Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

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

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

4.5 7
by Tiziano Terzani

See All Formats & Editions

“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


“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 world. . . . It turned out to be one of the most extraordinary years I have ever spent: I was marked for death, and instead I was reborn.”

Traveling by foot, boat, bus, car, and train, he visited Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Geography expanded under his feet. He consulted soothsayers, sorcerers, and shamans and received much advice—some wise, some otherwise—about his future. With time to think, he learned to understand, respect, and fear for older ways of life and beliefs now threatened by the crasser forms of Western modernity. He rediscovered a place he had been reporting on for decades. And reinvigorated himself in the process.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Terzani’s thoughtful progression provides great pleasure because he is more open to the people, and people are always the real journey.” —Book Page

“A marvelous traveling companion, Terzani entertains us with his reflections on subjects from astrology to political violence, from the depravity of Bangkok to the sterility of Singapore, and introduces us to the characters he meets along the way.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

“An extraordinary and nuanced account of a journey through the Far East and Southeast Asia.” —Library Journal

Forbidden from flying for one year by a wizened fortune teller, skeptical journalist Tiziano Terzani decided to heed the soothsayer's words after all, traveling for a year by bus, train, automobile, or even on foot -- anything to keep him away from airplanes. As he ventures forth into the countries of Asia and Southeast Asia, Terzani reacquainted himself with the potent thrill of distance, a quality often lost in today's world of airline travel. As he travels, Terzani makes a point of seeking out the fortune-tellers and astrologers, interested in their pronouncements, and, even though he remains mostly unconvinced, respectful of their ancient traditions. Terzani's travels bring him face to face with the rapidly encroaching commercial world of television and soda pop, and the thought that even the most remote land will soon be changed forever by the Western world. Opinionated and full of character, A Fortune-Teller Told Me is a glimpse into the traditions and lifestyles of a vanishing world.
Library Journal
The author of Gai Phong, a riveting eyewitness account of Saigon's liberation, and Behind the Forbidden Door, an account of early post-Maoist China, Terzani, a resident of Asia and multilingual correspondent for Der Spiegel, has written an extraordinary and nuanced account of a journey through the Far East and Southeast Asia. In 1993, heeding a nearly stale 13-year-old fortuneteller's warning against air travel that year, Terzani visited Burma, Thailand, Mongolia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore by train, car, bus, and foot. Along the way, he sought prophecies from soothsayers, astrologists, monks, and fortunetellers, often in old and fabled places. Making many contacts, he was able to venture into the heart and soul of Asia where ancient customs and new fads coexist, where past wars and politics leave room in their wakes for drug lords, and where occult beliefs persist. Asia is felt rather than described. Highly recommended for public libraries. Margaret W. Norton, Oak Park, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A straightforward literary travel guide that takes us through Bangkok, Malacca, and other points east. Terzani (an Italian correspondent for Der Spiegel and other European publications) opens his account with an odd anecdote: in 1976, a fortune-teller in Hong Kong warned him that under no circumstances should he fly in 1993, "not even once." Taking the soothsayer at his word, he chose instead to take a leisurely tour of South Asia by train and car, and thereby "was obliged again to see the world as a complex network of countries divided by rivers and seas that required crossing and by frontiers that invariably spelt ‘visa'." As it turned out, the fortune-teller was right: a German correspondent who took his place on the air circuit died in a helicopter crash. Duly chastened, the author reflected on his narrow escape (and other matters of life and death) as he traveled throughout the region, taking in the sights in Thailand, Singapore, and Ho Chi Minh City (and briefly venturing as far afield as Mongolia, Russia, and Italy). Terzani is a trustworthy enough narrator (albeit somewhat given to spiritual musings of a vaguely New Age bent), and he takes us through such little-explored landscapes as the Bolovens plateau of Cambodia ("the most heavily bombed region in the history of the world") and Nanning (a Chinese city in which "the impatience between Chinese and foreigners is mutual, and in the Chinese it is now mixed with envy, anger, and an ever less concealed racial aspiration to settled old scores with outsiders"). This is a well-written account, but undistinguished from the usual run of travel narratives—even when Terzani salts his standard guidebook descriptions with(equally standard) PC denunciations of Western materialism. Solid if unexciting fare. Author tour

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Life is full of opportunities. The problem is to recognize them when they present themselves, and that isn't always easy. Mine, for instance, had all the marks of a curse: "Beware! You run a grave risk of dying in 1993. You mustn't fly that year. Don't fly, not even once," a fortune-teller told me.

It happened in Hong Kong. I had come across that old Chinese man by sheer chance. When I heard his dire words I was momentarily taken aback, but not deeply disturbed. It was the spring of 1976, and 1993 seemed a long way off. I did not forget the date, however; it lingered at the back of my mind, rather like an appointment one hasn't yet decided whether to keep or not.

Nineteen seventy-seven . . . 1987 . . . 1990 . . . 1991. Sixteen years seem an eternity, especially when viewed from the perspective of Day One. But, like all our years (except those of adolescence), they passed very quickly, and in no time at all I found myself at the end of 1992. Well, then, what was I to do? Take that old Chinese man's warning seriously and reorganize my life? Or pretend it had never happened and carry on regardless, telling myself, "To hell with fortune-tellers and all their rubbish"?

By that time I had been living in Asia solidly for over twenty years — first in Singapore, then in Hong Kong, Peking, Tokyo, and finally in Bangkok — and I felt that the best way of confronting the prophecy was the Asian one: not to fight against it, but to submit.

"You believe in it, then?" teased my fellow journalists — especially the Western ones, the sort of people who are used to demanding a clear-cut yes or no to every question, even to such an ill-framed one as this. But we do not have to believe the weather forecast to carry an umbrella on a cloudy day. Rain is a possibility, the umbrella a precaution. Why tempt fate if fate itself gives you a sign, a hint? When the roulette ball lands on the black three or four times in a row, some gamblers count on statistical probability and bet all their money on the red. Not me: I bet on the black again. Has the ball itself not winked at me?

And then, the idea of not flying for a whole year was an attraction in itself. A challenge, first and foremost. It really tickled me to pretend an old Chinese in Hong Kong might hold the key to my future. It felt like taking the first step into an unknown world. I was curious to see where more steps in the same direction would lead. If nothing else, they would introduce me, for a while, to a different life from the one I normally led. For years I have traveled by plane, my profession taking me to the craziest places on earth, places where wars are being waged, where revolutions break out or terrible disasters occur. Obviously I had held my breath on more than one occasion — landing with an engine in flames, or with a mechanic squeezed in a trapdoor between the seats, hammering away at the undercarriage that was refusing to descend.

If I had dismissed the prophecy and carried on flying in 1993, I would certainly have done so with more than the usual pinch of anxiety that sooner or later strikes all those — including pilots — who spend much of their lives in the air; but I would have carried on with my normal routine: planes, taxis, hotels, taxis, planes. That divine warning (yes: "divination," "divine," so alike!) gave me a chance — in a way obliged me — to inject a variant into my days.

Meet the Author

For thirty years, Tiziano Terzani has lived in Asia, reporting on its wars and revolutions as Far East correspondent of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Born in Florence, he was educated in Europe and the United States. Since 1994 he has made New Delhi his base.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was visiting in Singapore. After reading the first two chapters, I was sweating profusely in an airconditioned room not because it was strenuous but because it was so exciting. I found myself going 'wow' a couple of times in each chapter in sheer exhilaration at the author's ability to transport one into distant lands and see through his words what our eye could not see. It made me cancel a few meetings just so I could sit and finish the book uninterrupted. The book is a very lucid travel monologue that mixes eastern mysticism, history, culture and philosophy to make a great savory curry dish.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Terzani, the Italian polyglot journalist employed by Der Spiegel who travels Asia by land, regularly frustrates and delights. The conflict between his western rationalism and eastern preternaturalism colors the storyline of his travels. Repeatedly he muses on the 'Trojan Horse' of western materialism loosed on the mild and mystical lands of the east. I find his commentary on the destructive effects of globalism and television, and the resulting loss of imagination among mankind convincing. Terzani's mind is one of conflict and inner-confusion. He is fascinated by fortune tellers and seeks them out everywhere he goes and yet often disparages them as charlatans. Another example of ambivalence is apparent in his view of Buddhism. While Terzani wears a Buddha amulet around his neck, consults Buddhist monks, and attends a meditation session, he states that Buddhism is a 'vision of great pessimism, with nihilistic consequences.' The author is at his best when he gives voice to this inner conflict and lets the reader listen in on the dialog. Terzani is most frustrating when he drags out the hackneyed lines and tortured logic of a wistful liberal. He 'regrets' the failure of Chinese communism as an alternative to western ideology and in one rather bizarre passage states that some of the Vietcong guerrilas he had met reminded him of 'modern saints.' Equally irriating is Terzani's penchant for New Age babble. He spends a great deal of time addressing the Chinese art of feng shui, or the influence of 'forces of nature,' such as the influence the shape of a mountain may have on a grave to be dug. His equating feng shui to principles of science seriously taxes the reader's credulity. The west and east, truth and superstition, the material and spiritual: the opposition pervading Terzani's book is guaranteed to provoke some reaction from even the most-phlegmatic of readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is for the adventurer at heart, the well travelled or those who wish to be.....this is one of my favorite books and will be for the rest of my life!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago