Young Female, Travelling Alone
Anne-Marie M Pop
iUniverse, Inc (New York, Lincoln, Shanghai)
Pp 149 US$12.95
REVIEWED BY Frederick Noronha
Minutes after the postman rang the cycle-bell and dropped this book at the door, I was devouring it. As anticipated, it dealt with India. And, my next guess was right too: a significant section focussed on Goa, the former Portuguese colony on the Indian west coast that this reviewer call home
Let’s shift focus to where it should go: the book and its author. Writer Anne-Marie M Pop is a Montreal-based computer engineer. In 2001, she took on a two-year job in Sweden, and then quit for a seven-month “backpacking journey through Asia”.
This is a reflection — let’s not say ‘record’ — of her times in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and India.
It takes her through Cambodian border scams and brothels, Buddhist meditation centres in Thailand, scenic islands, the Mekong and the rain forests. She also lands up in the sex-drugs-and-full-moon-party trail still surviving a generation after the hippies first sought solace and escapism in Asia.
Anne-Marie’s book is an easy and entertaining read. It’s armchair-tourism from the safety of your own home, with the tantalising promise of bringing in close, but not too close, the perils that Asia.
Anne-Marie M Pop faces many dangers. More so, as the “young female, travelling alone”. She’s critical of how Asian men treat women. And as an Asian male, this reviewer would acknowledge that she has a point. But is it Asian males alone? Oftentimes, oppression has a more subtle face on it. In Asia, it doesn’t. Not following culturally-apt behaviour could also be risky; and this holds true for any part of the globe, even if the risks play themselves out in differing ways.
Her chapters are usually just two pages long. One comprises just four paras! While this may seem unusual, it makes for easy, relaxed reading.
‘Young Female Travelling Alone’ gives the reader both insights and an interesting travelogue into a number of diverse parts of Asia. But does it go deep enough? Does it repeat stereotypes that we are already brainwashed about? We’d leave that to the reader to judge.
What this writer has to say about Goa and the rest of India struck a chord. She was writing about a place that’s barely eight kilometres from home. The last book of the kind is Dr Cleo Odzer’s “Goa Freaks”.
[It’s a sad story of how a young Jewish lady got caught up with drugs, and almost died of it. [She cleant up, did her PhD on sex tourism in Patpong, and worked for a rehabilitation group in the US. But, earlier this decade, she returned to Goa, only to die her in an incident which still brings in many curious questions from people who knew her.]
Anne-Marie M.Pop’s description was realistic and down to earth. No wonder, as a reviewer, one was both surprised and disappointed to read the ‘fiction/general’ tag on the back cover of the book. It’s so life-like, I thought it was true!
Or, is it?