In Brazil: Life, Blood, Soul the opening sentence is:

It is hard to fathom how a country’s image is subliminally imbued in the hearts and minds of the world at large.

But what I really say is that, in this book, I want to shatter the stereotypes about Brazil. For that you’ll have to read the first paragraph (and beyond).

It is hard to fathom how a country’s image is subliminally imbued in the hearts and minds of the world at large. Is it selective films and newsreels? Is it repeated urban myths? Is it snatches of music heard, recurrent lyrics or an attention-grabbing travel report? Whatever the osmotic process by which it emerges, there is a collective unconscious which crystallises the unseen into a popular concept. Before I first went to Brazil, my image of the country consisted of the usual: the Rio Carnival, the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest, that legendary 1970 World Cup team, coffee, and the high level of crime. Brazil was a place populated by jaguars and dense forests (destroyed by hamburger chains), by dirty shanty towns and dangerous muggers, by outstanding football players and carousing carnival revellers.

From Rainbow Diary: A Journey in the New South Africa, the opening sentence in the prologue goes like this:

I don’t consider myself a backpacker.

But I do expound and set the tone which, in this book, is largely humorous.

I don’t consider myself a backpacker. I find the whole world of backpackerdom a bit incestuous. You move from hostel to hostel meeting the same kind of people (anarcho- alternatives, stinky students or healthstrong hikers), you follow the same rules (‘Please take a beer and write your name in the book’; ‘Do not force the lock on the pool table’; ‘We do not lend pens – in fact we do not lend anything’), and you are encouraged to stay away from the locals. Backpacker hostels are a perfect breeding ground for tomorrow’s megacoach family tourist: self-contained (sleep, cook, eat, drink and socialise under the same roof), self-important (‘You’re only spending five weeks in South Africa? We’re here for six months’) and finally self-defeating: are you really visiting a foreign country if you hang around with like-minded young Westerners? So I don’t consider myself a backpacker. I hang around in the bars and the clubs of a new town, drink with the locals and make them tell me their stories. And on top of that I am a dorm’s nightmare. Put me in the lower bunk and I’ll knock my head on the top bed. Put me in the top bunk, and I’ll want to go to the toilet four times in the course of the night. Oh, and I drag dry hides, as the Zulu say. This means I snore heavily. Dorms inspire me.

In Singapore Swing, there is a prologue again, a legend that sets the pattern: a Chinese legend precedes every one of the book’s chapters. Note also that the first paragraph itself makes you want to read further.

A long, long time ago the pious monk Xuán Zàng undertook a journey to procure the Buddhist sutras and enlighten the people of China. After an eventful expedition, Xuán Zàng and his three omnipotent followers – Monkey, the simian god, Friar Sand, the incarnation of a river spirit, and Pigsie, a creature half man, half pig – reached their destination. Two of the Buddha’s most dutiful disciples, tall, thin Ananda and short, stout Kasyapa, were guarding the sacred scrolls.

By now, I think you’ve got the hang of it.