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Journalist David Eimer gives us a fascinating book that covers ground rarely discussed in the usual Westerner-Goes-to-China genre, that of the far-flung regions of China and the minorities who live there. The title comes from one of the famous Chinese chengyu (short sayings) that translates as "The mountains are high and the emperor is far away". It is used to describe remote, lawless regions. And for some places the Eimer journeys to, the description is still apt. Eimer travels to the far Northwest - Xinjiang, the Southeast - Yunnan, the Northeast - collectively known as Dongbei. These are not regions that are particularly easy for tourists. For the most part, Eimer is traveling to small towns where even the basic amenities of a hotel room, of sorts, and restaurant can be few and far between, not to mention his often inventive means at obtaining transport.
Eimer is a keen observationalist, and his humor-inflected writing flows naturally. One observation about certain dire pit toilets and how they could induce constipation in one suffering from dysentery; well, you don't get an image much more vivid then that.
Narrator Corey Snow is a pleasure to listen to except for his pronunciation of Chinese names and words. He uses English syllable sounds instead of Chinese pinyin. So, those familiar with the proper pronunciation cringe each time we hear the mispronounciation of a word.
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