Thursday, August 23, 2007

Book Review: Phaic Tan - Sunstroke on a shoestring by Jetlag Travel Guides

This is the second guidebook by Jetlag Travel Guides and this time they humorously familiarize travelers with the cultural nuances of the fictional nation of Phaic Tan. This hilarious book satirizes the cultures of a conglomeration of Southeast Asian travel destinations while at the same time lampooning the whole travel guide genre and backpacker culture.

The format of this book is exactly the same as many popular travel guides with an introduction into Phaic Tanese culture and history to begin with, including an amusing diagram illustrating the political structure of Phaic Tan, from Coup Leader down to Chief Bribe-taker. To follow are detailed sections, full of silliness and parody, describing the four regions of the country all named with wonderful puns: Bumpattabumpah, Thong On, Pha Phlung, Sukkondat.

The inclusion of travel tips from four specialist contributors reflects the various approaches to travel that one comes across when visiting places similar to Phaic Tan. Tips by the neurotic traveler, on how to anticipate every possible danger one might encounter, and from the budget backpacker, whose money saving tips include taking appetite suppressants to avoid buying food, are an hilarious inclusion which are scattered throughout the book.

Anyone who has visited Southeast Asia will instantly appreciate the satirical aspect of this book, although there are enough jokes here to amuse any reader who enjoys travel. The production and style of the book employ glossy pages and amusingly captioned photographs, which are ingenious, with excellent puns used for many place names. This allows one to dip into it and read a few pages, leaving the rest for later and, although I found it so funny that I read it from cover to cover, this makes an excellent coffee-table book or gift.

Quite frankly, there is so much to laugh at in this book that it would be impossible for anyone to read it without laughing at something. Indeed, even the "credits" and "advertisements" are fake and highly amusing. If you want a good laugh, this book will give it to you. Jetlag Travel has also published two other guides, Molvania and San Sombrero, and promises further titles such as Gastronesia and Costa Del Pom.

Score: 10/10

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