Book Review: Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

Susan Jane Gilmore, now a successful writer, was a mere college graduate when she and her college friend Claire decided to buy a backpack and travel around the world after finishing their degrees. That was in 1986, just a year after I also made my first overseas trip, and their first stop was the same as mine: Hong Kong. But their plan was braver than mine:

We’d purchased an obscure budget guidebook, Southeast Asia on a Shoestring, published by a bunch of hippies calling themselves Lonely Planet

How things change! In any case, they landed in Hong Kong, aged 21, with no experience of the world, and a determination to visit China and a bunch of other places they’d seen on a map in their local IHOP. The result, a couple of decades later, is Gilmore’s new book Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven: A Memoir.

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

Fortunately, this is not just a tale of two college girls discovering themselves as they discover the world. If Gilmore had written it back then, no doubt it would have been, but the benefit of hindsight is a great thing (not just to see that those Lonely Planet hippies went on to great success!). Gilmore and her companion intend to circumnavigate the globe, but instead they spend a couple of months exploring China, meeting locals and experiencing Chinese life as it was barely known to Westerners back then. And then a few things go wrong – which make for a very interesting story. It’s a great read for would-be travelers and have-been travelers alike.
Creative Commons License photo credit: yeowatzup