A Literary Escape to Asia

As the UK is currently in lockdown, I imagine there are many of you, like me, that are continually looking for inspiration for your reading list that can also give you an insight into your next travel destination.

In this blog I will offer a few examples of books that will be perfect for keeping you busy while fuelling your passion for travel. Pop the kettle on and uncover the beauty of Asia…

‘The Great Indian Novel’ by Shashi Tharoor

For the first stop, we take you to a land of remarkable diversity through ‘The Great Indian Novel’ by Shashi Tharoor.

The Great Indian Novel is the first piece of fictional work written by Shashi Tharoor and published in 1989. Tharoor uses the famous Indian epic, the Mahabharata, but resets it in the context of the Indian Independence movement and the three decades that follow the country’s independence. In this satirical novel, parallels are drawn with major events in India’s history using events and characters from twentieth century Indian politics.

Would be great to read on our: Highlights of India

‘Elephant Complex: Travels to Sri Lanka’ by John Gimlette.

Just off the coast of India, we continue our journey to Sri Lanka in the context of ‘Elephant Complex: Travels to Sri Lanka’ by John Gimlette.

Venture through stunning Sri Lanka as though you are a button on the shirt of the author, John Gimlette travels through Sri Lanka from the capital city of Colombo, through to ancient reservoirs where the island’s 5,800 elephants flock and into Kandy, the home of culture, arts and religion. Each city brings into view the old colonial reigns of the Portuguese, Dutch and British armies and the imprints that have been left on the island. As Gimlette explores this fascinating island, he describes his interactions with the true stars of the book, the local people, from farmers to test cricketers and even a former president.

Would be great to read on our: Highlights of Sri Lanka

‘A Dance with the Dragon’ by Julia Boyd.

Next we travel North-East to discover the home of the world’s oldest continuous civilisation, China, with ‘A Dance with the Dragon’ by Julia Boyd.

In this novel Julia Boyd uncovers a variety of unpublished diaries and letters to reveal the perceptions and reactions of foreign residents in the last great capital to remain untouched by the modern world, Peking. In the early 20th century, Peking was home to an eclectic foreign community that were oblivious to the now famous political events that were unfolding around them to mould modern China.

Would be great to read on our: Wonders of China

‘The Island of Sea Women’ by Lisa See.

From China we make our way across the Yellow Sea to reach South Korea and learn of ‘The Island of Sea Women’ by Lisa See.

The Haenyeos, female divers of Jeju Island, have a unique history and culture. We invite you to explore this beautiful novel that highlights a world where fierce and unforgettable woman are in charge and engage in such dangerous physical work to provide for their families. The Island of Sea Women pulls us into the story of two girls, Mi-ya and Young-sook, as they take up their roles as baby divers and begin their lives of excitement, responsibility and danger.

Would be great to read on our: Scenic South Korea

‘An artist of the floating world’ by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Venturing across the Sea of Japan, we reach the land of the rising sun, Japan, and are transported to 1948 with ‘An artist of the floating world’ by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Set in a suburb of Tokyo, Japan is rebuilding its cities after the events of World War Two and pondering what the future may bring. This story brings us into the home of a celebrated artist, Masuji Ono, a gentleman that should be beginning a calm retirement, but is continually reminded of his past. The story begins with a sentence that will stay with you throughout… “If on a sunny day you climb the steep path leading up from the little wooden bridge still referred to around here as ‘the Bridge of Hesitation’, you will not have to walk far before the roof of my house becomes visible between the tops of two gingko trees.”

Would be great to read on our: Japan Uncovered

‘The Stolen Bicycle’ by Ming-Yi Wu.

South West of Japan we begin our explorations of the beautiful isle, Taiwan, through ‘A Stolen Bicycle’ by Ming-Yi Wu.

A Stolen Bicycle is set upon a writer’s search of his missing father’s stolen bicycle and his hopes of uncovering the truth of his father’s disappearance. The story allows the reader to gain a great depth of understanding for Taiwanese history through an intimate journey through 20th century Taiwan, enjoy this wonderful blend of history and fiction.

Would be great to read on our: Treasures of Taiwan

‘The Rainbow Troops’ by Andrea Hirata

Sailing past the Philippines across the South China Sea we reach Indonesia and the scenic island of Belitong to discover the story of ‘The Rainbow Troops’ by Andrea Hirata

The Rainbow Troops tells the story of students at the poorest village school in Belitong, a school that is under continual threat of closure and we follow the coming of age adventures of Ikal and his friends. This book is loosely autobiographical with characters closely based on people in author’s personal life, in particular the dedicated teachers that have a great influence on the rainbow troops throughout this uplifting story.

Would be great to read on our: Incredible Indonesia

“A Woman of Angkor” by John Burgess

Our next stop takes up to a charming kingdom where ancient and modern worlds collide, Cambodia, where we indulge in the story of “A Woman of Angkor” by John Burgess

Travelling back to 12th Century Cambodia, we are taken into the lost Angkor civilisation, to a village behind the famous temples. Immerse yourself in the world of a young girl, Sray, and follow her story as her faith and loyalties are tested by the great king Suryavarman II. If a visit to Angkor Wat is on your bucket list, I would highly recommend following Sray’s story as the author describes the wonderous views of the construction of one of the largest of the temples and offers an explanation for its greatest mystery.

Would be great to read on our: Angkor to the Bay

“The Beach” by Alex Garland

Moving on to a country as golden as its glistening temples and beaches we discover Thailand through “The Beach” by Alex Garland

In search of paradise, the beach follows the story of a young British man who escapes his life through travel. On arrival in Thailand, Richard is given a map that promises him an unknown island, his own paradise and a brand-new way of life. Upon finding such beautiful paradise the story begins to question how long such paradise can survive without external restraints and what measures Richard will go to in order to protect his new way of life.

Would be great to read on our:

“Cresent Moon Over Laos” by Mark Boyter

As a final stop on this blog’s travels, we cross Thailand’s northern border into Laos, explore “Cresent Moon Over Laos” by Mark Boyter

Another true travel story to ignite your passion for travel, Crescent Moon Over Laos follows the author in his 18-day journey through Laos just three months after the country was re-opened to western travel. Having been closed for ten years, there are relatively few travellers and many questions for Boyter, including which path his life will take. While this story presents the journey of the author through Laos, it also brings into question ideas of ethics; personal place in the word; of Asia and Buddhism. Discover not only the beauty of Laos but also allow this story to hit home on a more personal level.

Would be great to read on our: Highlights of Laos

Leah Marrow: Leah is an Asia specialist in our Product Team

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