Book Review – The Middle Kingdom Ride by Ryan Pyle & Chris Pyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed the book, and am looking forward to watching the accompanying DVD as well. It is an interesting book, both because of the travelogue and the epic nature of the journey and because it has two authors. Both brothers have written their own point of view, based on their contemporary video diaries recorded at the end of each of the 60 days that they spent on the road (and in some cases off it) on the way round China.
The book is very much a narrative of the journey and the effect it has on the brothers. There are lots of unusual aspects pointed out, like the fact that no-one seems to have a proper motorbike in China. This means that many officials they come across don’t comprehend their machines. For example motorbikes are banned on the motorways, because the local ones are 100cc and it would be dangerous, but a BMW 850cc can outstrip everything else (which they do when the local police try and stop them at one point).
You get a good impression of how Chinese officials deal with things, and the variability of approach. The Chinese police seem to have arbitrary power, yet you can simply ignore the blue flashing lights if you can leave their jurisdiction behind. There doesnt seem to be any cross-border co-operation between them, which saved the brothers from having to change track a couple of times.
Another thing you get is the psychological effect of the journey on the brothers. The entries are based on the daily vlogs that they did before bed. So they build up a picture of how they felt at the time, rather than than being completely reflective afterwards. Most days are seen as extremes at the time, only to be surpassed later on by another even more extreme event, whether good or bad.
The best bits for me were when they had a couple of days in the same place and had the time to see local stuff and describe it, which is why I’m looking forward to watching the DVD, because it will show me more of China than you can get just from the words.
If you like travel books, are curious about different cultures or wonder about the psychology of adventurers then you’ll find something here worth reading.