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The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer: Close Encounters with Strangers

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  406 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Eric Hansen survives a cyclone on a boat off the Australian coast, cradles a dying man in Calcutta, and drinks mind-altering kava in Vanuatu. He helps a widower search for his wife's wedding ring amid plane-crash wreckage in Borneo and accompanies topless dancers on a bird-watching expedition in California. From the Maldives to Sacramento, from Cannes to Washington Heights ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 18th 2005 by Vintage (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,053)
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Mar 30, 2010 Milan/zzz rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
I really didn’t know what to expect from this book. I didn’t even know it is collection of travel-vignettes. Therefore my expectations were nonexistent. I just picked up the book and let myself to be carried away. And oh far shores I’ve visited, strange people I saw and some great lessons I’ve learned :)

Now I know that my expectations no matter how high they would might be, they would be more than fulfilled. This book is beautiful. Hansen writes honestly and directly about wide spectrum of human
Karen Deyle
Aug 12, 2012 Karen Deyle rated it really liked it
I'm a hopeless travel junkie, but find most travel essays are hashed over "look what I ate, drank & saw" in Tuscany/Provence/Ireland. Not here. Hansen writes of encounters with strange and unusual people in seldom written about locales.

Most compelling:
A Russian socialite & caterer who lives elegantly and safely in an apartment overun by drug activities and violence.

Traveling with the husband of a woman killed in a plane crash, to the Borneo crash site in search of her wedding ring, and
Jul 10, 2008 Gaelle rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any traveler, timorous or adventurous
Unbelievable to think it is a non-fiction book but real memoirs of a world traveler.Eric Hansen's adventures are gripping as they sound so true. I think he's currently the best travel writer,and here we are talking about real traveler experience: forget Rick Steves... Hansen will not help you put together a nice "touristy" trip somewhere...
It is hard core travel where there's no defined date of arrival or departure, where weird and unexpected situations generate heartbreaking or hilarious experi
Apr 17, 2013 Marina56 rated it it was amazing
I would describe this as a series of vignettes of some uniquely interesting individuals, rather than as a travel book. There is something strangely uplifting about these stories and their glimpses into human hearts. One of my favorite books ever.
May 22, 2010 Linda rated it it was amazing
Eric Hansen is a cut above the average travel essayist. Dubbed creative non-fiction, his stories are poignant, well-crafted and heart felt. His well-informed descriptive writing is crisp and engaging. His renderings of the people he has met over three decades of globe trotting are tender, but never saccharine. His professionalism shines through in this well-crafted collection of travel tales. Not the ordinary tourist he plunges headlong into adventures that are daunting to even the most adventur ...more
Dec 31, 2011 Rhonda rated it really liked it
I must admit that I will pick up almost any travel book and at least "start" to read it, but this one struck me as different. It's not really a travel book in the strictest sense, but it does lead you along a remarkable journey where you meet some of the most memorable characters in the daily experience of human encounters. I laughed at some of the insane situations and baudy humor but also shed true tears in many places. And I was never bored, always a good recommendation in my book. Thanks Mr. ...more
Articulate and captivating. Interesting stories, all very different, and thoroughly entertaining.
Nancy Kackley
Apr 05, 2015 Nancy Kackley rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed all of the travel essays in this book. His writing is engaging and funny. Each story has a purpose or a life lesson to impart, but it isn't preachy. I think it is mostly about being open to new experiences as they come to you, accepting other people and cultures without making assumptions and judgments.
Sally Boyer
Jun 07, 2015 Sally Boyer rated it really liked it
Eric Hansen's writing is touching, sensitively making the bizarre touching, reminding us consistently of the beauty of our fleeting lives, subtly using death as the backdrop for all.

Old women:

I especially enjoyed the first story about Arlette and Madame Perruche, an older ballet teacher and a homeless woman who find solace in each other's company and eventually become housemates for the remainder of their days. Cooking with Madame Zoya was another fantastic tale of an elderly woman's resilience
Jan 24, 2016 Storyheart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eric Hansen is a born storyteller. In this collection of travel essays, he paints beautiful, moving portraits of people he has met on his voyages: for example, a cat loving women who befriends a homeless woman, a Russian émigrée who lives in the ghetto and cooks for royalty, dying people who taught him about life in Mother Teresa's hospice in Calcutta and so on. Highly recommended for those who enjoy travel literature and storytelling
Aug 24, 2012 Joanna rated it really liked it
These stories were suprisingly touching. He writes honestly about his own less-than-ideal feelings and choices and describes the people in the stories with vivid and frank vignettes. But even where some humor is found in cultural differences, Hansen writes with recognition and celebration of difference rather than just poking fun. The author seems to have collected these stories from a lifetime of travel and travel writing. Some of the stories seem to have been written many years after the event ...more
Erick San Miguel
Love this book so far! From the beginning I could not out it down. The idea of meeting people randomly and talking to or conversing with them to later just write about it is something I have always wanted to do and it is done here beautifully. Excellent!

The ending was just as good as the beginning. I really enjoyed Mr. Hansen's writing style and subjects. You feel as though you are part of his adventures and stories through his words and meeting the people through his use of characterization and
Mobius Taylor
Jul 25, 2016 Mobius Taylor rated it it was amazing
One of the best collection of short stories ever. Great reading for summertime or for camping.
Rena Sherwood
Dec 10, 2014 Rena Sherwood rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The best travel memoir book I've ever read.
Mar 13, 2015 Bruce rated it liked it
very funny, awesome travel stories
Apr 03, 2016 Vicki rated it really liked it
Great stories! What a life!
Dec 24, 2014 Geoff rated it it was amazing
Some stories better than others. The last one about the boat race, fantastic! This man writes from the heart and I am grateful to have come across his work.
Jun 10, 2011 Ann rated it it was amazing
I read this for my book club; when I heard the title I thought it was going to be either science fiction or weird counter-culture stuff. It turns out that Eric Hansen is a travel author, but this book, a collection of essays, is much more about the people than the places. He writes with style and humor and is just a joy to read. His attention to detail adds to the fun. There are lots of characters with lots of quirks of personality and behavior but he treats them all with respect. I'll read more ...more
Jun 17, 2015 Jules marked it as to-read
Shelves: main
Maria (Ri)
Jun 15, 2010 Maria (Ri) rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel, read-in-2007

Journal Entry 2 by Wings details...RiWings details... from Cincinnati, Ohio USA on Monday, December 17, 2007

Not only was this book entertaining, it had a surprising amount of heart. I was really touched by several of the vignettes. I also really appreciated reading about his adventures in Indonesia where I spent a semester of college. I will definitely be searching out more books by Eric Hansen!
Sep 10, 2011 Lucius rated it really liked it
The most enjoyable read I've had in a while. All the short stories are about Hansen's experience with people that he didn't know before, but he writes about them in such a thoughtful way that it seems as if he's know them for years. What surprised me the most was the amount of emotion that I felt reading through the stories. This will be a book that I send to friends to read for years to come.
Feb 28, 2015 Colleen rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Enjoyed the opening story about the homeless woman and the ballerina and the story that contributed the title.
Margaret Ross
Jul 30, 2007 Margaret Ross rated it really liked it
The stories in this book may be a little uneven, but overall, it's a great read if you're a wanderer at heart, or want to better understand someone who is. The author recounts his adventures in New Guinea, the South Pacific, NYC and central California, among other places. A couple of the stories entranced me, others were just interesting encounters with strangers.
Haley Knisely
Jan 18, 2014 Haley Knisely rated it it was amazing
Fun, fun, and I laughed a little :P
Jul 12, 2014 Katie rated it really liked it
This book is a collection of stories about the author's experiences traveling the world. I really like the way the author relates to the people he encounters while traveling. His tone never sounds patronizing or condescending, and he seems to have very genuine interactions with the people he meets. I am interested to read more by Hansen.
Jan 16, 2011 Kate rated it really liked it
Was a refreshing look at a way of traveling that few are comfortable with, aka breaking out of the normal travel routines and really "seeing" real places and more important the inhabitants of these homes and lives.

This author is a great story teller and makes me wish I were able to travel with him right now this instant!!
Jun 21, 2008 Candy rated it it was amazing
I found this to be a charming book. It was well written, flowed easily and written from the heart of a true wanderer. It definitely made me want to read more of his books. It took me to places I've never been and probably never will be (Borneo). He is a true seeker - finding strangers and telling their stories.
Aug 04, 2009 Steph rated it it was amazing
Travel writer Eric Hansen does himself proud in these essays predominately recounting his adventures in the southern islands of Asia. Nice variety of topics, with two essays on an Australian island that he re-visits after 20 or so years.
I would eagerly read any of his other books.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Mar 16, 2016 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
This book was just pure fun. Hansen drinks intoxicating kava with native islanders, helps a widower search for the diamond ring his dead wife lost during a plane crash, and visits with a bird watcher who loves to take exotic dancers out on hunts.

Molly Dumas
Sep 28, 2010 Molly Dumas rated it really liked it
Yowzaa. Worth getting just to read the description of sex between banana slugs. But it does offer 9 short articles of different folks/experiences Eric Hansen has had as he's traveled around the world. Definitely amusing.
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Eric Hansen is a travel writer, most famous for his book Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo, about a 4,000 km trek through the heartland of Borneo. He lives in San Francisco. For 25 years he has traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Nepal, and Southeast Asia.
More about Eric Hansen...

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