Adrift in China (Summersdale Travel)
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China is the third largest country in the world, holds nearly a quarter of the earth's population and claims a recorded history going back more than 3000 years. Foreigners' reactions to China and its people veer from one extreme to the other, as if the gargantuan size of the place demands a sweeping response. Simon Myers spent years in the Middle Kingdom trying to fathom just an inkling of China. Firstly as a Western student, still preoccupied with searching for much-missed dairy products; then as a businessman selling the capitalist icon, Coca-Cola, inaugurated to Business Drinking and losing face; and finally, independence - on the road on a Chinese motorbike and sidecar. In this work he offers an informed and personal account of China, aiming to go behind the cliches and provide a different take on life in this fascinating and frustrating country.
not differentiate between the type of beer drunk or the dramatic difference in spending power between regions. For instance, China does produce and drink enormous amounts of beer, but in general it is of the extremely cheap variety. Full of chemicals, sometimes unpleasant to the taste, but costing as little as ten pence a bottle. The market for expensive ‘premium’ foreign branded lagers was a tiny fraction of the overall market. Obviously, starting with skewed assumptions will lead to financial
drunk. They could bond. The hostesses seemed an afterthought. Not surprisingly, they appeared bored to death. I was amazed by their capacity to put up with the atrocious nightly singing, not to mention the lecherous middle-aged men. ‘It must be boring,’ I ventured to my neighbour, a quiet 130 NOT THE REAL THING woman with a false smile. Her colleagues were leading others in the room in a lusty singalong of ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’. (Other all time favourites include ‘Top of the World’,
all and his (apparent) success was proof that it could be 161 ADRIFT IN CHINA done. The other was an Englishman called Will Brent who had got as far as Urumqi, the capital of China’s furthermost western province, before heading back. Will had apparently broken all the rules in his three-wheeled bid for the border. He drove (a) someone else’s bike (b) without papers (c) without helmet, sleeping bag or stove and (d) at night. But what impressed us most was that he had done it alone. While never
forced to close because of failure to meet environmental standards, a healthy scepticism should be maintained. An alliance of local entrepreneurs, underfunded state companies and local officials see that legislation at the ground level remains ineffective and unenforceable. Impotent ministers are left with platitudes. ‘Xie Zhenhua, director of state bureau of environmental protection said that China would try to reduce pollution, slow the trend of ecology deterioration . . .’ or more
distinct noise you know. We are always on the look out for new bikes in town. When he saw a foreigner on top, well that was just too much!’ Zhang whipped out his mobile phone and in short, terse conversations summoned what I guessed to be other bike club members to the hotel. With an anxious expression, we both waited and sipped tea. Mr Zhang’s portly shape and almost cherubic face, coupled with the glasses and an intense 190 BIKER BROTHERHOOD frown was not really what one would expect from