mukikamu

The Armchair Traveler Club

Archive for the ‘ASIA’ Category

HUGO ADOLF BERNATZIK: SOUTH PACIFIC

Posted by mukikamu on September 24, 2009

We have met him before and now I tumbled upon his book about Papua New Guinea, Bali and the Solomon islands.  My admiration for his clear, matter-of- fact style and readable anthropological analysis has not diminished. He seemed to truly enjoy his trip to these remote places and offers a genuinely enjoyable literary experience. And then there are his amazing pictures that illustrate it all. All from 1932-33.

Additions to the list of groovy names:

Kafagamurirongo – wife of expat German sailor and tribe chief on Owa Raha island

Mamako – village on Owa Riki island

Maneparapara – village

Kafafarisubarisu -ghostgod of Owa Raha island

Kaukaunafugo – good spirits of the forest

Nafumanga -village chief on Owa Riki

Funakuma – village on southeast St. Cristobal island

Kokonga – village on Choiseul island

Bulolo – village on New Guinea

Mamarana -village on Choiseul island

Kufagogo – village on New Guinea where widows carry the skull of their husbands around their necks. All the time.

Agaga – English speaking warrior the author met

Hanubada – village on New Guinea

bernatzik south pacific bernatzik

Posted in AUSTRALIA & THE PACIFIC, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands | Leave a Comment »

P. J. O’ROUKE: PEACE KILLS

Posted by mukikamu on January 30, 2009

I never expected P. J. O’Rouke’s book to be a travel book, but it turned out to be a worth-to-mention experience. I say this for several reasons. Firstly, the book is about his travel experiences to war-torn regions of the world and he manages to stay personal rather than menacingly political. The places he visits come to life much better than in anything I read about these countries lately (not that I have read anything much apart from the daily news) and it’s always rewarding to have an insiders’ view. I particularly enjoyed his chapters about Egypt and Kuwait because I could connect to the local daily life. Although O’Rouke is stubbornly seeing silliness in almost all kind of human action and sneers with maximum vehemence, his book is quite enjoyable. Then again he is famous of his comic style, that makes you laugh despite all your judgement of his message. He is the guy who you can never argue with because he makes you admit how ridiculous you are after your first statement. I find his sarcastic approach an easy way of getting away with things, nevertheless I admit that sometimes lightness of approach is a good way to get to an audience and deal with heavy issues. As they would say in popular magazines: “ A thumbs-up!”

Locations: Israel, Kuwait, Egypt, Washington, Iraq, Iwo Jima, Kosovo

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Posted in AFRICA, Egypt, Japan, U.S. | 2 Comments »

JENS BJERRE: THE LAST CANNIBALS

Posted by mukikamu on December 2, 2008

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I am back on the track of forgotten travel books with Jens Bjerre‘s Last Cannibals. It was an easy and highly enjoyable read.
To give you a taste of it, here is a few things you can learn from the book:

– how native Australians deal with birth control
– why you must never hurry
– how could soldiers drown in the Sahara
– whether there are camels in Australia
– why you should never force people living in houses on water ashore
– how girls in New Guinea solved the etiquette problem of covering their breast before white ladies
– how do cannibals eat a road
– what are the roots of tribal pyromania
– why you should never ever wake a sleeping kukukuku
– what are the rules of dating in the jungle
– which is the most idyllic tropical island of the South Seas
– who was the ‘Flying bishop’

Moreover, here are the new entries in our list of groovy names:
– Hanuabada (village built on water in New Guinea)
– Kukukuku (tribe)
– Kau-kau (potato)
– Momakova (chief of a kukukuku village)
– Jagagaga (chatty old warrior)
– Morombo (tribe)
– Tumbulun (magic flute to scare women)
– Gorogoba (river)
– Morofonu (God)

Posted in ASIA, Australia, AUSTRALIA & THE PACIFIC, Books, Papua New Guinea, travel, travelbook, Travelers | 1 Comment »

ERIC NEWBY: ON THE SHORES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

Posted by mukikamu on October 2, 2008

Eric Newby is much praised by critics for his distinctive style, tireless enthusiasm and ‘insider-like’ travel stories and it’s true that he has a special point of view. Not many people are as knowledgeable and well-travelled as he is. However, I have been struggling with his book for two years now.

First I sat down to read it from start to finish, but his writing was tiring and I gave up several times. I figured that the best way to get through his book was probably to pick up the relevant chapters before going on a vacation to get an insight on the places on the menu. This seemed to work for a while, because you’re less likely to overload and if you see that you only have a 20-40 pages to read, you are more likely to push through. Nevertheless, by the time we got back from our holiday in Greece and Turkey, I was sincerely glad to tuck the book away.
 
I can see why Newby was one of the great travel writers of our times, but I miss the sense of discovery from his accounts. He knows everything about the places he goes, but he is at times annoyingly informative, sober and well-educated for my taste. I personally miss the romanticism and mysticism from his travels. His English is very uniquely classy which is distinctive, but harder to a non-native like me to read.

I don’t give up easily though. He is only on the bookshelf until the next trip to the Mediterranean.

Posted in AFRICA, Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, EUROPE, Greece, Italy, Libanon, Macedonia, Morocco, Spain, Syria, travel, travelbook, Travelers, Turkey | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

UPDATES ABOUT THESIGER

Posted by mukikamu on August 11, 2008

I found some interesting articles on my much admired gentleman adventurer Wilfred Thesiger here and here.

Posted in AFRICA, ASIA, Books, Etiophia, India, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Travelers, Yemen | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

MICHAEL PALIN: NEW EUROPE

Posted by mukikamu on June 3, 2008

A book accompanying the TV series always fails to offer a sense of discovery, yet, for devoted followers like me, in Palin’s case, is a blissful sin of marketing. We all lit up when a hard copy of New Europe with Palin’s portrait on the cover landed as a present in our living room. Especially, as this time, he travels through my home region, Central and Eastern Europe.

 

I have always believed that Michael Palin must be one of the nicest people on Earth. He comes in second to David Attenborough in terms of personal heroes because he stays humble and light-hearted even in less comfortable situations. I grew up watching him show me the world, which clearly isn’t as rosy as in his documentaries, yet I am generally grateful he resists being diminutive. I have read all his books, I have seen all his travel programmes. I am definitely what you call a fan.

 

 

This historic admiration puts me in an awkward situation when trying to review his new book, because I could certainly criticize him for many things. The question is whether I want to. Someone who has given, and continues to give you joy should never be criticized. Still, I feel blind fanatism on the long run would lead to untruthful consequences, so it is with a heavy heart when I say the series have seem to have become a routine and Palin’s crew rushes through these European countries. For me, they lacked interesting, not-stereotype-like material and fail to break through the “grey” image of post-communist countries. I admit, the sights here are not always as exotic and as spectacular as elsewhere. The thrill lies more in the history of the region, but looking to the past, showing signs of the bloodshed these nations strive to put behind, is an easy way to get away with the show. I know it’s hard to go around the past, but naturally it hurts my sense of PR when the potential and interestingness of Central and Eastern Europe stays in the background.

Maybe I just have more hands-on experience with this part of the world, maybe I was over-enthusiastic. I don’t know. To top it all, being a native, I am oversensitive of course. I know I am. But you should never wait for an outsider to tell you new things about you homeland either.

 

Despite all the above, I am not the type who has a heart to take an idol to pieces. I certainly wish Michael Palin would have enjoyed his trip more, but surprisingly, he is no less likeable in my eyes. Do you happen to know when he is setting off again? 

 

 

Posted in Albania, Books, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, EUROPE, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Travelers, Turkey, Ukraine | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

THOMAS RAUCAT: THE HONOURABLE PICNIC

Posted by mukikamu on March 17, 2008

Japan. Again. I guess I am hooked. The honourable picnic is a LOL funny novel and a perfect way to get an insight into Japanese thinking and way of life. Even if it’s sarcastic and scandalous. I know I am over-enthusiastic but you can’t miss this if you are interested in Japan. I laughed myself insane because of the depicted worries caused by a little boy’s hat. The characters are so incredibly funny that you forget it’s insulting. Roger Poidatz truly caused a stir at the time when his book was written (1924). He had to publish under a false name (Thomas Raucat). However, cross-cultural experiences must be handled with humour and this book is just a treat.

READ IT ONLINE IN HUNGARIAN >>

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PS.: All editions of Terebess Publishing is appealing. They have delicious travel literature, but only in Hungarian. Anybody who knows travel specialised publishing houses world-wide, leave a comment!

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Posted in ASIA, Books, Japan | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

ARTHUR KOESTLER: JAPAN

Posted by mukikamu on March 2, 2008

I know there are some harsh, intolerant and definitely not politically correct observations about the Japanese in the second volume of The Lotus and the Robot, but I still liked it . Sometimes reading an honest, no-fuss book is a breather for the mind. I felt it summed up Japan in the eyes of a confident European intellectual quite well and I was relieved to get rid of all pathos. The Japanese amaze me constantly. I see them as a nation where you never know whether certain traditions will amuse or stun and embarrass you. I am mostly amused but as I am aware that the outcome of cross-cultural encounters with the Japanese is unpredictable, I understand that they can be truly maddening for a European who lives among them. They have no street signs and arts like ikebana and gardening are too much for a rational and practical mind. Irony, humor and a taste for the grotesque is therefore essential for survival. Koestler has interesting points about Japanese history, society and politics, but fails to enlighten the philosophy of zen without a mocking.
I must note that Arthur Koestler is not a simple fellow. His life and books hint a slightly deranged mind and make him an exciting author.

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You can read it online in HUNGARIAN here>>

Posted in ASIA, Books, HUNGARIAN TRAVELERS, Japan | Leave a Comment »

ORHAN PAMUK: ISTANBUL

Posted by mukikamu on February 18, 2008

Orhan Pamuk‘s book about Istanbul is an odd book on this blog, for it is not about a travel experience, but about a personal journey and the spirit of the city where Pamuk lived all his life. I must admit, I lived in Turkey for three years when I was a child, so the book brought back familiar sceneries and was thought-provoking in a peculiar way. This personal attachment made it impossible to read as a curious traveler and I clinged to those details of everyday life that brought back my own memories. I was entertained by the realisation of how exotic Istanbul sometimes seems, yet how very same lives teenagers of the ’60s led all over the world. The book also revived my own experiences about the part of Turkish soul that can not hide the hurtful disappointment caused by the fall of a majestic empire, but which is trying to cope with republicanism and westernization. Even, the obsession with fire-watching shows how the Turkish nation accepts its destiny of having to constantly rebuild from scratch. They feel weary, but -as I sometimes feel the book lacks to mention – still push forward. (If Pamuk would be acquainted with Hungarian mentality he would cheer up. Any Hungarian facing their difficulties and the ‘weltschmerz’ of a beaten history, would instantly fall into self-pity. We would declare things hopeless, before we would ever consider trying to do anything about it.) Pamuk writes extensively about various travel writers who visited Istanbul in the past and shaped the city’s image, as well as of his much admired, fellow Istanbul-based writers. The volume is therefore a uniquely mutant book that mixes personal memories with essays about the history and literary heritage of the city. 

Oh, and I forgot to mention; Istanbul is a book of a Nobel prize winner. Not that it makes any difference, but there are some who care for marketing.

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Posted in ASIA, Books, EUROPE, Turkey | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

GRAHAM GREENE: TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT

Posted by mukikamu on December 20, 2007

I re-read Travels With My Aunt. Such a crazy piece, really it is. It reminded me of the books that started me on armchair traveling long long years ago. Hemingway‘s The Sun Also Rises and Twain’s Roughin’ It also promote idle vagabonding and mention no obstacles whatsoever. I was naturally instantly hooked on the high-life, luxurious hotels and country motoring. Seas of champagne.

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Greene is one of my favourite writers anyway.  He is so basic, it feels awkward to give an introduction. He has written many travel related books (Journey without maps, Lawless road, etc…) and most of his novels are also set in faraway lands. If you care for readable novels with a touch of wanderlust any of his books is a treat. I have read Our Man in Havana, The Honorary Consul, The Quiet American, The End of the Affair, The Human Factor and The Heart of the Matter before, but as far as I am concerned, all can be re-read anytime. Greene’s novels and short stories truly take you around the world. From Saigon to Havana. 

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Posted in Argentina, Books, England, France, Italy, Paraguay, Turkey | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »