Cambodia: travel books to read before you go

This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Cambodia guide provides a selection of travel literature to enhance your trip.

A Dragon ApparentThe classic Cambodian read is Norman Lewis’ A Dragon Apparent: Travels in Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam (1951), an account of his 1950 foray into an Indochina that would soon disappear. In the course of his travels, Lewis circumnavigated Tonlé Sap Lake, with a pause at Angkor.

To Asia with LoveWritten by writers who know and love their countries, To Asia with Love: A Connoisseur’s Guide to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam (2004), an anthology edited by Kim Fay, is a delightful introduction to Cambodia and the Mekong region for those looking for some inspiration and adventure.

Travels in Siam, Cambodia, Laos and Annam (1864) by Henri Mouhot has been reprinted in English by White Lotus and gives the inside story of the man credited with ‘rediscovering’ Angkor.

River of TimeJon Swain’s River of Time (1995) takes the reader back to an old Indochina, partly lost to the madness of war, and includes first-hand accounts of the French embassy stand-off in the first days of the Khmer Rouge takeover.

Derailed in Uncle Hos Victory GardenTim Page’s Derailed in Uncle Ho’s Victory Garden (1995) covers this legendary photographer’s quest for the truth behind the disappearance of photojournalist Sean Flynn (son of Errol) in Cambodia in 1970, and his mission to secure a monument to fallen correspondents on all sides of the Indochina conflict.

The Rivers Tale - A Year on the MekongAn excellent account of life on the Mother River is The River’s Tale: A Year on the Mekong (2001) by Edward Gargan. A war-protester-turned foreign-correspondent, Gargan sees for himself how Cambodia and its neighbours have brought themselves back from the brink.

The Indochina ChroniclesThe Indochina Chronicles (2005) by Phil Karber is a lively travelogue taking in adventures and misadventures in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Off the Rails in Phnom PenhAmit Gilboa’s Off the Rails in Phnom Penh – Guns, Girls and Ganja (1998) deals with such murky subjects as prostitution and drugs. It feels like he got too close to his subject at times and it’s not really a side of Cambodia of which Khmers are proud.

Phaic TanThe ultimate spoof guidebook, Phaic Tăn: Sunstroke on a Shoestring (2004) is a pastiche of Southeast Asian countries that pokes fun at all of us. No-one is spared, not the locals, not the travellers – not even hallowed guidebook authors.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.