The folks at Rough Guide have sent me their brand new 3rd edition of The Rough Guide to Cambodia
to review and as a standalone guidebook it's certainly adequate if unspectacular. Like all new guidebooks it inevitably suffers from the gap between research and publication with amendments in its eating and sleeping sections even before it hits the bookshelves and this edition is no exception. Address changes for Cafe 151 and Garden Centre Cafe in Phnom Penh are obvious ones but the inclusion of the Sambor Prey Kuh hotel in Kompong Thom is shoddy - it closed its doors at least two years ago. They limit their accommodation listings - I let out a big groan of disappointment when I realised they'd completely overlooked my favourite guesthouse in Siem Reap, Shadow of Angkor - and they haven't exactly gone out on a limb with their author picks of hotels such as Raffles Le Royal, Grand Hotel d'Angkor, Independence, Knai Bang Chatt and La Villa. I did like their in-depth look at the National Museum and their books section, and thirty pages on the temples of Angkor is welcome, but some of their page layout is messy, their 21 things not to miss is confusing and their choice of black & white photos left a lot to be desired. I cringed at some of the spelling - Skone (Skun), Koh Dait (Koh Dach) and Wat Jum Pos Ka-aik (Wat Champuh Ka'Ek) - come to mind, and felt they missed lots of opportunities to expand their coverage of key sights. For example, Koh Ker was paltry, the Cardamom Mountains virtually ignored, the floating villages of Kompong Phluk and Kompong Khleang do not appear to exist, no mention too for the temple ruins near Kompong Chhnang and Prey Veng, a province no less, merited all of one line.
Inevitably, guidebooks draw comparisons with their rivals in the marketplace and Rough Guides' main rival is the Lonely Planet. Both have published their latest editions this month so the comparison is timely and in my opinion, Lonely Planet wins hands down. Rough Guide is ahead on photos, 73 against a poor 23, LP leads on maps, and map quality, with 46 versus 33, while both books are 368 pages in length. At $29.99, Rough Guide is $8 more expensive and in a head-to-head battle, Rough Guide comes off second best and with a bloody nose.