When she learnt that the Chinese had built enough new roads to circle the equator sixteen times, Polly Evans decided to go and witness for herself the way this vast nation was hurtling into the technological age. But on arriving in China she found the building work wasnt quite finished.
Squeezed up against Buddhist monks, squawking chickens and on one happy occasion a soldier named Hero, Polly clattered along pot-holed tracks from the snow-capped mountains of Shangri-La to the bear-infested jungles of the south. She braved encounters with a sadistic masseur, a ridiculously flexible kung-fu teacher, and a terrified child who screamed at the sight of her.
In quieter moments, Polly contemplated Chinas long and colourful history - the seven-foot-tall eunuch commander who sailed the globe in search of treasure; the empress that chopped off her rivals hands and feet and boiled them to make soup - and pondered the bizarre traits of the modern mandarins. And, as she travelled, she attempted to solve the ultimate gastronomic conundrum: just how does one eat a soft-fried egg with chopsticks?