Fried Eggs with Chopsticks by Polly Evans Bantam Books, $116 Overseas headline writers covering China stories routinely resort to the phrase 'Enter the Dragon'. The title of the latest travelogue by ex-Hong Kong journalist Polly Evans has a similarly formulaic ring. So do her previous two books: Kiwis Might Fly (New Zealand) and It's Not About the Tapas (Spain). Likewise, the content of Fried Eggs with Chopsticks could hardly be described as original. Kung fu monks? Check. Foot binding? Check. Empresses and eunuchs? Check. Opium dens, triads, and ugly culinary experiences? Ditto. But it's how you tell them. Travelling by public transport from the snow-capped mountains of Shangri-La to the bear-riddled jungles of the south, Evans keeps her story rolling, driven by the discovery that the Chinese have built enough new roads to circle the equator 16 times. She wants to experience the speed at which the nation is advancing but instead experiences delay. The building work proves to be not quite finished, as the puff puts it in a reflection of her humorous style which is underpinned by control that smacks of her background in journalism. She communicates in short, snappy sentences littered with eye-catching images. The result is highly readable. Take her description of a backstreet Shanghai market where a tangle of eels slithers in a shallow container and other creatures manoeuvre edgily: 'A pure white cat with piercing blue eyes gazed fixedly at a turtle in a pale green plastic bowl. The cat's nose twitched, its neck craned forward towards the strange-looking, sweet-smelling creature that tried to scramble up the sides of the bowl, slithered backwards, and tried again in vain to find a grip on the unyielding plastic walls that imprisoned it. The cat raised one paw and made tiny swiping movements towards the turtle but was unable quite to work up the courage to pounce. In the end, it sat back on its haunches and chose just to sit and stare.' Move over William Carlos Williams (the 20th-century American poet renowned for his nervy, microscopically detailed cameos). Evans also sounds like, well, Michael Palin: the ex-Monty Python comedian turned TV travel guide whom she comes across in Lijiang, Yunnan province. She spots the fellow Londoner in a concert hall just before the start of an opera. Wearing professorial glasses, he takes notes 'efficiently in a small, hardback notebook'. Evans can see nobody interesting to write about, but guesses that he's 'concocting a brilliant satirical portrait of some character on [sic] the twenty-second row'. To Evans' mortification, her companion accosts him. Evans winds up sheepishly revealing to Palin that she, too, writes humorous travel books, sparking a wry response. 'Michael Palin's eyes gave a little twinkle behind the erudite spectacles. 'Ah,' he said, 'competition!'' In response, Evans makes some 'banal observations' before fleeing. The theme of escape seems to crisscross her life. Born in 1970 in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, which was once voted 'the second-most boring town in England', at nine she embarked on her first Asian escapade when her family moved to Tokyo. Evans returned to Britain to continue her higher education, landed a job at a London publisher then headed east again, this time to the smog and sizzle of Hong Kong. She worked as an editor for HK Magazine and roamed Asia, writing features on destinations in China, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. In 2002, she won a Human Rights Press Award for a series of articles on racism in Hong Kong. Despite her award-winning campaign and her decision to leave her 'twizzly' office chair for a life of adventure in the manner of ex-Observer newspaper journalist Mark Honigsbaum, she calls herself 'cowardly'. That's the last thing she is. Fried Eggs with Chopsticks is gutsy, funny and rarely self-indulgent. Never judge a book by its title, no matter how trite.