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Win one of FIVE copies of “Lost on Planet China” by J. Maarten Troost

This week I have a great prize.

J. Maarten Troost is one of the best travel writers working today. He has written such popular books as The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific and Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu.

I’ll be giving away FIVE copies of his latest book Lost on Planet China: One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation. describes his new book as follows:

Maarten Troost is a laowai (foreigner) in the Middle Kingdom, ill-equipped with a sliver of Mandarin, questing to discover the “essential Chineseness” of an ancient and often mystifying land. What he finds is a country with its feet suctioned in the clay of traditional culture and a head straining into the polluted stratosphere of unencumbered capitalism, where cyclopean portraits of Chairman Mao (largely perceived as mostly good, except for that nasty bit toward the end) spoon comfortably with Hong Kong’s embrace of rat-race modernity. From Beijing and its blitzes of flying phlegm–and girls who lend new meaning to “Chinese take-out”–to the legendary valley of Shangri-La (as officially designated by the Party), Troost learns that his very survival may hinge on his underdeveloped haggling skills and a willingness to deploy Rollerball-grade elbows over a seat on a train. Featuring visits to Mao’s George Hamiltonian corpse and a rural market offering Siberian Tiger paw, cobra hearts, and scorpion kebabs (in the food section), Lost on Planet China is a funny and engrossing trip across a nation that increasingly demands the world’s attention.

All you have to do to win is to leave a comment telling me your favorite thing about China: food, music, movies, language, etc.

Comments will be left open for about a week and five entries will be selected via

  • 112 Comments... What's your take?

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  1. Chris says:

    My favorite thing about China is its mountains- they’re otherworldy. I don’t know why they look so different from other mountain ranges, but their stark height and steep sides make them look less like piles of rock and instead geologic obelisks.

  2. Julie says:

    My absolute favourite thing about China was visiting the night food market in Beijing. There was a dazzling array of feasts on offer – scorpions, beetles, seahorses etc – all fried up and served on a stick. I plumped for the scorpions and they were delicious! Just needed a little bit of sweet chili sauce though!

  3. Sara says:

    Never been there, but when I will go (someday!) I hope to be wowed by the food and the number of bicycles.

  4. Ashley says:

    I’ve never been there, but during an East Asian art history class in college, I fell in love with Chinese ceramics. My professor was the curator of the East Asian department at my university’s art museum, so we were able to take full class periods to have our lectures in the museum and pass around pottery and bronze items that had been buried in tombs for thousands of years. It was pretty surreal.

  5. Vicki says:

    My favorite thing about China (having never been there…yet) is probably Engrish. The closest I can get is my favorite thing about Chinatown-books that teach you to write in Mandarin or Cantonese.

  6. Ann says:

    Hmmm… what I love about China? I love the diversity of the places there. Shanghai instantly became my favorite city in the world and has such beautiful architecture. But, then there’s a place so popular and serene like Shaolin. So beautiful. There’s also the cities that are so huge, but that I never even heard of until I got to China… and the small villages that most people likely never heard of, but seem more reminiscent of how I pictured China before I went to China. And although my experience in China was so diverse, I didn’t even see a tiny percent of what the country has to offer.

  7. Don Rogers says:

    I’m fascinated with the culture and lifestyle of China. The architecture, color choices, fabrics, places of worship and things like that.

  8. Karl says:

    Deep fried scorpion from street vendors!

  9. Gene Bowker says:

    Never been there yet. I think the favorite thing is the “differentness” compared to the US. I found I loved Japan because it was so different than life in the US.

  10. Chris says:

    I love the language. All the ways you have to nearly whistle to pronounce a phrase.

  11. Jordan says:

    Definitely the food.

  12. Debbie says:

    I’ve never been to China but I love J. Maarten Troost. My favorite thing about China is fantasizing about taking 3-6 months to find out what my favorite thing about China is.

  13. Trevor says:

    My favorite thing about China is the feeling you get when you spend time there, especially out in the countryside. It’s that feeling that Troost is conveying in his title: China is a different world, a place you could explore infinitely and never quite figure it out. It’s challenging, obstinate and completely foreign on so many levels, but it’s also vast, endearing and captivating enough that one trip there can change your life.

  14. Jon says:

    I’d have to say the language(s) (pick any dialect) – to the layman it just sounds like gibberish, but is full of complexity and nuance.

  15. Jeremy says:

    I think the Great Wall is nifty!

  16. Kat says:

    Dim sum is hands down my favorite thing about China. The noise of the carts and the commotion of the dim sum houses is exciting and satisfying.

  17. My favorite thing about China is their art and beautiful characters in the language!
    Poetry for Lovers and Romanticists: Art in Poetry and Photography

  18. What I adore most about China is the unbridled sense of possibility, coupled with the action and pace of change. Not for the faint of heart.

  19. My favorite thing about China is history. I love the visit to Great Wall and Forbidden City to see all the marvelous history.

  20. Islander029 says:

    I love the exotic cultures of China. The closet thing I get to experiencing it is through reading or visitng Chinatown in NYC :)

  21. emma says:

    I think my favourite thing to come out of china is Wong Kar-wai and his films. days of being wild, in the mood for love, 2046 and my blueberry nights. pure awesome.

  22. Paavani says:

    I love chinese Hot pot and spending time on Shanghai streets, Watching people and understanding their culture and history apart from having awesome experience of climbing the great wall and getting lost in forbidden city. Recently I travelled China and wrote a blog post too

  23. bruleeblog says:

    My favourite thing is the history.

  24. A few of my Chinese coworkers started teaching the rest of us Mandarin, and I have to say I’m blown away by the way subtleties in intonation factor so majorly in the language. So the language has quickly become my favorite thing about China.

  25. Nanoonka says:

    I was able to spend 3 years of my life in the Far East as a child and the orient has forever been in my heart. I long to head back to the Far East and take in the culture full stop as an adult. I am currently planning a trip there next year and am incredily excited!

  26. Priyank says:

    Hi Gary! I think the history and culture of China is fascinating!

  27. Trajjik says:

    Xiao Long Bao! Preferably about 20 of them.

  28. dylan says:

    I don’t have a favorite thing yet, since I’ve not been. But I have a ticket to Shanghai – leaving on July 13! I’ll be viewing the total eclipse on July 22. The thing I want to see the most at this point is the desert in the west. The dunes look amazing! This will be my first stop on my own ‘around the world trip’ — Thanks for the inspiration Gary!

  29. Ravi G says:

    I love the diversity of China more than anything else. It is somewhat similar to that of India, but unique in its own respect. Right from food, to customs, to different variations of the same language (including the script). However, my favorite thing about China is the people themselves….very hard working, yet friendly and approachable, with unique values and ethics.

  30. My favorite thing about China are the pyramids there. There’s so little information about them yet what is available is facinating. I would love to go on an archological (sp?) expedition to discover what’s there if it were allowed.

  31. Al says:

    The diversity of such a vast country. In every region there are different foods to try (Beijing, Sichuan, Shanghaiese, Cantonese, etc) and slight cultural differences (celebrations, architecture, etc). Each city or region has a unique feel to it. I also like the fact that public transportation is readily available and can get you to pretty much anywhere.

  32. Steph says:

    I would have to, quite unoriginally, opt for the fantastic food. Namely due to the fact it is really the only taste of Chinese culture I have experiences.

  33. My favorite thing about China is the mystery behind it. No matter how much you think you know, there is always so much more to be learned. It is so varied from the huge cities to the tiny villages often overlooked. The culture is so strong and so different than the rest of the world that it is so difficult to completely unravel with such a complex history to try to understand.

  34. Sai says:

    While I love the food i think what i like best is the mystery of so ancient a culture coming to terms with the crassness of the West and in turn making something totally unique.

  35. docpi says:

    Given that it is so amazingly delicious (the photo linked in my “website” URL proves it), it will not come as a surprise that Chinese food will be mentioned a lot.

    Hence, my entry is “the amazing, delicious food”.
    See? Not a surprise.

    The craving is so strong that the prospect alone of getting another opportunity to taste Chinese food would make me accept a job there.

  36. MousE says:

    I love the food, especially the Sichuan style. MmM.

  37. Rene says:

    I like the girls, and the martial arts movies

  38. Scott says:

    I love their food! The diversity of it, how it varies from region to region, and all the various things that they cook up.

  39. Bob Hays says:

    I love Chinese food (and I have been lucky enough to sample some that’s somewhat authentic thanks for a former employee from China) and some modern Chinese music.

    I want to travel to Shanghai and Hong Kong within the next three years, taking my son along (probably his first time out of the States other than Canada – that should be interesting in a Chinese way).

    Thanks! – Bob

  40. Best thing about China has to be the diversity of it’s people. From the coast to the Gobi and from Hong Kong to Taiwan, Chinese is as diverse as it is populous. Planet China indeed.

  41. Lenard says:

    The best thing about China is the rich history of martial arts that come from the County.

  42. Kat says:

    Sesame seed balls bought from hole-in-the-wall bakeries… definitely my favorite thing about China. That and all the photos I have of me and various Uni students flashing copious amounts of peace signs!

  43. MB says:

    I love Chinese food! Or at least the American version of Chinese food since I’ve never actually been to China to try the real stuff!

  44. Katie says:

    My favorite thing about China is the dynastic history. I’m fascinated by the unique power shifts throughout the country’s history. I’ll be going there for 11 months starting in August, too, so I’ll get to see a lot of the historical artifacts in person!

  45. T-roy says:

    Any country that can make something that can be seen from space has to be in everyone’s top 10 list I would think…and it was made without modern technology!

    Can’t wait to see it soon!!!! :)

  46. Katey says:

    I’ve not been to China but it is somewhere I would definitely like to visit. I’ll save it for when I have time for a long trip as I think it will be a destination that demands a lot of time to get the best out of it.

  47. Alan Mizell says:

    I will be starting a trip around the world soon and as far as China the mountains have always fascnated me, the narrow green peaks rising up in photos and art, and those Internet pix of the world’s scariest hike I saw on, which I would probably be too scared or wise to hike on. Alan

  48. Julia Xiao says:

    I was born in Shanghai and moved to the US at the age of 8, but have been going back, exploring the various other parts throughout these years. My favorite place in China thus far is Huang Shan.

  49. Dan says:

    I’ll be visiting China for the first time in November. Whats drawn me to visit is the beauty of the landscape and the history.

About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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