Title: No Touch Monkey!: And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late
Author: Ayun Halliday
Genre: Non-fiction: Travel; Memoir
Rating: ** 1/2
Ayun Halliday may not make for the most sensible travel companion, but she is certainly one of the zaniest, with a knack for inserting herself (and her unwitting cohorts) into bizarre situations around the globe. Curator of kitsch and unabashed aficionada of pop culture, Halliday offers bemused, self-deprecating narration of events from guerilla theater in Romania to drug-induced Apocalypse Now reenactments in Vietnam to a perhaps more surreal collagen-implant demonstration at a Paris fashion show emceed by Lauren Bacall. From taming the wild dog packs of Bali to requiring the services of a bonesetter in Sumatra, Ayun Halliday offers up the best of her itinerant foibles as examples of how not to travel abroad. For instance, on layover in Amsterdam, Halliday finds unlikely trouble in the red-light district—eliciting the ire of a tiny, violent madam,—and is forced to explain tampons, which she admits, might have looked like white cotton bullets lined up in their box,” to soldiers in Kashmir—They’re for ladies. Bleeding ladies.” A self-admittedly bumbling vacationer, Halliday shares—with razorsharp wit and to hilarious effect—the travel stories most are too self-conscious to tell. (from Goodreads)
Thoughts: This book is made of short chapters, each describing a different location, and different travel fiasco, that Halliday finds herself in. Most of the chapters are rather short- 15 pages on average, but there is plenty of variety- from riding a camel in the Indian desert, to staying in a monastery in Thailand, to lugging her daughter around Edinburgh, Halliday is certainly well traveled. Unfortunately, being well traveled does not necessarily make your book automatically interesting or revealing in regards to the places you have visited.
My biggest problem about this book is that is doesn’t feel like a travel book. The chapters as I said are short, but even in the longer chapters (at the most 30 pages) there is not really a lot of the information that I was wanting. The book is very much concerned with Halliday and her experiences: there is very little, if any, historical or cultural information about the different places she visits- it is even rare for her to describe the streets, cities, forests, and other places she goes. This is the information I want when I read a travel book- I want to sink myself into another place and culture. Part of the reason for the lack of this is her decision to have each chapter be placed in a different location. But I can’t help place some of the blame on Halliday. I’ sorry but I really don’t want to read about the bad drug trip you had in Ho Chi Minh City- I want to read about the city itself- it’ sights and sounds and smells. I could care less about you washing your body in a sink in Munich- tell me about Munich, not the inside of the bathroom! Also, how many times do you really need to mention that you don’t shave your legs or your armpits. If you must mention it, once is enough, having to read about it once every two chapters was just too much for me.
I would probably have liked this book better if I had read it in better circumstances; I finished it last week waiting for the POD to arrive and I was incredibly bored with only the bare minimum of my belongings. There are some funny and really interesting parts to this book but not enough to make up for what was missing in it. I got this book as a gift and really wanted to like it more- maybe that was part of my problem; I wanted to like to so much that I ended up not. But at least it entertained me for a few hours while waiting for all our stuff to get here!