Two brothers drove BMW motorcycles on a 65-day, 18,000-km loop around China, then co-authored this brisk, optimistic memoir about the trip.
Ryan Pyle is a freelance photographer and journalist in China, and Colin Pyle was a currency trader in Toronto. In 2010, when the economic recession slowed Ryan’s assignments and Colin found himself frustrated by work, they put their jobs aside and took a self-financed road trip through China. It began in Shanghai, Ryan’s new home. They traveled clockwise, to the North Korean border, west to the Mongolian border and across the Xinjiang region, south through Tibet, then east through southern China back to Shanghai. Ryan narrates most of the story, and his writing is professional and ripe with factoids about China. Colin interjects with entertaining journallike entries that address the same narrative with a rarely redundant, saltier voice: “Can you imagine checking in to a hotel room and finding there’s shit in your toilet? And when you tell them, they say ‘Flush it’! Can you even fathom that?” The charismatic, likable brothers gleefully outrun Chinese police, careen through lesser-documented parts of China and show an affinity for non-Han ethnic minorities, especially the Uyghur people. After the clutch on Ryan’s bike malfunctions, requiring maintenance in Lhasa, Tibet, the duo backtracks 500 km to ensure that they aren’t shortchanging their route. When describing sights and events, their descriptions tend to be logistical rather than florid, and, for the most part, they eschew disparaging words about the country (except when it pertains to Chinese bureaucracy). The brothers also discuss their video footage and recording sessions at length, since they plan to release a documentary film about the trip as well.
Enthusiastic, archetypal travelers whose informative story is worth the ride.