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The Lonely Planet

I have lost faith in the Lonely Planet.  Viewed by most backpackers as the authority in travel, often referred to as the “Bible,” the “Koran,” or simply “LP,“ the Lonely Planet has been one of our essential travel tools.

Diesel is pretty adamant about paying for books, and he’s made it a point to buy the real LP–believing that we‘re paying for the hard work of those who travel for a job (it‘s a very tough job indeed)–as opposed to the thousands of photocopied LP versions that infest the  street markets and are kept in hidden compartments of semi-respectable  bookstores all over SE Asia.  So it was with a grave conscience that he decided to finally give in and buy a xeroxed copy LP China.  Frugality comes first, morality second, I guess; after all, 1000 pages of travel tips about China doesn’t come cheap.After a few weeks of using LP China, he announced:  “I’m glad I only paid $2 for this book.  LP China is crap!”  He is right.

First off, for the most part, it’s not even written by  real Chinese people.  Look at the intro: only 1 out of 9 of the book writers have an odd (Chinese) name.  Not that I’m suspicious of the white peeps’ knowledge of my peeps or the motherland.  In fact,  I’ve seen many a white peeps conversing with locals in PERFECT Chinese.  And I don’t’ even speak any (though I blame it all on my parents, who refused to beat me with a rod and force me to go to Chinese school on Saturdays and send me to Kumon math class three times a week like every other respectable set of Chinese parents).  But honestly, if you walked into a sushi restaurant and saw that the sushi chef was Mexican, wouldn’t you question the authenticity of the restaurant at least a little bit?  Well, if you don’t’ think you would, kudos to you, but I expected the LP China authors to have Ching Chang Chow Chen Wang last names, but they just don’t.  And that, to me, is very suspicious.

We checked out a 2006 copy of LP China that another couple was using, and realized there had been no updates whatsoever to the Lijiang/Leaping Tiger Gorge section (even though the Leaping Tiger Gorge trail has recently changed), so it‘s safe to say that probably much more of the 1000+ pages are not up-to-date.  In addition, many of the hotels/inns recommended by the LP as good values were run-down or plain nasty.  In Beijing, one of the subway lines listed in the book as “under construction” has been done for at least a year and one of the new lines is not even mentioned .The book is inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable also when it comes to transportation and tour infos.  Also, the much praised maps are all wrong as well.  Having been in China for a month, I will give LP China the benefit of the doubt and think that maybe the writers received info from locals, which as we found out, is often hearsay and completely inaccurate.  Fine, blame it on my peeps again (I know you will, irate Diesel, after your last few bitchy posts).

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