The best birthday celebrations are those that extend over a number of days. Or, more precisely, that's how I like our birthdays! I mean, a meal one day, a visit to some place another one, a special treat or whim a different one... right? So, lucky for me, I managed to celebrate my 35th that way.
First of all, one of my best friends visited from The Netherlands! We met while studying at Peking University back in 1997-1999, and if I've ever had a partner in crime, that was her! And after almost ten years, here she was, with her daughter, in Beijing, on my birthday! One of the best gifts ever.
Then, with her, her daughter and the habib, we did one of my favourite things in Beijing - hutong exploring! Though the area around Houhai is pretty cool for this, the hutongs around Qianmen (前门) are are no less interesting.
You can still find a number of old houses with their peculiar roofs and panel-like decorations...
There is still a functioning shadow puppet theatre too! on Dazhalan (大栅栏) hutong! The Beijing Longzaitian Shadow Puppet Club-Museum (北京龙在天皮影文化俱乐部博物馆). Needless to say, these people are masters of their craft, their puppets are beautiful, and sitting in a dark room watching one of their performances in an old hutong is an unforgettable experience.
Another reason I enjoy hutongs so much: Beijing snacks. It's the best place to find these local delicacies! Like these red-bean paste filled sesame balls. I love these! The crunchy fried outside and the warm soft inside... amazing I'm telling you! And then you get to enjoy them while walking the all too lively traditional hutongs...
Another cool thing happened during the "festivities" - gorgeous weather! I'm pretty lucky mid-October in Beijing usually has very pleasant weather. And thanks to the Chinese government's efforts to have a pollution-free Olympics, we enjoyed not just good temperature, but beautiful skies. Which led to perfect sunsets. Ah...
And, naturally, no celebration would be complete without abundant delicious food in good company! We went to Pure Lotus, a vegan place that does a number of mock dishes. But believe me, they take this to a whole new level! Like, a fish dish may actually have skin that tastes and feels like real fish skin! And there's plenty of vegetable dishes that are not mocking anything. Plus, the food is simply absolutely delicious. By far my favourite restaurant in Beijing.
And, of course, entertaining at home! Which is always such an event for us because, with all the moving around and leaving friends behind and making new ones and trying to get a new place to feel like home, is no easy task! But my habib and my dear friends, new and old, made that possible.
And to close the week-long feast, chilling out with my Dutch buddy at home, with a nice, big, foamy glass of Guinness!
A very happy 35th birthday. With very dear people.