cover image This Way More Better: Stories and Photos from Asia's Back Roads

This Way More Better: Stories and Photos from Asia's Back Roads

Karen J. Coates, photographs by Jerry Redfern. Things Asian (Ingram, dist.), $12.95 trade paper (287 p) ISBN 978-1-934159-48-4

Journalist and blogger (Rambling Spoon) Coates weaves a series of vignettes into an album of unsung heroes. Alongside her husband, award-winning photographer Jerry Redfern, she chronicles travels from East Timor to Kolkata with stops in Cambodia and Thailand. Hmong guides Shu, a schoolgirl, and 22 year-old Duc, lead a trek into the remote villages and forests of Vietnam to research the lumber trade, which has surpassed rice as the main industry for the Hmong people. A log smuggler whose brother died during an ill-fated run, Duc inspired the book's title with his frequent use of the phrase. Another intrepid guide in Laos leads the way to the Plain of Jars: stone vessels that rival Stonehenge now sitting in a Vietnam War-era minefield. In Phnomh Penh, Coates meets Cambodia's top marathoner, training alone in track shoes with holes in them. Coates also witnessed the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, where 275,000 died on Thailand's coast, describing the scene as "Waikiki, snuffed of life". After 11 years she reunites with young Shu, now a mother with a tourist business. Redfern's lush four-color photographs convey the complexities of this troubled, yet hopeful landscape. (Apr.)