mixed bag of 80s
[note: I’ve been reading the German original]
The story: it’s the mid-1980s, and German adventurer Achill Moser is in his early thirties. He embarks on two different trips through China. One is going to take him on foot from Turpan to Dunhuang in the Gobi Desert, the other one is a boat ride along the Yangtze River. Sometimes there is a buddy with him who takes pictures, but he mostly travels alone.
Achill Moser’s landscapes and travel tips
The resulting book is a mix of travelogue, coffee-table book and travel guide. It’s essentially made up of five parts:
- a few paragraphs about the journey and about China in general,
- a travelogue about the walk through the Gobi,
- another travelogue about the boat ride along the Yangtze,
- a few pages of glossy photographs (which were okay)
- and finally a section with advice on travel in China in the 1980s.
Reading this book is like having a bag of trail-mix. There are always some kinds of nuts or raisins you prefer over the others. I found the travelogue parts a bit too “dreamy”, with Moser taking a deep dive into the poetic aspects of traveling. Sort of like watching a movie with too many (and too long) panoramic shots.
I thought Moser’s insights about China were not very original, but they provided a non-China-expert view of the country as it was in the 1980s, and I thought that was pretty interesting.
who might want to read this
Moser’s feats of walking the through Gobi Desert and riding a boat down the Yangtze are pretty impressive. His storytelling is basically good, though I would have liked the book to have more of a storyline. His writing style is okay. His observations and insights are historically relevant but not very original.
If you’re a die-hard China fan, or if you’re interested in this particular form of adventure, then this book might be just right for you.
Also read: Mildred Cable, for an account of a journey through the Gobi in a different time.