On Saturday Mark Kitto celebrated his 40th birthday with a party in his house on Moganshan, a mountain in Zheijiang province about 220 km from Shanghai. We left the city around 2 PM, and although it was busy on the expressway to Hangzhou we managed to get there by 4:30 PM. The weather was amazingly good, a clear blue sky and on the Hangzhou ring road our car showed a maximum temperature of 29 degrees. Is this accelaterated global warming or just a coincidence? I hope the latter… Driving into the mountains it cooled off a bit, but upon arrival it was still 24 degrees. Lots of friends were already sitting in front of Mark’s bar/restaurant The Lodge, enjoying cocktails in the November sunshine and enjoying the autumn colors of the trees on the mountain.
Many of Kitto’s guests were long-term China residents (like Mark himself of course) and a lot of them had set up their own businesses here. But the main thing they had in common was that they all like living in China. People had driven over or flown in from all over the country, and three of his friends had actually arrived that morning from Great-Britain just for the party! A couple of the guests I knew already, and some of them I had not seen in years. Nick Bonner for example, who is running Koryo Tours (trips to North-Korea, check out his website if you’re interested). The last time I saw him was when I was still living in Beijing, over 3 years ago, but he had not changed a bit.
After the pre-dinner drinks we went over to a local restaurant where we had a nice local meal with lots of beer and baijiu (I skipped the Chinese liquor though). Many people had brought their kids, and they had the time of their lives running around the restaurant. After dinner we went back to The Lodge for a drink and a good speech by Mark, before we all hiked up the mountain to Mark & Joanne’s two houses on the top. The location is fantastic, high up in the woods with a view far into the valley and no close neighbours. They also have a nice, half-wild garden where we spend most of the night chatting, dancing and listening to music. The temperature was still quite nice, and because of the full moon we did not really need the fire torches that they had set up all around the garden. When it cooled off a bit more, Mark made a bonfire in the back of the garden with all kinds of bushes and wood that he had collected. And around midnight he fired up the BBQ, for the guests that had gotten a bit hungry again. Very nice to have some barbecued meat after a night filled with beer and wine.
Sunday morning Mark was up early again, preparing an English breakfast for all the guests in The Lodge (he’s a good host!). When we turned up there around 10:30 AM most people had already gathered there for bloody mary’s (or in Mark’s case a Tsingtao beer to wake up). The breakfast made me feel more stable again, and after it Qi and I went for a short walk around the village. Most people planned to spend a few more hours on the mountain, but we decided to go back to Shanghai in the early afternoon already, because we both still wanted to do some work. The drive back went quite smoothly, although we probably should have mounted a video camera in our car: we saw several almost-accidents by people who seemed to have learned to drive in a computer game, swerving from left to right to left to right at speeds over 160 km/h. Most people just don’t know how to drive safely (thanks to China’s driving schools), and thereby not only endanger themselves, but also others. Would have been nice video material for Tudou though.