On Saturday I had a party with friends to celebrate my 10 year Chinaversary. My oldest friend, Amanda, flew up from Shanghai for the day to come which made it extra special! She’s basically family (my Dad calls her “daughter number 4”) and she said “I thought ‘what would your Dad do?’ and so I brought champagne!” We had a great afternoon, sipping champagne while looking out at a great view of the city – or what would have been a great view if it wasn’t horribly polluted.
That evening more than 40 people came to one of my favourite Chinese restaurants – Haidilao hotpot. It’s a busy and bustling place (very 热闹!) but it’s fun to make your own dipping sauce and watch the dancing noodles, and all that. I moved from table to table chatting with people – so I was busily engaged enjoying myself and my friends for hours, even if I still didn’t have enough time with each dear friend. We had such a big and 热闹 group the restaurant sent a performer over to our section to entertain us – a Peking opera face-changer. A few of my friends had never seen one perform which made it even more fun!
I had planned to do something to mark the occasion, but didn’t do a good job of thinking/preparing anything. I did bring some old photos for us to leaf through, and some of my oldest China friends helped me compile a list of who I’d known the longest. There may have been some disputing as people tried to get higher on the list! I think the final list was Amanda, Joe, Lynn, Sharee, Chris Q, Josh, Chris L, April… then probably Deborah, Bec, Matt, Kara, Rachel, Emily… and after that I gave up!
One thing I prepared but not early enough to share at the party were some “Top 10” lists – so I’m going to share them with you now! Where I reference a story I’ve told before on the blog, I link to it – but this shows me how many of my favourite China stories I haven’t shared! I will have to spend some time writing out these memories to share.
So, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Top 10 Lists from 10 years in China!
1) Top 10 places I’ve travelled to in China (outside Beijing)
- 四川省 九寨沟 黄龙沟 Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong national parks in Sichuan province
- 云南省 西双版纳 Xishuangbanna, Yunnan province
- 云南省 丽江 Lijiang in Yunnan province
- 贵州省 阳朔 Yangshuo in Guangxi province
- 江苏省 周庄镇 Zhouzhuang in Jiangsu province.
- 陕西省 西安 Xi’an in Shaanxi province.
- 浙江省 杭州 Hangzhou in Zhejiang province.
- 浙江省 天目河 Tianmu River in Zhejiang province.
- 江苏省 苏州 Suzhou in Jiangsu province.
- 河南省 少林寺 Shaolin temple in Henan province.
Honourable mention: Chengdu panda centre in Sichuan province, 2009
2) Top 10 Beijing tourist spot memories
- Chair skating at Houhai.
- Summer palace scavenger hunts.
- Watching the sunset flag-lowering at Tiananmen Square in 2006.
- Gathering a crowd while sketching at the Lama Temple in 1999.
- Wandering in hutong areas.
- Finding my Beijing homes at the urban planning museum in 2012.
- Finding the “opera house” at the Forbidden City in 2006.
- Bargaining at the old Silk Market (stalls, no building!) in 1999.
- Climbing Qianmen in 2011.
- Picnic and games at the botanical gardens in 2004.
3) Top 10 best street food items in Beijing (mostly on sticks…)
- 糖草莓 tang cao mei – toffeed strawberries (best fruit on a stick!)
- 煎饼果子 jian bing guo zi – road pizza!
- 包子 bao zi – especially the breakfast ones I ate at BLCU (pork and cabbage)
- 烤馕并 kao nang bing – Xinjiang bread
- 羊肉串 yang rou chuan – lamb sticks
- 鸡排串 ji pai chuan – chicken schnitzel on a stick
- 乌贼串 wu zei chuan – squid on a stick
- 麻辣烫 ma la tang – spicy soup sticks
- 烙饼 lao bing – folded flat bread
- Chocolate fish!!
4) Top 10 Great Wall memories (stories here)
- 20cm of fresh powder, blue skies, and a snowball fight at Mutianyu in 2013.
- Camping at Jinshanling in 2004.
- Hiking past the eastern end of the reconstruction at Mutianyu in 2006.
- Easter sunrise services at Huanghuacheng in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
- The styrofoam Great Wall at Laolongtou with students in 2009.
- Sprained ankle at Badaling in 1999.
- Foggy evening at Badaling in 2012
- Mutianyu with my sisters in 2004.
- Joining a Chinese tour group in 2004.
- My first snow in China – at Mutianyu in March 2004.
5) Top 10 favourite Chinese words/phrases
- 慢走 （慢点）
- 意思 （有意思，不好意思…）
Honourable mention: 恩, because it is SO hard to shake the habit of saying this in English!
6) Top 10 musical memories in Beijing
- Youth orchestras at CCC.
- Anberlin live in concert in 2011.
- Leading worship on Christmas Day – at BICF in 2005 and at CCC in 2011.
- Harmonica orchestra at the Temple of Heaven.
- Singing backup for Instant Noodles at the 2007 Amcham charity ball.
- Playing piano in the practise rooms in the music shop near BLCU.
- Peking opera performance in 2004.
- Handel’s “Messiah” at the concert hall near the Forbidden City.
- Watching Bec perform live in a competition in Wangjing in 2012.
- Delirious live in concert in 2008.
Honourable mention: Working as a singer in a spa/club for a month in 2007!
7) Top 10 Chinese desserts
- 金银馒头 jin yin man tou – steamed bread with sweetened condensed milk
- 拔丝苹果 ba si ping guo – toffee apple
- 蛋挞 dan ta – egg tarts (even if they’re not originally from China!)
- 芝麻球 zhi ma qiu – sesame balls
- 汤圆 tang yuan – boiled rice flour balls filled with sesame paste
- 西米露 xi mi lu – sago with coconut milk
- 炸芋卷 zha yu juan – fried taro rolls
- Black sesame candy
- Golden monkey sweets (the generic version of white rabbit sweets)
- 蒸糕 zheng gao – steamed cake
8) Top 10 Chinese new year memories (stories here)
- Setting off freworks that fell over and shot horizontally along the not-yet-open road in 2008.
- Free tang yuan, seeing the Oriental Mandarin hotel burning, and paper lanterns rising in the air in 2009 (story here).
- Holes burnt in my coat watching fireworks at Daxiyang, then staying up all night talking while making jiaozi from scratch in 2008.
- Steering around piles of flaming wreckage while driving Bec’s electric bike home in 2011 (story here).
- Celebrating with a Chinese friend and her colleagues – cooking, eating, watching the TV gala, and doing manicures for them in 2011.
- Shooting fireworks out a 24th floor window in 2009.
- Fireworks seen from the air from Beijing to Yunnan in 2006.
- Sharing our fireworks with teenage guards on duty on new years in 2007.
- Bec’s homemade duilian couplets for our front door in 2012.
- My sister freaking out as we walked through early evening fireworks in 2007.
9) Top 10 Places I’ve lived in Beijing
- 二里庄 I lived in a dorm-type-place in Erlizhuang near BLCU in 2004.
- 左家庄 I lived with a Chinese friend in Zuojiazhuang near Sanyuanqiao when I first got back to BJ in 2005.
- 曙光花园 I lived in Shuguang Huayuan with two awesome flatmates for a few months in 2005
- 方舟苑 My first apartment of my own was in Fangzhouyuan in Wangjing; I lived there 2.5 years.
- 东方大学城 For the 2.5 years I lived in Langfang I lived in Oriental University City, also home to tens of thousands of college students (story here).
- 丽京花园 Okay, I didn’t really live in Legend Garden, but during 2.5 years of weekends in Beijing I spend a lot of time here with Rachel (and back at Fangzhou with Matt and Kara)!
- 飘 I also spent a lot of time with the girls at Piao Home (I think I stayed in every different bedroom AND the couch at some point)!
- 引领国际 When I came back to Beijing I lived in Yinling Guoji with Bec (and others!) for 2.5 years (story here).
- 居通嘉园 My first 6 months in Houshayu I lived with the Brown family in Jutong Jiayuan.
- 香蜜湾 My current apartment is at Sugar Bay (Xiang Mi Wan) – first time living alone in 3 years and 6 months later I’m still loving it!
Honourable mention: 杭州 I lived with a host family in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province for a week in 1999!
10) Top 10 best noodles in China
- My first 拉面 la mian in the carpark at Badaling in 1999 – still the best, richest beef broth I’ve ever had!
- The thick noodles at the restaurant near my first place in 2004 which made those noodles and nothing else.
- Haidilao’s dancing noodles!
- Shaved noodles at a small place near Qianmen.
- Xinijang 面片noodle squares.
- Fresh 拉面la mian near BLCU.
- The Xinjiang dish with a huge pile of noodles (and everything else) on a large nang bread.
- 炸酱面zha jiang mian
- 凉皮 liang pi cold noodles
- 拉面la mian outside the steles museum in Xi’an