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Fried Eggs with Chopsticks: One Woman's Hilarious Adventure into a Country and a Culture Not Her Own

3.21  ·  Rating Details ·  470 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
Polly Evans’s itinerary for China was simple: travel by luxurious high-speed train and long-distance bus, glide along the Grand Canal and hike up scenic mountains. Instead, the linguistically impaired adventurer found herself on a primitive sleeper-minibus where sleep was out of the question; perched atop a tiny mule on a remote mountain pass; and attempting a dubious ferr ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 26th 2006 by Delta (first published September 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 949)
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Jun 18, 2010 Jerjonji rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel-lit
It's rare that I read a travel book and get a feeling that the writer actually loved the country he/she was visiting. Usually, it's about 'the foreigner in a foreign place'. This book was no exception. In spite of learning some Mandarin before heading off to see China by herself, she doesn't seem to enjoy the trip at all. Travel woes, weariness, constant feelings of alienation, cultural clashes, and the struggle to communicate wear the reader down. I kept thinking, just enjoy it! Let go of your ...more
Dec 11, 2009 Laura rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody nobody nobody nobody
Shelves: travel-adventure
Absolutely horrendous...

I should've known from the outset by the poorly designed cover and obnoxious title that this book would be a disappointment. With a pitiful sense of humor that limps weakly from page to page, the author delves into the filth and misery that she maintains is the true China.

While some of her observations may in part be true (I admittedly have no idea), she decimates any interest in reading of her experiences in the country any further. After describing the unsanitary waste
marcus miller
Dec 22, 2010 marcus miller rated it did not like it
For some reason this book annoyed me. I couldn't decide if the book was about China or if it was about her. After awhile I decided it was mostly about the author. If you are worried about getting sick, unusual food, filthy toilets (or slits in the ground), and long train rides I wouldn't recommend going to China, a place I found to be fascinating in the few weeks I was able to visit. If you are interested in a travel book I would recommend the Lonely Planet. If you want hilarious, pick up Mark T ...more
Christine Zibas
"When we arrived in Zhengzhou, we headed straight for the China International Travel Service office where a man called Mr. Li had very kindly acquired a ticket for me for that evening's sleeper train to Hangzhou. He was waiting in his office till 7:30 pm so that I could go and collect it. It was really incredibly helpful of him. I'm not sure how many administrative workers you'd find in England willing to spend an extra couple of hours in the office at night just so they could help a random fore ...more
Jan 08, 2014 Lauren rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
I feel like this book got a lot of undeserved bad reviews. I think many misinterpret the author's attitude. On the contrary, I felt Ms. Evans had the utmost respect for the people she met and the places she went to, and I appreciated her honest voice throughout the entire book. Her reactions were real and believable.
Jul 31, 2011 Kate added it
A few years ago I read another book by Polly Evans, Kiwis Might Fly. I remember it as being both touching and hilarious. The book had a specific purpose and in my view, the way Evans stuck to this, made it a little more than a light hearted humorous travel book. I really feel like I got to find out a lot about New Zealand from the book that I (or most travellers) wouldn’t have seen. In contrast, in Fried Eggs With Chopsticks, a purpose is sorely missing. I have been to most of the places Evans v ...more
Nov 13, 2011 Kailah rated it it was ok
Shelves: china-ish
If you want to read a good book about travels in contemporary China, read Peter Hessler's "Country Driving." If you want to read about someone traveling who doesn't actually want where they're going to be different from home---but have it be funny, and a good story along with the (here rendered comical whining)---read Anne Patchett's "The Accidental Tourist."

You wouldn't know it from Evans' descriptions and constant whining, but she has lived and traveled abroad before. She should desist entirel
Nov 10, 2014 Chrissi rated it really liked it
This Englishwoman's romp through China had me in stitches almost the entire time. She hits the nail on the head of what it's like to travel - and live - in this enormously diverse and sometimes very frustrating country. It's a beautiful place of contradictions and eating loads of things with chopsticks that don't seem very possible to eat with chopsticks. I can identify with her journey and her joys. This is what made the book pleasing to me, even if the chapters toward the end seeming to go on ...more
Jul 10, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, 2011
I am off to China in 7 weeks time so am reading this to get another's story of the land
Its very readable and rather amusing


I really enjoyed this book. Evans has an amusing way of talking about travel and it often felt like she wrote the kinds of things i would think and say. I liked the fact thather tale of travelling through China felt so real - she had wonderful times and really horrid times, just like a traveller actually has. So often it seems that travellers feel the need to either hav
Feb 10, 2014 Kfhoz rated it really liked it
I appreciated Polly Evans' real-world view of traveling through China alone. The small vignettes in different places made me feel like I was there. I empathize with Polly wanting to retreat to a western style hotel sometimes.

This is a very helpful book for a traveler doing advance planning. If you are trying to figure out if traveling on your own through China is for your, or if you are already planning it, then I think you will find this book a good read and it will help you contemplate what y
Feb 23, 2016 HeavyReader rated it liked it
I couldn't tell what the author was trying to do with this book. Was she trying to discourage Westerners from visiting China by showing it as a dirty place, full of disease and people with questionable hygiene habits, a place with weird, bad food and a difficult to speak language? Was she trying to be funny by poking fun at a culture she is just not a part of? Was she only trying to tell her own experiences? I think most of all she was trying to sell her work.

I didn't hate this book, but it did
Aug 05, 2015 Michael rated it it was ok
Polly Evans, based in England, has written previously of her travels, and this one is recording her trip in China and the experiences she encountered. At times it was interesting and fascinating, and in other parts it made me wonder why she made the choices that she did. It was okay, but no more than that.
Mj Halberstadt
Oct 25, 2014 Mj Halberstadt rated it liked it
I picked this up before heading to Beijing and Shanghai for work trips; I wasn't going to have any opportunity for sightseeing, so this book had to stand in. Evans' writing is often VERY funny, vivid and observant - I've flagged pages 13-16 and all of chapter 20.

I wonder if it's my own hasty reading that has caused me to already have forgotten where some of her misadventures happened; there's a lot of complaining about transportation methods that starts to get tiring after a while, and not a to
Apr 18, 2012 Eriko rated it did not like it
I thought this was an irritable book to read. I was impressed with her for the first few pages, as she described the history well and her nervous enthusiasm about China. But all she writes is her stereotypical view of the place. For an instance, I was annoyed when she compared her hometown in England to a little village in China and said her hometown was like heavenly in comparison, despite her hometown is "boring". Another one is describing someone she encountered using animal as description (n ...more
Jul 16, 2011 Martygirl rated it it was ok
Having been to China and planning a trip back, I thought this would be an interesting read. Although the sprinkling of history cited in the book is interesting, the regular whining of the author becomes grating. Instead of embracing the adventure and cultural differences, Ms. Evans seems to focus on her personal discomfort, as if she's surprised that a many hour bus ride through rural China would be easy and comfortable. I also find some of her comments (and not just of the Chinese - of American ...more
Wow, this one gets slammed in the reviews. I didn't think i was that bad?
I actually quite enjoyed it for what it was - a quick read.
Yes, the author complains about the public transport, and she is quick to point out all the negatives, and quick to hide in a luxury hotel when she gets tired, but at least she was writing it honestly.
I thought she was able to cleverly summarise enormous historical events quite accurately in a paragraph or two - that is something most authors have struggled with. Pe
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
May 21, 2015 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
Evans travels across China by mule, plane, boat, bike, train, and car. She eats things she never realized were in the food category and she meets people living lives she never realized were in the lives-lived category. I liked this book much more than Evans' other book, It's Not About the Tapas.

Pet peeve: The subtitle says the book will be "hilarious". C'mon. You are just setting yourself up for disappointment if you go into the book expecting hilarious. Amusing, yes. Humorous, yes. But hilariou
Mar 14, 2008 Reena rated it liked it
Well, I can relate to this book somewhat because I've been to China and have had similar experiences trying to immerse myself in a totally different culture.
I learned new information I haven't about Mao and the others and info about the cities/provinces I never had a chance to visit. I also got a good idea of where maybe I should not bother going to, thanks to Polly telling me in her book not to go there.
I'm like 3/4ths done, so hopefully i'll finally finish the book before spring break.
Becky Straub
Jun 08, 2015 Becky Straub rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the author's honesty about her travels in China. I have to admit, it reaffirmed my reluctance to spend time in the backwaters of that country.
Jul 06, 2008 Wellington rated it liked it
Polly Evans an Englishwoman decides on a two month journey touching on different areas of China. I applaud her effort and her courage to jump into an unfamiliar culture and world. The girl does have whit .... but was it me? Was her sense of humor somewhat grating making me cringe at times?

To me, the tone of the book looked down ... almost mocked the Chinese culture. I do have Chinese blood running through me, so the Chinese culture is not exactly alien to me. But for those of who know me well, I
Dec 20, 2013 Bev rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, china, travel
It took three days of working at Logos to finish this book (since I only read it at the store), but it's worth it. Evans is a travel writer and this book, subtitled "One woman's hilarious adventure into a culture and a country not her own" talks about her travels around China, in an assortment of vehicles, including enough adventures traveling by bus that I know I would never want to get on a bus outside of a major city in China! She visited many of the places where we were, in about 2003 (befor ...more
Lyn (Readinghearts)
May 01, 2009 Lyn (Readinghearts) rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who like authors with a sarcastic whit
Recommended to Lyn (Readinghearts) by: Pick a Shelf Challenge
Shelves: ccclib
If you like travel books that only discuss how beautiful a place is with the intent to get you to go there, this is not the book for you. On the other hand, if you like books about places that give you an accurate picture of the place, warts and all, by all means pick this book up. Polly Evans has a very sarcastic style of writing, which she alternately turns on the people of China, the landscape in China, and herself. I found this book very interesting whether she was describing the 1500 beauti ...more
Ann Knight
Mar 19, 2014 Ann Knight rated it did not like it
This was one of the most irritating memoirs/travel journals I have ever read. Why even publish a book about a place you find disgusting? I felt as if the author did not try to challenge herself in her unfamiliar surroundings; instead she just criticized and turned her nose up in horror at what she saw.

The book is her observations (mostly disgruntled ones) mixed with text book history.

I do not recommend.
Ellen Pilch
Apr 08, 2014 Ellen Pilch rated it liked it
I gave this 3 stars because the author is a good writer and has actually convinced me that I never want to go to China. I really could have done without knowing people really eat their pet dogs in some areas of China. I am still traumatized by the thought and repulsed that the author tried it.
She is an adventurous soul traveling by dirty bus, train, taxi and bikes to all areas of China. If you like to learn about other countries and read of travel you will love this.
Mar 25, 2010 Yun rated it liked it
She writes about China she saw through her eyes while travelling through China. The book's description of the author's frustrations with slow rickety buses, the general slowness of trying to get anything done, the commonly seen phlegm spitting actions, annoyances of travelling through some rural areas, and her reaction to eye-glaring stares she received while travelling through rural areas of China, while religiously applying hand sanitizers whereever she went is very humourous at times. The hum ...more
Apr 28, 2008 Carissa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, non-fiction
this one was recommended to me by a co-worker. we don’t usually read the same things, but she was talking about how hilarious this travel book that she was reading was and i got intrigued. it really was very funny. okay, i read it late at night mostly and okay, mr. happy stuff never thought the stuff was funny when i read it out loud to him, but i found the stories quite amusing. they gave a very nice picture of what china (rural and urban) is really like and remind the reader of how too much tr ...more
Feb 27, 2014 Judy rated it liked it
As Polly Evans traveled through China, she remarked that the journey was 'tedious' and she felt very 'grumpy'.
I felt the same way she did as I read the book. It was hard to get through.
I have a 100 pages to read and I am not sure if I will make it.
Randall Rebman
Sep 18, 2009 Randall Rebman rated it liked it
Shelves: china-literature
"Fried Eggs with Chopsticks" is a hilarious account of a British woman's travels throughout China. Polly Evan's journey takes her to the famed Shoalin Temple, where she trains with Shaolin Monks and fails miserably at learning Kung Fu, and on to less traveled sites like the primitive village of Yakou. In Yakou she visits stays with an Akha tribesman and tries out the local cuisine of stewed dog. Whether she is attempting to "eat a fried egg with chopsticks" or negotiate a train ticket with her i ...more
Todd Tyrtle
Apr 05, 2013 Todd Tyrtle rated it did not like it
I tried to finish it, I really did, but I just couldn't. To me it seemed the author put a great deal of effort into writing a book to say how much she disliked being in China and how unpleasant the experience was. If she didn't like it there, why should I like reading about it?

This is not to say that all travel books should be nothing but positive - negative with a sense of humour works really well (Bill Bryson has moments like this). Negative with the author having learned something is also go
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
An enjoyable, light hearted travelogue and a nice introduction to China for those unfamiliar with its history and culture. The book is very detailed, well documented and I like that Evans always incorporates a lot of history in her books (as in "It's Not About The Tapas"). Although some readers/reviewers have said that the book was funny and/or hilarious, don't expect this to be in the vein of Bill Bryson's humorous style of travel. But don't let that stop you from reading this! Even if this boo ...more
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