Category Archives: Books

Fiji? I Wish! But I Will and David Did…

The 9th edition of David Stanley’s Fiji guidebook just came out (January 2011).  Here’s my (updated) review:

“Been there, done that” doesn’t begin to describe this author’s credibility.  I finally had to confess to him that the nature of his writing had greatly delayed my review of this very fine guide to Fiji.   Each turn of the page had me mentally traveling to yet another of the Fiji Island’s hidden gems -and that sort of travel takes time!

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David Stanley is a bona fide expert on traveling the South Pacific and the author of several Moon guidebooks.  His Moon Fiji guide is a must-have reference for anyone contemplating a trip to these South Pacific islands. Everything is covered in practical detail from the extensive trip planning section that outlines the islands’ “personalities” and suggests potential itineraries geared to travelers’ available time and interests to chapters on the features and attractions of Fiji’s varied islands themselves.

This book is meant to acquire bent pages and bookmarks.  Listings include far more than the usual price points, feature names and contact information.  Lodging, restaurant and tour descriptions include specific suggestions gleaned from Mr. Stanley’s years of “stealth” reviewing (he doesn’t announce his presence, preferring to travel in the mode of the travelers who rely on his books).  He is candid about what is worth your money and where you might prefer to spend your limited time.

Occasionally one feels as if Mr Stanley has slipped in a page from his personal travel journal which makes for some very entertaining reading:

“Despite the Members Only sign, you’re welcome to enter the Ovalau Club…  You’ll meet genuine South Seas characters here, and the place is brimming with atmosphere…. Ask the bartender to show you the framed letter from Count Felix Von Luckner, the World War I German sea wolf…”

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The insets are noteworthy. Brief but highly descriptive, they encapsulate key elements of culture, history, flora and fauna and cover topics such as the mechanics of a sugar mill, the South Pacific’s 15-minute stock exchange and the significance of being given a whale’s tooth.  These alone make the book a fascinating read for those curious about far-off Fiji.

Looking at this modest-sized book,  jammed with information and yet surprisingly quite easy to navigate, I’m reminded of one of those stuffed clown cars at the circus and wonder how did he do it? Masterful organization is the key.  David Stanley’s guidebook ensures no Fiji traveler will need to similarly stuff their luggage; his book and a few other travel essentials (clearly outlined on page 13) are all an adventurer really needs.

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Tourist Town Guides: “Jackson Hole” by Nina Lary

While the internet is invaluable for researching destinations and itineraries, it’s still a good idea to slip a current guidebook into your carry-on luggage.  The barrage of choices in an unfamiliar location can overwhelm; a little hand-holding in the form of a decent guidebook can make the difference.  My best travel books travel with me, get heavy use and generally return home in a slightly disheveled, bent-paged state.

“Jackson Hole: A Comprehensive Guide to Jackson and the Grand Tetons” by Nina Lary and published by Tourist Town Guides is such a book -and I haven’t even gotten back to Wyoming yet!  The guide is thorough without being overwhelming.  It includes a history of the locale, transportation suggestions and effective descriptions of the area’s ambience, season by season.  The author makes recommendations on accomodations, activities/tour operators and restaurants -helpfully sharing the “sway” factors so that the reader may more easily make his personal choice.  For instance, under motel listings:  “If those amenities are irrelevant to you, **** is not worth the extra money,” and, “The cozy lobby is a converted living room… Some may find this too close for comfort.”

There’s plenty of “local” insight included, and Nina excels at including the details that matter. Helpful sections include: Area Orientation, Outdoor Activities, Snow Sports, Teton Village, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Each segment is very well-organized and brimming with descriptive and engaging narratives.

The pluses:  Listings include phone numbers, addresses and website information.  The author includes follow-up resources for in-depth information on virtually all listed categories.  Geological and social histories are related in easy-to-understand terms. The negative: My personal preference would be to include more specific trail and hiking information, but this guide is meant to be a thorough overview of the area -and it quite competently achieves that. As noted above, follow-up resources are included and allow the reader to flesh out the areas that interest them most.

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