Book Review: 1000 Places to See Before You Die

Quick executive summary: overrated.

Backing up, the book is not completely useless. Say you pick up a travel guide to the USA. Many of them will point out possible places of interest all over the country. It’s, however, very hard to differentiate between the importance/value/significant of a former gold mining ghost town from Gettysburg unless you already have basic knowledge of American history or unless the guide book writes a special feature on one. As foreigners reading objective tone-less guidebooks, it’s hard to prioritize.

In comes books like 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. It provides, at best, a starting point to identify which locations have some more presence or may be worth going out of your way to visit.

Key word: starting point. I was extreme annoyed to find the book populated with so many luxury hotels as the destinations themselves. Really? You’d recommend for someone to fly across oceans, continents, just for a hotel? No matter how luxurious the hotel.

And the recommendations have a strongly luxury travel slant. Cruises valuing thousands of US dollars in third world countries. I’m all for pampering myself every now and then, but not to this volume or price. I put more emphasis in witnessing, if not experiencing, the local culture, which would mean less of the canned tour packages and more of figuring ways to get around myself.

Say, Bangkok. One listed destination is the Sukhothai Hotel. While it is indeed a very nice hotel, why mention that instead of famous Mandarin Oriental Hotel? And, finally, a hotel, really?

Ultimately, I don’t recommend the book. It wouldn’t be any different than any other books listing “top destinations” or “journeys of a lifetime” etc. While it has a few gems that I would never heard of without proper research, it serves, at best, merely a starting point.

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