Chuck Thompson, who I didn’t even realize lives near Seattle, has written an offbeat travel book about places most of us would never want to go, including him, with some surprising conclusions.

He visits the Congo, India, Mexico City, and Disneyworld.

The first half of the book is about his visit to the Congo and it is definitely the highlight. He has quite a few adventures, and while it confirms you wouldn’t want to visit there, he does end up having some notable adventures. He meets many shady characters, learns all about how bribery works and sometimes doesn’t work, and even gets shadowed by a lion. An When he enters the country it appears that a date previous to his actual entry is stamped into his passport. This seems to be a commonly known trick, because everytime he comes into contact with an authority they point out that he entered the country before his Visa allows him to. This causes all kinds of problems. There are some amusing and shocking observations. For example, there is the matter of widespread AIDS education, in which everybody is told about using condoms. The people are convinced to use condoms, but in the name of comfort they often cut off the end of it.

India is the place that comes off the worse. I was quite surprised because I have heard so many good things about India, but after reading this book I don’t think I ever will visit there. This is despite the fact that my favorite travel writer Rick Steves has said it is his favorite place to visit.

The main reason is the pushiness of the people, whether it be peddlers, taxi drivers, restaurant owners, or anybody else trying to sell him something. There is a particularly hairy episode when he visits a Moslem temple and is confronted by a mob trying to collect a 200 Rupee camera fee for visitors. He ends up fleeing the mob, and finds out later there is indeed a fee, but that doesn’t really make him feel any better about the experience.

Taxi drivers will say anything and agree to take him anywhere just to get him in the taxi, whereupon they immediately tell him they will take him some place better or closer or something like that.

In the end he does have a good experience with a tut-tut driver that makes India look a little better, but still.

Mexico City actually comes across the best. I haven’t been there myself in over 15 years and I remember it as being a great place, but I couldn’t breathe the air. It turns out that things have changed in Mexico City. The air is not so polluted due to factories being closed and better emission standards. The people are very polite and crime is not bad at all.

Even DisneyWorld, which he expects to hate, turns out not to be so bad, and he even says he would go again.

A very enjoyable book, all in all.