Review of Lonely Planet Encounter Guide To Hanoi & Halong Bay by Tom Downs
Lonely Planet Encounter: Hanoi & Halong Bay by Tom Downs (LP 2007).
I try to give Lonely Planet the benefit of the doubt, but its Encounter mini-guide to Hanoi left a bad taste in my mouth.
I don't criticize Lonely Planet because it's successful or corporate or allegedly promotes unsustainable yuppie tourism while simultaneously hectoring readers with PC pabulum. My principal criticisms of the company's products are that they are uneven in quality and often seem most interested in selling you another book.
The Encounter books are pocket-size city guides. The format forces concision, and I'm not expecting a cyclopedia.
But there's nothing in Hanoi & Halong Bay that couldn't be found online in half a day of surfing. Based on the content, the book's not worth the asking price, new or used.
But what's not in the book is what pissed me off. There are no accommodation listings. Instead, there's a two-page section which flogs LP's then-new Haystack hotel sales engine.
Haystack crashed and burned, another online failure by an old media company that understands paper and ink better than bits and links.
Consequently, the Encounter guide to Hanoi doesn't have anything to say about where to sleep while you're in town (other than that the Metropole Hotel is historic, elegant and expensive).
I had a similar problem with LP's larger-format city guides. They seemed to be miserly with information, prodding me to buy the larger country or region guide.
It's been almost two years since I've used the blog tag "This Book Is Crap," but Hanoi & Halong Bay deserves it -- probably because of the editorial constraints imposed from above and not through any fault of author Tom Downs.
I doubt I'll buy another Lonely Planet city guide.