Michael Buckley On Tibet

Fellow travel writer Michael Buckley, author of Moon Handbooks Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, has created an attractive website Himmies.com. This “interactive site for travellers to the Tibetan world” includes numerous photos, videos, and some tongue in cheek advice. Michael has written extensively about Tibet, including Heartlands, Travels in the Tibetan World and the Tibet Bradt Travel Guide.

Like Victor Chan, author of the classic Tibet Handbook published by Moon Handbooks in 1994, Michael is highly critical of the Chinese administration in Tibet and a supporter of the Dalai Lama. I do believe that politics has a place in travel guidebooks and that visitors should be aware of what's happening in the places they visit. However I also feel it's important that guidebook writers approach their target area with sympathy. Writing about a place you dislike can be a disaster.

In Moon Fiji I've consciously taken the side of the people of Fiji, both indigenous and Indo-Fijian, and this sometimes makes me critical of Australian and New Zealand governments which have tried to dominate Fiji politically. In Moon Tahiti I take French colonialism to task. Getting the tone right isn't always easy, but taking the side of local residents is almost always the best approach. It's my hope that the intelligent reader will appreciate having local issues brought to their attention, even if they don't agree entirely with the guidebook author's personal views on the matter. Travel should be a learning experience, and visitors deserve to have the chance to form their own opinions based on what they witness on the ground. Guidebooks which sweep controversial issues under the carpet are cheating their readership.

UPDATE: Michael Buckley sent me this reaction to the above:

Whatever gave you the idea that I am pro-Dalai-Lama and anti-Chinese?! Perhaps you have already noted why this might be so: you said you have consciously taken the side of the people of Fiji, and in Tahiti you have taken French colonialism to task. And that's what I have done in Tibet: taken on Chinese colonialism in Tibet, and sided with the Tibetan people, who, to a man (and a woman) revere the Dalai Lama.

Guidebooks to Tibet often completely dodge the controversial issues--mine takes them head on.

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