From Chicken Feet to Crystal Baths – Book Review
#Disclaimer: Post contains affiliate links
From Chicken Feet to Crystal Baths: An Englishmans Travels Throughout China by Ian Mote is an Expat memoir about his time in China. He shares his early fascination with Hong Kong and the Middle Kingdom as he traveled through Asia as a Child and Teenager – a fascination that never lost its grip on him. Then finally, after he has gotten his feet wet in a career in Finance, he is offered an opportunity to move to Hong Kong. He shares his every day adventures during his quest to visit every province in China and the craziness of what life in China means.
Some of the stories he shares seem almost unbelievable, like having drinking contests with his clients during business dinners or how he had to politely decline the advances of a hired girl without offending his business partners, yet in China they are just what every-day life throws at you. Mote shares a wealth of information about doing business in China, the importance of having an iron liver and the ability to make plans but going with the flow when necessary.
China is country of extremes. A country that is supposedly a socialist market economy, yet its number of millionaires has risen 25-fold in recent years. A country with stunning landscapes and natural wonders, yet one of the most polluted places in the world. From desserts to mountain tops, the wide and open vastness of Tibet and Mongolia to the beaches of Hainan island and the steamy, tropical bamboo forests of Sichuan. Ian Mote takes you along as he travels to each of the 23 Chinese provinces, sharing his (often funny) stories about the places he sees and the people he encounters.
What I loved most about the book
Some of you might know that I also lived in China for a while and so From Chicken Feet to Crystal Baths definitely hit home. My 6 months in China were a concoction of mixed feelings about being in this strange yet lovely country surrounded by equally strange and lovely people . Mood changes from adventurous to banging my head against the wall, from happy to frustrated and back were a daily experience. Mote captures this craziness perfectly and makes you laugh out loud with the detailed descriptions of the most absurd, yet perfectly normal occurrences that will happen to you, when you live in China. He also shares a wealth of information about doing business in China, the importance of having an iron liver and the ability to make plans but going with the flow in the end.
Want to know another reason why I like the book? Ian Mote is just a cool dude. Yes, he is the head of the finance department of a large bank in China, but he is very easy going and funny. He is the kinda guy you want to grab a beer with and end up talking to for hours, sharing stories and funny episodes of your life abroad and the experiences you had. Stories that nobody “back home” would or could truly understand.
Sometimes, China just throws you under the bus and all you can do is get up, dust off your pants and get on. All these situations that Mote describes seem so utterly absurd and strange and they can only happen is this crazy place called China. When you live in China, you develop an ability to improvise, follow along and look smart, even if you have no idea what is about to happen.
I hate to use platitudes like this, but this book is truly a MUST-READ if you live, have lived or planned to live in China.
The only slightly negative thing about the book is the high price for the soft and hard cover book, but the Kindle eBook (which you can read through an app on your phone or laptop) is only a few Dollars, so I recommend getting the eBook.
Also, I want to disclose again that I inserted some affiliate links in this blog post, so I will earn a commission if you decide to buy the book. But I did not receive a free copy or any other form of financial contribution for this post or as an incentive to review From Chicken Feet to Crystal Baths. I actually became aware of the book through Ian’s Instagram account. Follow him here for some cool pictures from in and around China!