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A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  5,268 ratings  ·  383 reviews
"An utterly charming and engaging travel book that offers vivid portraits of unusual corners of Asia, told by a skilled raconteur whose eyes were open wide." --Los Angeles Times Book Review

Warned by a Hong Kong fortune-teller not to risk flying for an entire year, Tiziano Terzani--a vastly experienced Asia correspondent--took what he called "the first step into an unknown
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 23rd 2002 by Crown Publishing Group (NY) (first published 1995)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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Mike S
Feb 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: metaphysics
This book is very well written. I really like the author, he has a very easy-going and readable style; he's articulate, intelligent, observant, and deeply reflective. Whether you are interested his adventures in Asian countries and his thoughts on their cultural developments and how the west has impacted them, or his metaphysical musings and some surprising personal experiences as he searches out mystics, psychics, and fortune tellers, this books is a pleasure to read because the author is able ...more
Diane S ☔
Jan 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
A while back I read a book, that made a huge impression on me, it highlighted the native American culture and how so much of it is disappearing. This book in many ways resembles that one, though the location is very different, a look at the disappearing Asian primitive landscape, it being overtaken and changes through progress.

This is also, a book that I had never heard of nor probably picked up if it wasn't a recommendation pick from a group I am in. It covers so much ground, different beliefs
May 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life, lovely
I read this book slowly at the beginning. Slowly like the travels Tiziano makes through Asia. When he decides to follow what a fortune telle told him years before in Hong Kong, maybe he couldn't imagine how travels can change when you decide not taking a plane for a whole year, and keep on working as a journalist in Asia. This is a lovely book. Tiziano was a real traveller, not a tourist at all. He describes the bad and good part of every country he visits, but he never complains like tourist so ...more
Jenny Brown
This travel book uses the device of the author's avoiding air travel due to a fortuneteller's prophecy to give the author an excuse to do several travels by land, mostly in SE Asia but also on a train trip to Italy. The travel parts are mildly interesting, though since the book is quite old, only of historical interest.

Unfortunately, he carries out his fortuneteller theme by consulting a randomly chosen fortuneteller everywhere he goes which could have been interesting, had he taken the time to
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
I don't have much love for this book. First off, I think it oversells itself. The map at the beginning details a round-trip journey from Phnom Penh via Russia to Europe and back via boat to Singapore. However, this trip receives very little mention, except for a few pages on his time in Mongolia. I was really interested in hearing about such a fascinating voyage and disappointed that it received very little attention.

Second, the author readily admits that he is no intellectual, simply a man of g
Apr 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spiritual
It is very amazing that someone should take heed of a warning from fortune teller and came up with wonderful output such as this one. Growing up in a south east asian country, it was interesting to look back into history from the eye of a so called westerner. Skilfully written, the book described mainly two things, i.e., fortune tellers and the evolution of all the countries mentioned. Beneath, it speaks of wonders toward matters beyond five senses, passion in freedom, and love of beauty in old ...more
Lisabet Sarai
Jun 10, 2021 rated it it was ok
As an avid traveler, I thought I'd love this book. The premise is really fascinating. However, I quickly found the author too annoying to continue. He seems very prejudiced as well as irritatingly self-centered. Although I kept telling myself I should get on and finish the book, I finally gave up. ...more
David Neto
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book had a great impact on me, I really enjoyed reading it. It ticked several boxes of what I find interesting, at least currently, besides being written in a smooth, clear and unpretentious way.

Italian journalist Tiziano Terzani lived in Asia for more than 30 years, changing his country of residence inside the mysterious continent a few times. He was apparently one of the few western reporters who witnessed the fall of Saigon and, as he explains in this book, had a close encounter with dea
Amy Hannon
Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It is the haunting story of a middle aged Italian journalist from Florence whose lifelong beat has been Asia. He has lived and worked there most of his life and watched it go through wars and "development." In 1976 a fortune teller in Hong Kong tells him that he will die in a plane crash in 1993 so he shouldn't fly that year. It's a long way off but years pass and when 1993 comes, now in his late 50's Tiziano Terzani decides he will organize his ongoing work so that he can go ...more
May Ling
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
A really fantastic book about a journey through Asia sans the use of an airplane. The reader really gets to see the world through Terzani's eyes. I enjoyed the montage of experiences, the poverty, the joy, the strength of belief, the greed that Terzani portrays.

Though many have attempted dispute of the so called "Asian Economic Miracle" Terzani may be one of the first to present a cogent human side to why things are perhaps not so perfect. He shows the loss in vivid color that has nothing to do
Geeta  Ramani
Mar 30, 2021 rated it liked it
I picked up this book because the title was very interesting, A Fortune Teller Told Me! The author "began investigating the topic of fortune-tellers and superstition from the point of view of a journalist." He says, "After all, one is always curious to know one’s fate.” He also declares, " If this episode proved that everything was written, then life had no meaning anymore. There was no point in living.”

However, this investigation takes a back seat. Terzani writes about myths and magic, supersti
Alexis Carlos
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not travelling by plane after the fortune-teller warning allowed him to meet many people and stories that wouldn't be possible otherwise, but it is not the beautiful landscapes described in his train rides that catches one's attention, but rather the dawn of spirituality in these modern times.

Terzani opens a window to a society in the 20th century filled with the changes brought by consumerism, and the fall of ancient institutions and customs in a very thought provoking way that makes the reade
Wendy Cheong
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Love love loved this book! It is a travel book through and through, Terzani writes about his experiences travelling on foot through South East Asia: Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia dipping his toes into Mongolia and Russia by the end of his journey. His acute attention to detail, curiosity and empathy create a travel account that feels authentic, magical and respectful to Asian culture. But what I loved most about Terzani is his attempt to escape the materialism of modern society ...more
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you would ask me to describe this book with one word, I would say: "Informative". It is full of curious and thought-provoking facts about Asia.

Being written by journalist, the style is rather "dry", that, on other hand, makes the book very easy to understand.

What was truly enjoyable is to read many beautiful thoughts of the author about life, some of which I shared, but not all.
Sep 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
As a premise for a travelogue, it's certainly an interesting one: warned by a Hong Kong fortune teller not to fly during 1993 or he will die, on a whim an Italian journalist decides to take the hint and forgo flying for an entire year. Obviously as Asian correspondent for a German magazine this presents certain problems - how can one ensure one can make it to the right place at the right time, when travelling there can take days or even weeks instead of hours, assuming that it is even possible t ...more
May 13, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't usually read reviews.. But I saw that this book has a very good rating and I thought maybe I'll insert a different perspective over here.

Half way through the book, I flipped to check the title and the blurb to verify if I got the wrong idea about it. Nope, nowhere does it say the author will spend half his time voicing out his distaste of the Chinese. I must say, what he writes isn't always wrong but he's not exactly objective either. Moreover, I feel like many of his comments come from
Jul 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: SE asia backpackers
this travelogue had me in its grips all thru my SE asia trip. then i got home and found out from a pretty-reliable-but-extremely-cynical source, who had personal contact with the author, that terzani may or may not be a pathological exaggerator and jerk in real life. so now i don't know what to make of it.

well extramoral confusion doesn't detract from the book's merits, per se. the snapshots of singapore, thailand, hong kong, malaysia, indonesia, china, vietnam, cambodia, burma, and mongolia ar
Jane Routley
Mar 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, travel
Apparently this is a classic of new age travel fiction. I enjoyed it because it was a very different take on travel. He went to unusual places and interviewed fortune-tellers (and lots of other people) in each destination.But even now and then he'd really alienate me by saying classic new age tourist things about how nice it would be for the natives to remain as they are which is always pretty rich from someone who enjoys western plumbing and freedoms.
For instance when talking about the young wo
Sharman Egan
Sep 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
This was nothing more a continual diatribe against the negative effects of development in Asia. Heavy on exposition/editorial, light on narrative and scene. I think it could have been effective as an essay or editorial but a 365 page rant? In fairness, there was some reference in the book jacket copy to the anti-materialism message but I was not prepared for such a negative and one-sided book (surely there have been some positive effects of development like rising standards of living?). And also ...more
Alessandro. S
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't share many of Terzani's ideas (the book leitmoitiv is how things were better when everybody (else) was much poorer).
Even if these are the premises, the book is quite interesting as he's a good and curious journalist that travelled extensively, at the end of the year travelling until Europe by train and else (but it won't talk much about this part).
The book is about his experience of one year (1993) spent travelling through Asia without taking planes. His style is pleasurable and easy to
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. Not "a real page-turner!" but one of those books that is just plain enjoyable and provides food for thought.

It is a recounting of a year in the author's life in the 90's. He had seen a fortune teller in the 1970's that told him not to fly that year, so he didn't. In not flying, the author was reminded again that life is about the journey, and that history, tradition, and the intelligence of thousands of years live outside of western "progress".
Waiyen Wong
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
The book started with a good premise but unfortunately was shadowed by the author's prejudice and the myopic nature of his generalisations towards 'modernity' aka 'western' influence. His sweeping descriptions of the all-corrupting materialistic nature of the Chinese people and diaspora also made me cringe. ...more
Apr 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
It is a travel memoir, made me want to quit everything and travel. I did go see a fortune teller in Hong Kong because of this book.
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This was a true pleasure to read as well as informative. I really honestly knew nothing about Burma when I read this years ago. But I really wanted to go there after I read it.
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
enjoyed this book as much for the descriptions of the places he visited as well as the adventures he encountered. I will have to read it again someday
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
The greatest book of Terzani's travel book series! ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this travel memoir about a man who's been warned not to fly for a year and decides to travel through Asia by train and bus, getting his fortune told at every stop. ...more
Michael Moseley
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
With his history in the Vietnam conflict and my childhood recollection of the news broadcasts I have always had a fascination with this part of the world. Probably not a book that I would have bought off my own back, a gift from a friend allowed me to broaden my horizons and knowledge. Would you really change your life on the bases of a fortune teller’s predictions. May be not but we all have times when we need a radical change and perhaps that is the key to Tiziano Terzani’s position. One point ...more
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked up a paperback copy of this from a sidestreet bookshop in Bangkok. It was tightly wrapped in plastic to protect it from the mold and humidity, but fortunately when I was finally able to open it upon returning to Singapore, it still had a pleasantly-sweet used book smell.

I'm glad I found this book and I'm glad the shopkeeper recommended it (although I think it was the third or fourth book he recommended, just wanted to sell me something, struck me as more of a salesman than a reader, luc
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ve never been one to read non-fiction books, so I decided to start with this one. I wanted to get an experience for more real-life stories. I was right to start with this one. Terzani’s account of his travels is extremely detailed and introspective, avoiding strong bias and keeping an outside eye through many different perspectives on philosophy, fortune telling, and economic progression.


. Terzani always keeps an extremely detailed account on all of his encounters. Because of this, it t
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Tiziano Terzani was an Italian journalist and writer, best known for his extensive knowledge of 20th century East Asia and for being one of the very few western reporters to witness both the fall of Saigon to the hands of the Vietcong and the fall of Phnom Pehn at the hands of the Khmer rouge in the mid-1970s.

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  Jordan Morris is a comedy writer and podcaster whose credits include @Midnight, Unikitty! and Earth to Ned.  The sci-fi comedy Bubble is his...
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“Every place is a goldmine. You have only to give yourself time, sit in a teahouse watching the passers-by, stand in a corner of the market, go for a haircut. You pick up a thread – a word, a meeting, a friend of a friend of someone you have just met – and soon the most insipid, most insignificant place becomes a mirror of the world, a window on life, a theatre of humanity.” 36 likes
“Per i prossimo dieci anni la tua vita sarà orribile, avrai grandi problemi e niente ti andrà bene", dice l'indovino. "E poi?", chiede ansioso il cliente. "Poi? Poi ci farai l'abitudine!” 6 likes
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