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1.6.11

South-East Asia in Yer Face!

More or less the exact spot where I bought the book.
Lying on the beach on the island of Koh Chang in Thailand in the very end of 2004. A man in his fourties walks in on me to sell his book. He briefly tells he's been backpacking in Asia for years, and that he has written down some stories about his travels and offers his book for few US dollars, euros or some Thai bahts. Can't remember the price any more, but it was very reasonable. He hands me a copy and politely retreats few metres away giving me a possibility to browse through the book before I decide if I want to buy it.

The layout and the general appearance of the book is rather shabby. The pages are obviously Xeroxed in some local Asian copying service shop and stapled together with simple plastic binding. The book or, despite its over 120 pages, merely a booklet, has also plastic covers to make it a bit more book-like rather than just a sheaf of notes. On the cover there is the name of the book, South East Asia in Yer Face and the author, Adrian Robson. Illustrations on the cover look like a mixture of cheesy clip-art pictures. The table of contents reveals stories like Bangkok Girls or Komodo or Bust and by riffling through the pages one very soon notices a generous ration of curse words, occasional poor grammar and typos within the text. The man, Adrian himself, points out that the first story, Bukit Lawang,  is about a flash flood occurence in North Sumatra he barely survived and which actually prompted him to write the whole book. That alone is quite intriguing, especially since we're just couple of days away from the Boxing Day tsunami which hit also Thailand heavily. (By that time we didn't yet realise how bad the disaster actually was, and Koh Chang was untouched by the tidal waves.)

- Well, what the hell, I start, intending to buy the book when I notice weird, almost angry expression on Mr. Robson's face.
- What? he asks looking like daggers drawn.
- I said: What the hell, I'll buy this. How much was it again? I reply, and the author markedly calms down and starts smiling again. We close the deal. Small amount of bahts and a book change owners. Mr. Robson thanks, waves goodbye and continues his stroll on the beach to find the next buyer for a copy of his book.

I later realise that I probably had failed using the expression 'what the hell' as in 'sure, why not'. Adrian most likely first thought I meant something like 'what the hell is this crap'. A good example of how easily you can become misinterpreted by speaking a foreign language with only slightly inadequate intonation. And we're not even talking about tonal languages here.

Well, I didn't read the book right away. Instead it travelled with me back to Finland, where it was buried and forgotten in the bookshelf for several years. I recently discovered it again and finally read it. I was first afraid the stories might be mostly about drinking beer and banging prostitutes, but to my delight the stories were more or less pure rock'n'roll - not forgetting the sex and drugs. In the introduction Adrian Robson tells that apart the flash flood, all incidents described are everyday occurrences that can happen to anyone in South-East Asia, the trick being to be in the wrong place at the right time.
 
Somewhere in the book Robson mentions he has no previous experience whatsoever on writing, and to be honest, that becomes quite obvious when reading the book. However, after reading all of the stories, and the separate 'Author's Opinions' section at the end, where Robson compares eight different South-East Asian countries, I must say that I'm very happy to own this quite unique piece of travel literature. Actually, many of the happenings in the book are similar to things I'd like to write in this very blog. Adrian Robson writes in a fun and excited way, and with fucking many swear words. This amateur book manages to do what any professional travel book should: It definitely made me want to go traveling again. To Indonesia!

10 comments:

Gypsy said...

Adrian, its Gypsy here, half way through the book only one word to describe it so far, WICKID, would love to get in touch with yu, please write to, sugaras@hotmail.co.uk and send me yu email address, l dont suppose that l will ever visit York again, and we need to chat, so write, now me gone l have to wrap something up in a paper, nuff love from yu new friend the crazy Ras Gypsy, xxx

Divine said...

Well Gypsy, I hope you'll find Adrian via this.

Ryan said...

I also bumped into Adrian! this time on the Algarve, Portugal, i was walking to the beach with my girlfriend when i saw some seemingly random newspaper articles about Thailand and Tsunamis stuck to a wall, i wondered what the hell it was all about then about ten seconds later we bumped into a tanned-like-leather man who then explained his story and the articles we had just seen, he also mentioned that 'a Finnish man bought the first ever copy, on a beach, just like you are now' which gave him the inspiration to carry on with his book venture, was that you Divine? it sounds like it, needless to say i bought one instantly as i am an avid reader and always seize the chance to get something signed, i bought it for the bargain price of 10 euros and got it signed and dated (5/6/11), he instantly struck me as a very interesting person, maybe it will become a travellers bible in years to come and be reprinted many times, which will make my what looks to be a handmade book worth a fortune :) wishful thinking haha, i have only flicked through the book and have not read it but from what i have seen it is a very good read, does anybody know his email address? Ryan

Divine said...

Whoa Ryan, nice story! I have no idea if I was the Finn buying the first ever copy. I was left with an impression he had been carrying copies and selling them for a longer time. But now that I checked, the book's copyright page indicates the year 2004. That's when I bought it, so it must've been really new by then. Hell, now I'm even more delighted if I happen to be the first customer of Mr. Robson! Don't have a signature on my copy though...

I really liked the book. Hope I didn't put too much emphasis on the spelling and grammar in what I wrote above. The kind of small unique travel stories Adrian writes are much more interesting than your usual travel guides which tell you where you can find the best all-inclusive hotel monstrosity.

Nice to hear Adrian is still there and kickin'. Thanks for posting, Ryan.

Anonymous said...

just bought the book two days ago in portugal...nice guy,wish i had more time to talk to him

Gregg

Anonymous said...

i had the pleasure of meeting him 3 days ago in the Algarve...a guy i wish i had more time to talk to..a very usefull book for me
Gregg

Charles Adams said...

Bumped into adrian in kampot, cambodia, he still sells his books, i bought his 6,314th copy. He lives in S.E asia for the high season, H.Q in don det (books printed in pakse) and goes to the algarve for several months before returning.... He seems really reluctant for a sequel because he doesn't think he can live up to the spontinuity of the first one, really interesting guy, had a good chat. Might see him kicking around in don det next time im there

Maximilian Lavin said...

Bumped into him 2 days ago in don det!

Anonymous said...

Also meet him in algarve last yr nice 2c his books r sellin well . I waz number 5904 so . .He works in a local cafe just off beatin track called ' the blues bar lol ' this book wil go down in history i wouldnt sell it 4 all da tea in china . Adrian is a legand ! ! And it waz a privillge 2 meet him dean richards llanelli ,wales

Pauline said...

Met Adrian in the Algarve last week, he had just arrived for the summer season, still working in the Blues bar cafe. Bought his book which he signed for me, looking forward to reading it, seems like he has had an interesting and varied life, it was a pleasure to meet him