Fellow Tranquilo Travelers: Joe Cummings and Bill Weir

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.

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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 Road—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 jam—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.

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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.

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