To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies, and the Art of Extreme Tourism
Henry Holt, 2009 (2009)
Reviewed by Bob Walch
huck Thompson's definition of
includes the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Mexico City, and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Like many readers who are attracted to this paperback by its garish cover (a hot orange background highlights a human skull peering through binoculars and decked out in a straw hat), I don't necessarily agree with the
label the author pins on three of these four locations.
hat doesn't mean, though, that I didn't find this fast flowing travel memoir an enjoyable read. Thompson's conversational tone coupled with his acerbic wit and the sardonic, often off color commentary make this a very entertaining book.
or example, the author's description of riding on a camel compares the experience to '
sitting atop a washing machine that's churning with an uneven load
'. And, in his diatribe about Disney World, Thompson describes the amusement park as '
a fabricated dream patch plopped in the middle of a morally rudderless state of bogus elections with half-baked citizenry who think absolutely nothing of supporting an idiotic fifty-year embargo of Cuba
fter reading a quarter of the book, it becomes clear that the author's
are not as bad as one would think. Yes, the Congo does present some interesting challenges, but India, Mexico and Orlando are far from the
venues that the title promised.
lthough he expects to encounter kidnappers and other dangerous situations in Mexico City and is prepared to sneer at Disney World's attractions, Thompson actually tempers his criticism as he describes his experiences in these places.
s he looks back in the book's epilogue at his year of travel and
, the author says that he found his African sojourn the
. Correspondingly, India was the
place he visited while Mexico City was the
. The biggest surprise of all, though, was designating Disney World as the
of all the
rmchair travelers as well as seasoned travelers will revel in Chuck Thompson's adventures and his candid commentary. Obviously those who have actually been to the Congo, India, Mexico City or Orlando's Disney World may take issue with some of Thompson's assessments but, no matter, this isn't a travel book about where to stay or find the best restaurants and stores.
t is certainly not necessary to agree with the author's opinions to enjoy this narrative. He's a talented storyteller with a wicked sense of humor and that's more than enough to make this a highly enjoyable read!
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