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Köttbullar in Shanghai

imageWhile I was studying in Sweden, I made a Chinese friend in my year. He studied logistics and implicitly wanted to work at Ikea. So he did: now, two years later he is a manager in the Shanghai branch, combining his language and culture experience with his market knowledge.


I was hoping to meet him today, but frankly we came for one reason only: Swedish food. Especially Köttbullar (Swedish meatballs), Kanelbullar (cinnamon Buns) and godis (candy). Funny how cheap IKEA food can be such an attraction.




Shanghai Concert Hall

Attended a tribute to Beethoven in the shanghai concert hall with Pawel yesterday. I was there for two reasons: to hear the music and to see the concert hall from the inside. The western style building looks amazing from the outside. The music was good, and I was surprised with the mixed audience; a loud burp from a few seats behind me during the performance. But the mixed audience is what makes is nice to come to these places, it’s not too formal which is relaxing.

Building moved to different location A few years ago, the building was moved. To think that the 5,800 tons structure moved 70 meters is astounding. It (and many other buildings) had to make way for Yanan road, the city’s busiest highway. [Read how the building was moved, including a picture here]


For Tiroler ski, Muju Korea is Austria’s top export project

Last week we spent some time at Muju (무주) Ski resort in S-Korea. An Average area, with 25km of beginner and advanced ski slopes – aimed to host the 2010 winter Olympics, including four ski jump’s, fun park and half pipe. But that wasn’t what struck me most. It was the export of culture in this multi-million dollar ski resorts in the far east that blew my mind. Note before I continue: Obviously, this is a positive review. It’s probably the Korean eye for service for a great price that will demise this place to a packed tourist place within a few years, complete with screaming children, angry visitors and high prices… oh, well. Although the resort was sold to a US consortium for 130 million dollar in 2001, it struck to me how well the Austrian’s packaged and consigned the ski experience to Korea; including tiroler management and staff. Austrian’s have been doing this for over 15 years in Asia, with some minor projects in Korea, Japan, India and China.

Austrian styled:Tirol (!) Hotel, condo’s, castle,spa’s, Apres ski facilities. Austrian exported: beer,Austria Snow Sports Academy, Swiss/Austrian (Doppelmayr) made Funitel and Hybrid lift’s.,Ski rental gear, Ski/Snowboard gear (from sweaters to helmets), Preparation bully’s (I counted five, but their should be more), Artificial snow machine’s,Ski lights, slope accessories etc.

Finally, I few things that I noticed while out there:

  1. A lot of Korean, but also Chinese and Indian visitors, many of them can board/ski very well
  2. The resort guests are very friendly to each other, I’ve seen people bow to each other after a collision on the hill.
  3. Unlike in the Alps, professional gear is not equal to skills on the slope.
  4. I’m used to hit the slopes early, continue until four in the afternoon and then go Après-ski, but for a land with shopping malls close at 5am, the slopes are available for 18 hours a day, starting at 6:30.
  5. Excellent service at the resort, free warm tea handed out by Korean girls wearing German clothes, tissue dispensers around the slope
  6. Our hotel room was quite space-full, not to oexpensive, and we had a calming view on the slopes from our bed

Dutch culture trade in Korea, or Korean trade in the Netherlands? Jealous of the austria’s project opportunities (My German aczent © sucks), I started looking what the Netherlands (my homecountry) could export (and monetize) on. Koreans and Dutch embassy diplomats mentioned that Dutch are famous for their tulips, (cliche I know)… But putting up tulip show’s is big business, and the Netherlands is one of the rare area’s where the bulbs come from. Proof of concept can be found in Shanghai, where a 100 hectare (3 times bigger then the annual one in The Netherlands) tulip show is being held for the 6th time this year. What other concepts could do well in Korea? Football related events (All Korean men know the Dutch football team, but for that goes that most Shanghaiinese do as well) and beer – a beerfest? (there are German Beerhof’s spread around the country), Dutch artifactual buildings, like the one (although close) in Japan (pictures), what else could do well? I think that for project developers, there are more Korean trades to be ‘sold’ to Europe these days, including common things like Jimjilbang and Samgyeopsal; both increasingly popular in the US. Also, the concepts of restaurant ringers – allowing one to order or get bill with a button on the table, video on demand and key-less doors are things that should be standardized in European countries by now.

Korean Sausages Work Well as iPhone Stylus

Phones with Multitouch displays, like iPhone and Nexus one, require gestures with fingers. Most strongly remaked by Steve Jobs, as the ‘iPhone would be the end of the stylus’. He did not realize that Chinese characters are actually writen at much faster phase with a pen-like stylus. Steve, unlike me, doesn’t cycle to work every day, wearing gloves in the cold winter, unable to give comments without having to take the gloves off (and stop). So, stylus is not dead, phones like the iPhone could really use a stylus. But they are expensive, and I wouldn’t buy one. Koreans found a way to avoid all the stylus hassle, with a home style solution. They use fast food meat sausages. Now I know what you think, “Why so difficult, just use a pen!” Because these screens don’t work with pressure points, they sense the electrostatic load of the finger to the screen. A normal stylus, or pen wouldn’t work, but these sausages are perfect.. well, at least in functionality. And availability, for sale everywhere in the country for just 20 euro cents. According to a Korean news article, sales boosted 40% in January, due to the cold weather. Although, when I noticed a sausage this evening, and wanted to try it out (video), nobody seemed to be aware of the trend. Perhaps it’s all just a smart marketing trick? Can someone verify if this works with other items as well? Note:

  • People WILL stare at you when you do this. (but you will have warm hands!)
  • Buy the thicker one, as there is an iron tip that will scratch your screen with the thin one
  • No idea how to perform multi touch gestures, two sausages?

Chinese new year, streets of Shanghai

Chinese New Year’s, something to look forward to, but also something to fear. As Chinese New Year’s is the biggest holiday of the year in China, it’s hard for a foreigner to get into the same spirit. After all, christmas and New Years are far behind us already. It’s kind of fun to spectate the celebration.

According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nien (Chinese: 年; pinyin: nián), attacking livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect, they put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nien ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nien was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nien was afraid of the colour red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nien. From then on, Nien never came to the village again. The Nien was eventually captured by hong jun lao zu, an ancient Taoist monk. The Nien became hong jun lao zu’s mount. (wiki)

The fireworks start at a quarter before twelve midnight, and continue until the fifteenth day of the lunar new year. This morning (I’m writing this new years day), the ‘explosions’ started again at 7.  Air quality – So interesting to look at @BeijingAir reports as the night went on. By midnight it was Hazardous, doubtless from the incessant explosions.

Beer in China

imageChina has been brewing beer-like drinks for over 9000 years, usually made with rice, honey and grapejuice, but the alcoholic beverage lost popularity during the Han dynasty. It were the Russians that made beer popular again, when they setup a brewery in the country during the 19th century.

Today there is a big variety of Chinese, European, Japanese, American and Singaporean beer available everywhere. Whilst draft beers, lagers and pilseners are common, a recent trip to Qiandaohu with Marc van der Chijs proved that there are still rice based beers for sale here and there. (we knew it was beer, but it tasted odd, a quick peek at the ingredients learned us that is was a rice based beer)
Beer is cheap in China, for a Tsingtao (most popular) one pays about 40 euro cents, a Heineken goes for 70 euro cents. For someone living in Sweden before, I was surprised by the price.

As for the picture; We wanted to buy some beers and dvd’s on Friday night at a convenience store, we grabbed a can but found the beers were warm! We looked closer and the fridge was actually above room temperature. In China, it’s not uncommon to drink beer at room temperature in a restaurant, but 25 degrees C is just overdoing it.

Expensive cars rotting away in a Shanghai Police depot

These cars are obviously being put to good use. Close to Xinzha road Shanghai, there is a police depot filled with (confiscated?) cars. Whilst the particular car in the picture doesn’t fit my taste, it should be quite an expensive car, but it has been there for months (obviously) and is covered by the dust by now. There are lot’s of pearls beneath the dust – BMW’s, Mercedes, Lexus etc. I wonder how these cars ended up as dust catchers underneath a shady bridge in Shanghai. Perhaps the owners were racing (Street Racing In Shanghai & Drifting In China), drinking (Shanghai Cops Catch 1200 Drunk Drivers in 10 Days) or is in jail? Is it a myth that one can buy the cars from the police after x years? (Like in the movies?)

Illegal Chinese medicine

When I was walking to work this morning, I spotted some items being sold on street by a merchant. When I had a look, I noticed they were Chinese medicine. I’m not afraid to take legal Chinese medicine, perhaps to cure a sport injury or fight an upcoming fever, but these items are quite something else.

Apparently, the items on the left are tiger penises (good for stemina?) and on the items on the right are goat horns. It’s also common to see tiger claws.

He laughed when I asked if it was okay if I took a picture.

Weekly groceries at a Chinese market place

imageWe visit a local market weekly, based efficiently underneath a highway. You can buy everything here, from kitchen equipment to fish. We usually buy our vegetables (biological!) and eggs here. This week I decided to take some pictures. You can find these markets everywhere across China. This particular market is developing fast. In half a year, the market closed down some under performing market stands, invested in lights to display the food better, a roof and floor, and now also facilitates a bakery.






Suna mentioned what a week of groceries costs:

  • Full bag of Rice: 20RMB (2.04 EUR) (I could not measure in kg, since I don’t have weight scale at home)
  • Bag of Mushrooms: 8 RMB (0.81 EUR)
  • 2 Sweet potato: 3.7RMB (0.38 EUR)
  • 12 Eggs: 12.5RMB (1.27 EUR)
  • Carrot, tomatoes, paprika, onion, pumpkin: 15 RMB (1.53 EUR)
  • Total: 59.2 (6.03 EUR)