Bad Karma: Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in Southeast Asia


Sheward hits the road with her twenty-something chum, Elissa, and they head for Thailand, Laos and Cambodia with nary a plan. Sheward has a gift for writing humorous prose, with chapter titles such as "Smells Like Leprosy" amd "Subterranean Hoedown," and they find themselves in the most incredible situations. They meet these characters, like the Kip Kid and the Queen of Whatever, and a variety of stoned backpackers and slum runners, in what turns out to be a series of absurd and funny misadventures. Sheward is ...
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Sheward hits the road with her twenty-something chum, Elissa, and they head for Thailand, Laos and Cambodia with nary a plan. Sheward has a gift for writing humorous prose, with chapter titles such as "Smells Like Leprosy" amd "Subterranean Hoedown," and they find themselves in the most incredible situations. They meet these characters, like the Kip Kid and the Queen of Whatever, and a variety of stoned backpackers and slum runners, in what turns out to be a series of absurd and funny misadventures. Sheward is our guide on a wayward journey through the underbelly of Southeast Asia, so often bypassed by traditional travel writers.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Sheward’s writing is fast and furious. A roller coaster off the rails, with beers.”—Adventure Travel Magazine


“The girls make a delightful comic duo. Sheward’s prose is superb.”

Backpacker Magazine


“Wild-child writer Tamara Sheward, whose adventures are recounted in a humorous collection of politically-incorrect tales of Asian drug dealers and stoned backpackers . . . is irrepressible.”—Sydney Morning Herald


Publishers Weekly

Beer-swilling Aussie backpacker Sheward and her best mate, El, set off on a jejune journey across Southeast Asia with the agenda of "having a look and annoying the world." The dyspeptic duo succeed at both dubious goals, screaming at the locals and belittling other travelers as they barrel along an unplanned, madcap tour of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. They omit no traveling cliché (right down to overcharging cabbies and a stolen camera) and pass up no opportunity to misconstrue or poke fun at local religions and culture. Sheward's writing lacks the satirical prowess that would make the self-absorbed duo more likable, though occasional hiccups of elegant prose help to balance the contradicting metaphors and near-endless whining. A reader who manages to hang on to this freewheeling bitchfest to the end will get the paltry reward of watching Sheward and El swallow an overdue dose of humility on a trip to Cambodia's Killing Fields, at last gaining some insight-however self-serving-from their disorganized travels. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Some travel books are about people and places, and some are about the traveler. Published in Australia in 2003, this outrageous tale by a first-time author is of the "all about me" variety. The tone is best summed up as snarky: Sheward, as narrator, is callow, sarcastic and brash. She and her traveling companion have great fun getting drunk, shouting obscenities, and, as she puts it, "annoying the world." This could have been an intrepid female travel tale spiced with slapstick humor, if only Sheward had actually done anything intrepid or even interesting. The writing does move the action along; but the action stripped of bravado is nothing but the usual low-budget scraping-by along a well-trodden tourist route. Most of the book is taken up not with Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia but unpleasant meals, even more unpleasant toilets, and furious confrontations with locals and tourists alike. Sheward lampoons New Age hippies and middle-class travelers, and reflects artlessly on the unfairness of war and exchange rates, all with no hint of awareness of her own position. Recommended only for larger collections of women's or travel writing.
—Lisa Klopfer

Kirkus Reviews
The author's recollections of an off-the-beaten-path vacation of sleazy situations. Australian native Sheward originally believed "Khmer Rouge was an oddly named cosmetic, Pol Pot simply the chorus in a Dead Kennedys song." She and best friend El picked their destination after meeting a stranger who advised that mainland Southeast Asia was the final frontier not overrun by foreigners. So the pals tramped across Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, leaving in their wake a trail of empty beer bottles, cigarette butts and maligned waitresses and Fanta vendors. Sheward spends 300-plus pages making fun of every English-speaking traveler they came across. She also depicts locals in the service and tourism industries as wildly unprofessional-though not all of them, mercifully, in quite as unflattering light as the obese female innkeeper in rural Thailand who allegedly refused the women a room after the author rebuffed her sexual advances. The friends avoided being wrongly arrested and serving time in a Bangkok prison a la Bridget Jones, but comparisons to chick lit are inevitable. Not that this book reads like a novel, but Sheward's version of events has clearly been exaggerated. Slogging through this farrago of absurdities is like watching a documentary projected onto a fun-house mirror. Truth seems secondary to Sheward's primary goal of entertaining readers. They're more likely to be put off by the sense of entitlement displayed when El spews vitriolic demands at a Pizza Hut server while her buddy laughs madly. First-time author Sheward writes energetic prose and displays a keen appreciation for inane details, but her fluffy book is basically a parade of politically incorrect anecdotes.Hilarious in flashes, but more often sloppy, off-putting and boring.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780897335652
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporate
  • Publication date: 11/1/2007
  • Pages: 316
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Tamara Sheward is a wild child Australian journalist with taste for adventure.  She is a freelance travel writer for Lonely Planet and continues to make her mark across the planet with her witty humor and bold personality.  She also has published a number of travel articles in the Sydney Morning Herald.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 29, 2009

    anyone who wants to go visit southeast asia should read this book

    this book was very entertaining, very fun and easy to read. I have always wanted to visit those places and now I am really ready to go. I think that anyone who wants to visit these places should read this book. I highly recomend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2007

    Great karma!

    This book tells it like it is in the most amusing of ways. It definitely strays from the boring PC path (thank goodness!), but the thing that struck me was Sheward's sharp writing: she mocks herself and the other backpackers in a way that'll ring true with anyone who's ever been travelling (especially backpacking), but still manages to respect the locals. It's twisted and crazy and has some off-the-wall tangents, but this and her eye for detail is what separates it from the boring, yeah-everything's-great type travelogues that are little more than sightseeing guides in the first person. Destined to be a cult classic!

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