Book Review of Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story by Tony and Maureen Wheeler

Who doesn’t like rags to riches stories? With 27 cents to their name after traveling through Europe and Asia, Tony and Maureen Wheeler landed in Australia in the 70s Through hard work and almost reckless perseverance and ingenuity, they brought Lonely Planet travel books to the masses and created a company once worth a quarter billion dollars.

Mao, Lenin and Uncle Ho: A Trifecta of Communist Corpses

The bodies of work for Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Vladimir Lenin can be compared to each other endlessly with no clear winner. What can be compared, however, are there actual bodies. Or at least what’s left of them. Morbid, right?

I went to all three of their mausoleums within the span of two months, so here’s how they rank from worst to best in terms of the overall visiting experience.

The ‘Crazy House’ Lives Up to its Name

The Crazy House in Dalat, Vietnam looks like Disneyland on acid. There’s winding staircases, a giant fake tree housing several rooms and some mock molten lava on top of the gift shop. Full or narrow passageways and vertigo-inducing walkways, the Crazy House has all the kitsch of an ambitious tourist trap. Despite a steady stream of visitors and its over-the-top looks, this attraction was made for reasons other than making money from tourists.It’s actually the pet project of an ambitious local architect.

Weasel Shit Coffee: A Delicacy in Vietnam

I don’t know how this was discovered, but apparently coffee beans shit out by a civet (a weasel-like animal) makes for a damn good cup of coffee. Civet coffee, or weasel coffee, is an expensive delicacy that started in Indonesia where it’s known as kopi luwak. In the past few years this delicacy has been rising in popularity in Vietnam. I tried the coffee for myself in the city of Dalat, where the Weasel Coffee farm produces and brews the coffee on site. Here’s how it went.

Must Do: Canyoning Down Waterfalls in Dalat

As I leaned back over the edge of a 60-foot waterfall, the last thing I wanted to do was let go of the rope that prevented me from falling down. “Let go,” is exactly what Dragon, the tour guide, told me to do. I shook my head no and held on in total fear. He eventually coaxed me into it and I held up my hands awkwardly for Dragon to take a photo. Of course, the backup rope held up and I didn’t fall.