In his insightful travelogue, The Indochina Chronicles, American war veteran Phil Karber takes you on a journey down the roads, rivers and rails of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. He writes insightfully about the political effect of the Vietnam War on the people and places, adding a whole new perspective on the region’s history and culture. Accompanied by a friend, London artist Simon Redington, they follow the Mekong River from China to Saigon, to the infamous Tiger Cages on Con Son Island, and to the city sidewalks of Hanoi, where the author lived for five years. Along the way, the stories will capture your imagination and transport you to a beautiful region, undaunted by war and poverty. Indeed, this book brings to life the harsh realities of the region’s history, culture, politics and people. Together with its unforgettable images of locals, veterans and expatriates, this transcends normal expectations of travel literature.
Published by Marshall Cavendish (August 2005)
ISBN-13: 978-9812610362 Hardback
ISBN: 9789812610362 Paperback
ASIN: B00BARLFCE eBook
Phil Karber’s first impression of Indochina was from afar. Growing up in 1960s Fort Smith, Arkansas, he saw the toll that the Vietnam War took on friends returning with broken bodies and sometimes shattered psyches. He got a closer look when he enlisted in the army, doing a tour of duty in the Green Machine and living to tell the tale.
More than 30 years later, Karber embarked on another Indochinese tour – this one of discovery. Traveling on the cheap through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam with a British artist friend, he delved into the everyday life of modern Indochina, a region marred by war but defined mostly by a spirit to survive.
With a keen eye for history, Karber transcends the usual Vietnam veteran memoir by placing the focus back where it belongs – on the Indochinese people who lived through war and who have somehow made their peace. He spends days with a pair of Vietnamese sisters, former proud communist child solders who now run a martial arts school. He takes tea with a Cambodian artist who survived a notorious torture prison by painting portraits of Pol Pot, and enjoys a wine-fueled dinner between a Vietnamese general and an American veteran. Along the way, Karber skewers Indochina’s latest invaders – burned-out Western bar owners, German sex tourists, and backpackers who plot their itineraries in search of opium and banana pancakes.
The Indochina Chronicles is a rare blend of history, war remembrance and modern observation driven by a deep desire to understand the culture, needs and desires of the nations that suffered the tragic consequences from a lack of understanding.
Take a trip down the Mekong and up the Annamites with Phil Karber, who is blessed with keen powers of observation, plus the writing chops to bring it all home for his readers.
You may have traveled to Indochina or you may have read about it, but if you haven’t read The Indochina Chronicles you don’t know it nearly as well as you could. Phil Karber’s wonderful book is intimate, informed, colorful, and, most of all, real, a marvelous tour, literal and figurative, of the Southeast Asian landscape. It has that quality that can only come from a writer who has experienced a place fully, over many years, met its people, observed its drama, and sifted it in his mind and heart so that it became a part of himself.
From old Viet Cong guerrillas to the new tycoons of Saigon, from hookers and highwaymen to bartenders and ambassadors, Phil Karber has met them all—and has a drink with most. Nobody knows the red states of Indochina better than Phil Karber. His new book, The Indochina Chronicles, is sweeping, provocative and poignant.
Phil Karber takes us on a journey that is rich in history and the seductive charm of Indochina today. His book is a personal discovery of a region, long tormented by war, that has found its salvation in reconciliation and the dividends of peace.