Parfitt takes a look at Korea's fever-pitch nationalism and gives an assessment of the worldÂ’s only Chinese democracy, has a run-in with a Nepalese rhinoceros – and one or two equally volatile Vietnamese tour guides – and ponders the actions and reactions of the people he meets. In these pages he shares his encounters with language students from all walks of life, hotel-keepers, and – sometimes weirdest of all – his fellow travelers, in some of the less commonly visited parts of Asia. In a style that may be compared to early Bill Bryson ("You can't help but enjoy his writing, for its cheer and buoyancy, and for the frequent demonstration of his peculiar, engaging turn of mind." – Ottawa Citizen), Parfitt endures the jolts of traveling where there is no real travel industry, touring where there is no real tourist industry, and teaching map-reading skills where there is no Western-style logic and adults freely admit they can hardly find their way to work and back. He shares it all with the reader, over a beer, and all is well again with the world. Then he's off to look for more. Steering clear of politics, Parfitt focuses on the individual humans he meets. This is a glimpse of real life in the shadow of China, neither a dry-as-dust academic treatise nor a heroic tale of surviving the Cultural Revolution. Simple people greet the author with everything from spontaneous gestures of friendship to sudden slaps, from openness and warmth to rock-headed obtuseness, and the picture emerges of a fractured, diverse humanity muddling along and still getting by – together – in spite of all. Traveling with this mild-mannered Canadian, we go through much that is puzzling, frustrating, and down-right infuriating, yet we always comes through with a smile. Readers find they have enjoyed a diverse journey that covers a very broad terrain.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this book as I was traveling in Hokkaido. It made me think a lot about what I thought when I traveled and how I felt about the people I ran into. The book seemed like a collection of travel horror stories told in a weak stand-up routine. Making fun of the way other tourists look or speak and writing phonetically how Asians speak English just put me off.
I've lived in Taiwan for over a decade and experienced all the Taiwan stories Troy wrote about. Yes, some were bizarre for sure, but the stories alone do not separate Taiwan apart from all the rest of the world, and Troy seemed to be saying they did, as if the weirdness of the place makes it what it is. I did not like how Troy assumes that because Taiwanese students cannot easily express an opinion that they do not have one. Students here are rarely if ever asked for their opinions. Not being able to answer a question on Western terms, and then judging them lacking, seem illogical. His understanding of not just...
This book is a nicely crafted combination of impressions and experiences, spread across a backdrop of historical facts. I'd have to agree with John Ross. Reading it felt like casually chatting with a friend in a pub - an old friend who's been abroad for the last decade, and is brimming with intriguing anecdotes and observations on living in a (very) foreign culture. As you take up the book, you immediately feel comfortable with the writer, while at the same time being tickled by a constant parade of surprises.
Parfitt deftly manages to portray the often frustrating, often fascinating, often humorous encounters and struggles of a Westerner living in the Far East. He has a knack for rendering bizarre dialogues and characters (sometimes locals, sometimes other Westerners) that brings them to life in a way befitting a comic novelist.
Throughout, the book is peppered with frequent (and frequently hilarious) quips and one-liners as Parfitt suffers the slings and arrows...
The author was kind enough to send me a free copy of his book to review. And I certainly congratulate him on getting this book published.
However, I have to say that I did not like "Notes from the Other China." In specific, I did not care for the book's overall negative tone. To be sure, the book was mildly entertaining in parts, but I found myself struggling to finish it.
As others have written in their reviews, it seemed as if these stories, or variants thereof, have mostly all been heard before--in coffeeshops, cafes, schools, bars, and backpacker haunts around Taiwan and in other parts of Asia. Similar stories can also be found on several blogs these days. Unfortunately, I didn't really gain any new insights into Taiwan or other parts of Asia from this book.
The title of the book is misleading as well. Less than half the book (from pages 29 to 94) focuses on Taiwan ("the other China" from the title). And "Adventures in Asia"? I don't know, but...
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