I would love to devote a posting to each of the friends we’ve made here, since they are all extraordinarilly creative, unrushed, and tranquilo travelers; but time on Chiang Mai’s blazing Internet opportunities is running short, so I’ll begin with my fellow guidebook writers.
Shortly before we each disappeared into our respective deadline seclusions, I had dinner with Chiang Mai expat, Joe Cummings, who, in addition to playing lead guitar for local rockers, The Jackalans, is the author of one the world’s best selling guidebooks: Lonely Planet Thailand, over two million copies sold (not including pirated versions)! Joe also penned Southeast Asia on a Shoestring, one of Australia’s three most shoplifted book titles (the other two, since you asked, are William Burroughs’ Junkie and Jack Kerouac’s On The Roadâ€”pretty good company, no matter what the nature of the stat).
Joe is an all-around nice guy and it would have been cool to jamâ€”or at least sample more fancy Chiang Mai restaurants together; but alas, he ran off to Pai to finish his latest Lonely Planet title, which happens to be about one of my and Tay’s upcoming destinations (hint: not Laos, although he is the author of that book as well). After 25 years in the guidebook business, Joe admitted that he was started to get bored; this left me with nothing to complain about, as I’ve only been in the game five years. A quick look at Joe’s book list shows how he is branching out: big, glossy coffee table books on things like Burmese architecture and Thai cuisine.
And then there’s Bill Weir, Round-the-World Cycling Maniac, and author of guidebooks to Arizona, Utah, and the Grand Canyon. Actually, mild-mannered Bill is not so maniacal, but his stallion, “Bessie Too,” looked a bit deranged around the fenders. No wonder, considering the tens of thousands of miles she’s carried him.
I’ve known Bill’s “voice” from a guidebook writer listserve, so it was nice to meet him face to face, especially under such auspicious circumstances: After pedalling across the Indian Himalaya, then throughout Northern Thailand, Bill had just acquired extended visas in Laos, Vietnam, and China; he plans on spending a good part of the next year traversing the latter, possibly all the way to Kyrgyzstan. “Damn,” is right.