Not judging the book by its title, which might lead you to believe it is quite a sexy book (it’s not), I really just expected this to be another backpNot judging the book by its title, which might lead you to believe it is quite a sexy book (it’s not), I really just expected this to be another backpacker’s account of her jaunt through Asia. As someone who, like many others, has “done the jaunt” herself, I found a lot to relate to so, excuse me as I write this review from a very personal viewpoint.
The book is set in China in the mid-eighties, a couple of years before my own first, brief encounter with mainland China. Susan Gilman and her not-very-well-known friend, Claire Van Houten hatched a plan on the back of a paper placemat while out late one night of conquering the world on a trans-planetary trip. They decided to start in China and the descriptions Gilman writes of encounters with bureaucracy, once grand but now falling apart ships and other transport barely held together with spot welding, hotel and travel agent staff who tow the party line as far as only presenting what was allowed to be presented…and no more, not to mention other backpackers, is spot on. Anyone who travelled to China in the late 1980s right up to the mid-late 1990s will relate to this book on some level and probably really enjoy it for the nostalgia factor.
Places too, ring true from freakishly tiny and sparse, swimming pool tile-lined guesthouse rooms in Chunking Mansions, a backpacker icon that is still existing in that ‘state’ as far as I know. If you haven’t been there or read the book yet, I don’t want to give anything more away as her expectations versus reality play-by-play about the place is brilliant. And this is just the first part of the journey.
Yangshuo is another centre of the backpacking world in China and, in those days, was one of the few places foreigners could go and decompress from all the experiences had during travel in China. To have been struggling, quite out of your depth, with renegade bus drivers, unknown animal parts served up in soup, and language barriers for weeks on end then, finally coming upon the then little village of Yangshuo with its rows of cafés serving Western-style food from English, French, and German menus just seemed like a godsend. I really liked how Gilman placed their visit to Yangshuo in the story as sort of the beginning of the end as that is exactly how the place feels to many who’ve travelled there. You get a sense of having slogged your way round in relative hardship and this is the intrepid backpackers’ reward…banana pancakes all around!
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t just the reminiscing factor that I enjoyed about the book. There is also the storyline of what it is like being with someone you barely know, 24/7, for weeks on end. In this case, the increasingly bizarre relations between Gilman and her friend Claire whilst travelling in a country with a high difficulty rating, as far as backpacking goes, make for an interesting thread that runs throughout.
Call me non-imaginative, but I do like books that go back and tie up lose ends. Gilman does this in her Afterwards chapter really well. For readers who haven’t travelled to China, you could easily get a sense that what the book describes is how it still is to travel around the vast country. In some places it really is still like that, but China has been hurtling towards a developed travel infrastructure at an alarming pace. Even 10 years after the book was set, it was sad to my Western nostalgic sensibilities to already see beautiful old temples crumbling or being replaced by white tiled square boxes of buildings. In fact, the first time I went to Shen Zhen on the mainland near Hong Kong in 1989, it was a small village with dirt roads. I remember an old man pulling his cart full of pigs past me. The next time I went there in 1998, it was full of gleaming white sky scrapers. I actually had to check my journal to see that I was indeed thinking of the right place. I was. In 9 years the place had become unrecognisable. Gilman’s modern description of the places her and Claire had been to really expresses the changes that have taken place. Changes that would have to be seen to be believed otherwise.
In short, although I had low expectations of the book, I was pleasantly surprised. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in travelling independently in China. And I would strongly recommend this to those who have already participated in the backpacking rituals associated with travel in China. You will be reliving much of that experience! ...more
Phra Peter is an English monk who was ordained in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism in London but since has taken up residence in Thailand. He has bPhra Peter is an English monk who was ordained in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism in London but since has taken up residence in Thailand. He has been working with novice monks, many of whom have been sent to monasteries because their parents may not have had the means to look after them. The book provides touching portraits of some of the young novices....more
It's been a while since I read this but I still remember enjoying it after chancing upon it at the old Bangkok airport. While he writes from the perspIt's been a while since I read this but I still remember enjoying it after chancing upon it at the old Bangkok airport. While he writes from the perspective of a foreiger who becomes a Buddhist monk in Thailand, many of the observations are of local Thai culture in general. Very interesting if you have spent any time in Thailand either working or as a tourist. He has since written a few other noteworthy books including a brilliant one called "Little angels" about the young monks who often occupy the monasteries in droves where they come from, and why they live in monasteries. I'm not sure how widely available this book is now (I see it has been republished in 2005), but if you happen to be in Thailand, you will most likely find it at Asia Books....more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book although I think you need a real interest in Buddhism and/or historical Buddhist art to enjoy it completely. The most iI thoroughly enjoyed this book although I think you need a real interest in Buddhism and/or historical Buddhist art to enjoy it completely. The most interesting information was on the presence of Buddhism in what we would now only know of as purely Muslim areas of the world (The bombing of the giant Buddha images at Bamiyan gave the world a clue about this)and also ways in which ancient Greek and Buddhist art have been connected. When my friend read this book she was disillusioned by the author's "easy" travelling, ie. taking taxi's, when she had proposed to follow in the footsteps of the ancient monk. This didn't bother me as such, because I suppose I read this more in "information gathering" mode rather than in "adventure traveller" mode. However, the fact that the author, a Chinese-American woman, decided to follow the path of a ancient monk gave the story an interesting angle. See if you can find the connection to the old TV series, "Monkey"....more
I've hated my name my whole life and finally, recently started going by my middle name. It's really amazing how difficult, complicated, and weird it iI've hated my name my whole life and finally, recently started going by my middle name. It's really amazing how difficult, complicated, and weird it is to do such a thing. Yet it is also very freeing. So, I really related to the main character's talk about his name. This book also had elements of migration and the main character and his sister are third culture kids, however I wouldn't recommend this as a "third culture kid" book as such. Written beautifully, you get a sense of just watching as "Gogol" or "Nikhil" is carried through his young adult life in the search for his own identity. I loved it!...more
I love, love, love this book! I got it from the library and I fear that I will soon be paying overdue fees as I can't bear to part with it. So far I'vI love, love, love this book! I got it from the library and I fear that I will soon be paying overdue fees as I can't bear to part with it. So far I've made a palow that was absolutely delicious, and I've got my eye on many more recipes. I am fascinated with Central Asia and I really loved the travelogue/ anthropological viewpoint of the book. Plus the author has filled it with delicious stories and quotes from Rumi. I agree with the other poster who said she'd spent more time reading it than cooking....more
I've marked this as 'read' even though I don't own it. I mean, it's very expensive! So, I just look at it in the bookshop over and over and plan to geI've marked this as 'read' even though I don't own it. I mean, it's very expensive! So, I just look at it in the bookshop over and over and plan to get it from the library soon. This is exactly the cookbook that I've wanted to write for some time and Tessa Kiros has beat me to it. The recipes are driven by the mish-mash of cultures that she and many people have within their own families (myself included). She gives just enough personal information so that you get a sense of what the recipes mean to her. She illustrates how the various types of food can be representative of many cultures and also of one person's personal culture. We are not all unicultural, in fact, very few of us are so I'm surprised nobody has done this earlier. Especially since food and culture are so intwined. I would recommend this to any modern multi-cultural cook or anyone who is interested in cooking and identity....more
This book has 'me' written all over it. So much so that I wish I had bought it rather than borrowed it from the library. I may have to invest. FuchsiaThis book has 'me' written all over it. So much so that I wish I had bought it rather than borrowed it from the library. I may have to invest. Fuchsia goes abroad under the intention of studying Chinese and having a nice cultural experience. After becoming disillusioned with the Chinese way of teaching language and realising that she's not learning a thing, she chucks in her course and starts hanging out in cafes and restaurants, chatting to the locals about what they are cooking, and eventually wheedling her way into a somewhat prestigious Sichuan cooking school. This sets her on a learning curve that ends with her becoming one of the few non-Chinese experts on Sichuanese cooking. The part I loved the most was her slow progression from one who could not even look at a thousand year egg, to one that would happily chomp down on goose intestines and duck tongues. Personally, I haven't made it that far yet. And my experiences have been mostly of a Japanese nature. But having been a vegetarian for 25 years and then slowly starting to become accustomed to eating flesh in the form of seafood (and the unavoidable bacon that is in EVERYTHING in Japan)I felt an affinity to Ms. Dunlop when reading this. I think anyone who has gone abroad to study and/ or work and has lived in a foreign culture for a period of time could relate to her stories. If you are actually interested in Chinese cooking and the history of said cuisine, all the better....more
What can I say that hasn't already been said? It's morbid, yet poignant. You can somehow relate to these creatures even though they don't make sense aWhat can I say that hasn't already been said? It's morbid, yet poignant. You can somehow relate to these creatures even though they don't make sense at all. It makes me imagine what kind of teenager Tim Burton would've been at school. What group would he have hung out with? Perhaps he was a goth, or a pre-emo days, emo. As mentioned before, I did immediately remember Shel Silverstein when reading these. Now I want to go back and read those too. I read this in about half an hour and then read some of them again. It's great for delving into when you are busy and need a quick bout of escapism....more
This book is seventeen years old and was made into a TV movie when I was at Uni. I never saw it, and indeed, never got round to reading the book untilThis book is seventeen years old and was made into a TV movie when I was at Uni. I never saw it, and indeed, never got round to reading the book until this year. Now I know why it was so popular...it's brilliant! It follows the "growing up" up a young Brit of Indian descent in London and contains great references to class, racism, sexuality, pop culture, the arts, and day to day life in Britain fromt the 50's to the 80's. It's also a commentary on the general process of finding your place in the world and really highlights that it is a process and not just a "do it and then achieve it" scenario. Some of it is hilarious in it's transparent portrayal of everyday life in Britain for those on the 'edges' of society.
I'd been following Clotilde's blog for about a year when her first book was released and I ordered it from Amazon to be delivered to me in Japan. LiviI'd been following Clotilde's blog for about a year when her first book was released and I ordered it from Amazon to be delivered to me in Japan. Living in Asia, part of the fascination was undoubtedly just the craving of non-Japanese food in any form. Had I been in any other country, I'm not sure if I would have followed the blog for so long, or indeed have ordered the book.
But, I do like the style of the book. If I ever write my cookbook, this is exactly how I'd planned to do it...with stories. I really feel that food is one of the many threads that we weave our social lives with and don't see any separation between food and our personal culture. What we eat is an expression of who we are. How could it be otherwise?
The reason that I gave it only 4 out of 5 stars is that there are quite a few meat-based recipes in here that I most like, won't use. Otherwise, my partner and I have already made about half a dozen of the recipes and they have all come out nicely....more