gives a personal account of what it’s really like to live in the country, from the street food to the bar girls, the superstitions, beaches, temples, tourists and beer. While we may not agree with all of the author’s opinions, we do like the book for it’s candidness and ‘no-holds-barred’ style of writing.


The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World.

Three New York City career girls in their mid-twenties decide to throw caution to the wind, quit their jobs and travel around the world. Their experiences range from a soul satisfying encounter with Kenyan children, a maddening confrontation with a dodgy cab driver in Vietnam and the intense discipline of an Indian ashram. While we found the book to be a tad annoying at times due to the girls’ utter naivety and at times tiring complaints about ‘first world’ issues like boy troubles and petty disagreements, we did like the fact that the chapters were divided up between the girls, so you get a range of voices.

If you’ve got any favorite books on Southeast Asia that you think should be included in the list, feel free to comment below. Happy reading!


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