Ceej Says… Crossing Borders: Travels in Vietnam & Bali review

Written and Illustrated by Morag Kewell

Morag “Moogs” Kewell has something of a track record when it comes to illustrated travelogues, with Big In Japan snagging the 2013 SICBA Awards for Best Comic/Graphic Novel and Best Cover, and Crossing Borders: Travels in Thailand and Cambodia earning a couple of SICBA nominations of its own back  in 2014.

By her own admission, this third volume – which covers her trip to Vietnam and Bali back in 2014 – has been significantly delayed by real-life priorities, but I’m happy to report that it proves to be well worth the wait, providing the same blend of easy-going humour and snappy tourist information that helped make her previous offerings so well-received.

Moogs utilises different artistic styles throughout the course of the book, switching from cutesy, cartoony caricatures of herself and her partner Matt to some impressively detailed, almost photorealistic depictions of certain landmarks and sights.  It’s an eye-catching approach that prevents things from ever becoming too stale, managing to keep things light while simultaneously giving it a greater feeling of ‘legitimacy’ than a purely cartoony approach ever could.

There’s a keen sense of humour on display throughout, particularly when it comes to some of the more striking differences between Vietnamese/Indonesian culture and our own.  Moogs also takes time to regale us familiar situations that a lot of us will have experienced during our travels abroad, from pushy sales people to unapologetic rip-offs (£10 for two coconuts?), giving the book a sense of relatability, even to those of us whose idea of an adventurous trip is a package holiday to Spain.

On the visual side of things, the book is also punctuated by frequent “splash pages” of sorts, where Moogs commits a whole page to a single image with striking effect.  It’s here where her clear artistic ability really shines through, providing some brilliant snapshots of exotic life which help to add some extra flavour to the proceedings.

Aside from the parts which relate directly to Moogs and Matt, Crossing Border is filled with amusing anecdotes and genuinely interesting local information.  And, for those of us who may find their inner travel bug inspired by reading about her adventures, Moogs also includes some handy travel tips free of charge, including a list of important items to bring with you on any overseas adventure.

Oh, and as a side note, it’s probably also worth pointing out that there’s a lot of beer being consumed here, with each bottle and label painstakingly recreated along the way as Moogs and Matt make sure to sample the local tipple pretty much everywhere they go.   No judgment, guys :)

Okay, so this is perhaps something of a niche product, and if you’re dead-set against reading what is essentially a detailed account of someone else’s holiday, then there may not be much Crossing Borders can offer you.  However, even if you’re someone like me who doesn’t exactly harbour any great desire to jump on a plane and go off exploring exotic parts of the world, the easy-going charm and vibrant artwork is more than enough to make this a thoroughly enjoyable read.

You can get yourself a copy of Crossing Borders: Travels in Vietnam and Bali from the Rocketpuppy Etsy Store.

ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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