Book review, Fiction, Hardie Grant, Publisher, satire

‘Phaic Tan: Sunstroke on a Shoestring (Jetlag Travel Guide)’ by Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch


Humour – paperback; Hardie Grant Books; 252 pages; 2004.

I don’t normally review books by quoting great slabs of text or “lifting” the entire blurb, but with this laugh-out-loud spoof travel guide I couldn’t resist, and so, I quote from the back cover:

For too long now Phaic Tan has been closed off to the outside world, a country visited each year by just a handful of hardy travellers, aid agency workers and hostage negotiators. But now, thanks to this fully up-dated Jetlag guide, everything you need to know about planning a trip to Phaic Tan, birthplace of the trouser press and irritable bowel syndrome, is here.

Up until 5 August 2005, Phaic Tan was unavailable outside of Australia, where I happened to pick this up last Christmas on the recommendation of some friends. The team behind this very funny book are well-known in Australian comedy circles, having written and directed many of their own television shows as well as a couple of feature length movies (The Castle and The Dish).

Essentially Phaic Tan — a completely made-up country somewhere in South-East Asia — continues the piss-taking theme presented in the first Jetlag Travel Guide, Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry. It’s like any legitimate travel guide by Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide, complete with recommendations on where to eat and sleep, the attractions to see, historical facts and handy tips on how to get on with the locals — except it’s all completely fiction, of course.

Here’s some examples:

When it comes to people, Phaic Tan is a true melting pot where, for centuries, the population has absorbed a wide range of ethnic influences. In more recent times they have absorbed a wide range of heavy metals, the result of
unregulated copper mining, all of which contribute to the unique national character.


Canals have always formed a major part of Bumpattabumpahn life and just about anywhere in the city can be reached quickly by local boatmen, adept at negotiating the narrow, interlaced waterways. So skilled are these oarsmen that in 1999 a squad of Phaic Tanese rowers came very close to qualifying for the Sydney Olympics, only missing out on selection when they stopped short of the finishing line to trade vegetables with the South Korean team.

On every page there’s at least three laughs, so it’s high on comedic value. A lot of the comedy involves word play, some great tongue-in-cheek captioning (there are photographs and illustrations throughout) and a lot of sarcastic wit.

Sadly, this series is a bit of a one-trick pony: part of the joy of the first book was its novelty value because no-one had ever written a book lampooning the bloated travel guide market. But if you’ve not read either book, then the decision is yours: both are equally hilarious.

4 thoughts on “‘Phaic Tan: Sunstroke on a Shoestring (Jetlag Travel Guide)’ by Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch”

  1. I know, it’s hilarious. I love the Molvania one as well, especially when you see the front cover of a man with a smile full of broken/missing teeth!


  2. Melody, they don’t credit the cover picture, but pretty much everything else in the book seems to have been taken by Santo or a member of his family!
    Oh, and I’ve only just noticed, the cover of the Australian version is different to the British version.


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