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A Dragon Apparent: Travels in Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  288 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Travelling through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the twilight of the French colonial regime, Norman Lewis witnesses these ancient civilisations as they were before the terrible devastation of the Vietnam War. He creates a portrait of traditional societies struggling to retain their integrity in the embrace of the West. He meets emperors and slaves, brutal plantation owners ...more
Kindle Edition, 335 pages
Published December 16th 2011 by Eland Books (first published 1951)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lisa Lieberman
Dec 29, 2015 Lisa Lieberman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research
It's easy to see why Graham Greene was lured to Vietnam by Lewis's account. The sense of a country -- indeed, an entire region -- on the verge of revolution, beleaguered colonial officials gamely assisting the author in procuring transport from one crumbling outpost to the next, the documentary feel of his descriptions of tribal peoples, struggling to maintain their traditional way of life as their communities are decimated, not by the guerrilla war, but by the exploitation of French plantation ...more
Patrick McCoy
Jan 10, 2013 Patrick McCoy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
I decided to read Norman Lewis' fascinating travel book on Indochina, A Dragon Apparent: Travels in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam (1951) for inspiration and preparation for travel in Cambodia. Lewis travels to Vietnam in 1950 as the French are trying to hold onto their colonial possessions by employing tactics that will ultimately fail for the Americans as well. Most of his analysis comes from the French perspective, but near the end of his travels he meets with some Viet Minh people to get their ...more
Reanne
Jul 09, 2012 Reanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating insight into Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in the 1940s right before it all changed dramatically. The animated and witty narrative of Mr Lewis' adventures meant I couldn't put it down and subsequently bought four more of his books! Highly recommended!
Dana Bolink
Apr 09, 2015 Dana Bolink rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
A Dragon Apparent: Travels in Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam by Norman Lewis is a beautifully written, highly enjoyable report of his travels through three countries that no longer exist.

His writing style is descriptive and compelling, with an underlying tone of dry humor that is hard to get, but makes it all the more enjoyable. His subjects are three of the most beautiful countries in the world during a time when their beauty had not been marred beyond recognition by war. No wonder then that A Dr
...more
keith koenigsberg
One of the best travel books I have read in a long time. Norman Lewis tramped through southeast asia in the 50's as the region was undergoing a transition from fighting the French colonials to (they didn't know it yet) being caught in the Cold War conflicts of the 60's. Lewis was fortunate to observe the vanishing ancient cultures as they went down for the third time: the Viet Minh were on the rise and repelling the French, and the region's cultures would, in the next 5 years, be incinerated.

Lew
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Dave Reid
Oct 12, 2012 Dave Reid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting to read as a snapshot of Vietnam when all the conflict was still contained within its borders. This was before US intervention and shows how the french struggled to keep order before withdrawing completely.Lewis has a good eye for highlighting the constant beaurocratic delays so often encountered in oriental countries and spends most of this book travelling around in army jeeps, freight lorries and diplomatic vehicles rather than face delays at airports and rail stations. I felt that ...more
Carol Jardine
Aug 15, 2011 Carol Jardine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-re-read
A terrific book that colourfully and truthfully takes you with the author through Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam in the last days of French colonisation. It shows the cruelty and disaparity that exists between the nbative people of "INDOCHINE" and the ruling French.
It is hiumourous in places, and historically spot on, it even sniffs out the foreboding American presence waiting in the shadows; and it certainly doesn't predict Pol Pot and the Khimer Rouge arriving in the mid 70's , when th eFrench co
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Martin Allen
Started off with real promise and I couldn't put it down, and whilst it never lost its captivation, I did find it became a bit repetitive in places and the end just happened - it just ended; no summary, no full circle, no final thoughts. I loved his dry, black humour style and his narration, in the main, was entertaining, if the experiences became a little samey. The quality of the photographs in the book are very poor - even allowing for their age, there are plenty of programmes that can enhanc ...more
Charlie Wall
Apr 21, 2015 Charlie Wall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating portrait of a very important period in that regions history. Lewis is an excellent writer and a thorough journalist.

Make sure you get a copy with the forward he wrote afterwards in the 1980s as it is the best part of the book.

My only criticism is he spends so much time trying and failing to get to Laos and Cambodia that he's in Vietnam for over two thirds of the book - not ideal if you're reading for specifically Laos or Cambodia.
Catrien Deys
Nov 05, 2015 Catrien Deys rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not really the book I read, it was An empire of the East (which I coulnd't find on Goodreads), about his travels through Aceh and East Timor. Lewis paints - and this he does very well - a disturbing picture (the killing of men and nature!); and this was at the end of the last century. I bet it has only gotten worse. Shame!
Michal Mironov
Nov 02, 2015 Michal Mironov rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book about what happens when West meets East, when modern technology meets Stone Age, and how this can be devastating for the original and fragile cultures. Written by impartial Englishman with exceptional talent for storytelling and sharp eye for details. It's a pity that this book cannot be used as a travel guide because those times are forever gone. In any case, really good read!
Dinah Jefferies
Jun 10, 2013 Dinah Jefferies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic introduction to what was once known as IndoChina. Great insights into the 'twilight of the French colonial regime' and a world that has now vanished, and full of stories and anecdotes about 'a society on the brink'. A wonderful read for anyone wanting to know more about this largely forgotten time. First published in 1951.
Jono
Mar 15, 2010 Jono rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's got a kind of deadpan Monty Pythonesque humour and it takes you back effectively to a very different time. Though it's not always easy going I found myself coming back to his observations about the area time and again during our travels.
Jamie
Sep 05, 2007 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in SE Asia
Shelves: travel-writing
One of my favorite travel writing books ever. Lewis is relentlessly curious, writes in clear, poetic prose and seems to put himself in all the right places. He is also eerily prescient about the inevitability of brutal war coming to South East Asia.
Ryan
Jul 25, 2011 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Indochina in a bygone era. Lewis records in scientific anthropological detail the multitude of tribes and their customs/appearances whilst on a roadtrip thru Cambodia
Alison
May 26, 2008 Alison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Certainly fascinating, but not to the point where I was riveted. I would have preferred more context on the French colonial history of the time.
Flora
I may have read this before but will read again.
Lockhart
Aug 25, 2008 Lockhart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
an absolute classic and tremendous reading for anyone going to Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia. Sadly, only Laos still has some of the feel that Lewis so eloquently describes.
Loren
Jan 04, 2017 Loren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An ambitious travel narrative first published in the early 1950s...it took some discipline to get into the book, but I enjoyed the later chapters, particularly those on Cambodia and Laos.
Charlie
Jan 16, 2009 Charlie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great Normn Lewis book. Amazing stories from Vietnam, Cambodia and Loas, in the 1950's at the end of the French colonial times.
Julienman
Interesting travelogue from more than 50 years ago.
Mahmoud Anees
Mahmoud Anees rated it really liked it
Dec 13, 2015
Jim
Jim rated it really liked it
Feb 02, 2015
Max Thomson
Max Thomson rated it it was amazing
Jun 05, 2014
Peter Kavanagh
Peter Kavanagh rated it it was amazing
Feb 01, 2013
Bunza
Bunza rated it liked it
Jan 18, 2013
George Wehrle
George Wehrle rated it really liked it
Dec 20, 2014
Sam Drury
Sam Drury rated it really liked it
May 03, 2014
Anke Stuurman
Anke Stuurman rated it liked it
Mar 31, 2013
Indefenestration
Indefenestration rated it it was amazing
Jun 21, 2014
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Norman Lewis was a prolific British writer best known for his travel writing. Though not widely known, "Norman Lewis is one of the best writers, not of any particular decade, but of our century", according to Graham Greene.

Lewis served in World War II and wrote an account of his experiences during the Allied occupation of Italy, titled Naples '44. Shortly after the war he produced volumes about Bu
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