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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

4 December 2010

Evoking Ayutthaya

Travel writing includes a lot of deception by ommission, probably not often intentional.

I happen to have read a short piece by someone about visiting Ayutthaya – the ruins of the old capital of Thailand – and this also happens to be what we did today. We also did pretty much what he did, which is take a boatride and get off at three of the less visited temple ruins to explore. The author paints an evocative image of the river trip and of ambling around the ruined temple contemplating the savagery of the Burmese army that sacked Ayutthaya 200+ years ago and left it in ruins for the jungle to swallow.

But it’s what he doesn’t say that makes his writing leave a romantic image in the mind. He doesn’t say that he probably shared the boat with 10 other tourists, or that the boatman only allows a 20 minute stop at each temple. He doesn’t mention that although the temple is most appealingly visited by boat, there is also a car park and a busy road going past on the other side. Nor that manicured lawns rather than jungle are what surround it these days. And why would he? He’s writing about what most interested him and might interest a reader. No intended deception.

It was still a pleasant boat trip, but the differences from the mental image I had conjured out of the travel writing I’d just read were arresting. I wonder what images our blog has conjured that leave out certain key elements? You can admire the photos of temples on this page and not hear the chattering of 60+ schoolkids in pink uniforms who were also there.

I have definitely enjoyed including the warts and all when writing this blog – nothing irritates me more than travel blogs which do nothing but gush and gush about how wonderful every experience is. But still, I’ve no idea what deceptions I’ve spread through omission and probably never will.


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