Want some mayonnaise with that King Cobra?

I have seen some interesting food in Asia over the years. Most interesting dishes were definitely in China. I don’t want to bother you with the cliche stories that hit the blogosphere daily, because eating culture is indeed different here, nothing new, I know.

Instead I want to tell you about how the live-stock, ready-to-be-turned-into-food is displayed in the restaurant. While walking home, a friend showed this restaurant at the French Concession in Shanghai. The place was looking more like a pet-store then a restaurant.

What about picking a nice goose, some birds or rabbits to go round with your friends? Or what about the enormous King Cobra to still your hunger? That’s right, for 30 euro’s one can enjoy this feisty creature, other wise known as the world’s longest venomous snake… to the bone. Want some mayonnaise to go with that?

Now to make this clear. Eating various types of meat can be dis-, or approved with, that is personal. The dishes displayed in this post are not rare to find in China; I haven’t eaten things like this before, but I believe it is cultural. Reason to post this is that I thought the method is a bit interesting. It is a bit ‘live’ to display reptiles, domesticated animals, birds, fish or whatever – ready to be picked – next to the dining table isn’t it?

Chinese do not pay attention to red traffic lights anyway

I decided to buy a simple (20 euro) bike at the Carrefour last week, as there are many more bikes and bike roads in Shanghai then in Seoul. Finally I feel free in the city! Is it dangerous to cycle through Shanghai? My first response would be that it’s certainly not easy to cycle here. First off because there are many electric bikes here, these bikes have a high velocity but emit zero sound. These bikes are potentially really dangerous! I have to say that after some close encounters, I got became very aware of traffic while commuting, otherwise I’d better leave my bike at home. There is another big difference in commuting here that is worth noting:  Red traffic lights in most of Europe means that you stop. In Korea, a red light is interpreted differently. One has to slow down to see if traffic is approaching and continue. In China, I’m not even sure if people pay attention to the traffic signs. Traffic, including city buses just keeps going on some places!  I sat down and looked at this phenomenon for a while; Shanghai traffic from an outside perspective looks like a beautiful flow of bikes, scooters cars and buses intertwining seamlessly. From the ‘participating’ perspective, it means paying attention and drive defensively. Awareness is key, and being aware – not dozing off like I just to do on my bike in Barcelona – forces you to your peripheral view and create better overview of traffic situations. Last Friday I was cycling home and the traffic lights got my attention. Both green and red are burning! This picture is not photo-shopped. The mixed signal confused me; should I stop or continue? I thought it was funny because a Shanghainese would interpret almost any stop sign like this. Did city hall just gave up?

Empty eight lane roads in Zibo

This week I was in Zibo (map), a 1.5 hours bus drive from the nearest airport of Jinan. There are about 4 million people living here. The city is known for material arts and it’s rich resources. Due to the resources, the city is characterized by smog, due to coal mining and farmers. To facilitate the mining, the prefecture-level city has a grid of 8 lane roads with trucks driving over them.Asking about the empty broad roads, I was told that the 8 lane roads were even more quiet in 2006, solemnly used by trucks. China’s rapid economic growth, taking many families to middle class has effect on the people here as well. According to this source, almost every family owns a car in this city.


It’s good to take pictures!

So, it takes about 20 years for me to forget a sight, as it seems. Displayed below is a old and a new holiday picture, taken in the south of France. The first picture is around 1990, second one almost 20 years later. The chap in blue is me, the handsome girl in the right is my sister Mirrin.

What is particularly interesting is that none of my family members were sure that we have seen the castle before. We all knew about a previous holiday seeing a similar castle, but it didn’t quite look like this. Coming back home, I was sure that I have seen this castle before, but couldn’t prove it. For some reason, I found it necessary to go through my pictures -what are weekend for anyway- and look for it. It turned out that we did see the castle before, but that it just looks a lot better then it did 20 years ago. The trees have grown taller, the roof was repaired and the walls have been painted, but the location is exactly the same, astounding how the memory can boggle us some times, it’s good to take pictures!

When your name is announced at the Airport

Imagine sitting at the gate, waiting for your plane from Amsterdam to Shanghai to arrive and you hear your name announced over the speakers. This happened to me yesterday.

Yesterday I took the train to the airport of Amsterdam, and checked in like normal, passed security check and ordered some fruits. When I found a place to sit, I started to work on my laptop. After some time, I suddenly heard my name over the sounds of my earbuds. I took them out and heard my name being broadcasted throughout the terminal… I was shocked! The first thought I had was: “This never happened to me before”, then “Maybe something is wrong with my ticket!”… I quickly packed my laptop and made my way to the service desk. When I arrived – breathing heavily – I immediately enquired what the problem was, the lady behind the counter told me that someone called Zuidgeest (name of friend of mine) claimed to have my keys in his possession, she reached the phone to me and told me that he was on the other side of the line. “These guys can’t have my keys, I haven’t seen them yesterday!” I paused for a second and realized that this friend couldn’t have my keys, apparently they were willing to lie to get in touch with me… so I played along, intrigued with their act. The lady behind the counter that handed me the phone was very supportive and felt intensely for me. She warned that my plane would leave soon, but that when I hurried, I might have enough time to see them and then pass security again. For a black Saturday Schiphol was as quiet as a library, and I decided to go out and buy my friends a beer. We laughed, they like to play a practical joke every once and a while, but I didn’t see this joke coming. Touche my friends, touche..

Greetings from France!

I arrived in Castellane France. I couldn’t resist to publish this picture of my desert yesterday. I learned a few things in France:

  • When the camping has WIFI, it’s hard to resist ^^
  • Badminton battles in the pool often end up in badminton parties.
  • You don’t need a villa to have a good time in the sun, a tent is also okay

For now my schedule is simple: Reading a book, talking with the market sales men, watching the tour, cycling, eating and swimming from time to time. I realized that new years is bad for making resolutions, as I never put any thought in them during the holiday seasons, everybody is just too busy! Instead, I realized that the holiday is the perfect time to make personal concessions. one of them (the least philisophical and corky) is that I want to blog more, here and at thenextweb.com. Have a great summer everybody!


ING Life Korea goodbye party

Yesterday night: Friends, a barbecue and the proper amount of soju on the 24th floor of the Ramada hotel, looking over the ING building and the famous landmark of Seoul, the Namsan tower. What a nice goodbye party! Besides the ridiculous hat you guys made me wear all night, I want to thank everybody for their kindness, presents and fun. Because of you, I’m looking back at a nice year in Korea and the success at ING. Looking back, I am convinced that INGLK is a great place to work, the environment is engaging and allows pro-active employees to reach high and achieve a successful career. I am looking forward to the following months – for obvious reasons, but am sad to leave my colleagues behind at the same time.

Things that I learned last night:

  • I suck at jumping a rope
  • Germans are generally bad with the hoolahoop
  • The CMO of ING can control the fluorestic building’s sign with his mobile, everyday the guard climb the roof at 8PM to do a little dance underneath the lion.

The dreamteam, excluding one member

Long speeches

The chef preparing Sushi + BBQ

The ING chef

MBC Marathon – the results are in!

Those happy faces are me and my collegues, Frank-Jan, Zdenek, Marten and Arjan from ING – just – before we started running our (half) marathon. Perhaps we were even happier when we finished – it would have been better, or at least more fair to share a before / after picture I suppose.

Together with Suna us ‘westerners’ participated in a Korean marathon. The 15.000 participants made me wonder why I haven’t actually see people train on the streets of Seoul more often. I always thought the latter of Koreans preferred hiking over running, perhaps I was wrong; Most participants seemed to know what they were doing.

Naively about the consequence, I agreed to undertake this 21.0975 km long challange in early 2009 – This tenderfoot aimed to finish his first ‘professional’ race within 2 hours, or at least… to finish at all. To do so, I decided to eat more healthy food (less burgers, more fish) and I stopped drinking coffee completely, but more importantly I undertook a ‘special’ training programme: A day to day running schedule to get in shape for half a marathon, downloaded from the Internet. In a timespan of 80 days, I ran a total of 360 km in preperation, usually during lunch breaks. The amounts increased until I ran 20km every Sunday, rest on Mondays and Saturdays, and maintaining with about 8 ~ 10 Km during the remaining days of the week. I guess that the people at the gym know my name by now.

I wanted to be prepared because of our charity run. Just weeks before the race, we decided to raise sponsors and donate the money to Unicef. My office reacted very positively, perhaps too good! The common awareness of my collegues pointed out that I shouldn’t let them down.

I aimed to have fun, and accelerate my pace at the end of the race. It worked, I finished at 1 hour and 44 minutes, my new (and first) record. As you can see on the graph, the start of the race I slowed down, mainly due to the vast amount of people running before me on the street, creating a funnel effect. Later, I could accelerate due to the latitude and goal in sight. I raised 1.286.714 KRW for Unicef in total we raised a stunning 6 million KRW. I’d like to thank all my 29 sponsors, (I know who you are!) for your support, it was a great motivation to keep on running!

Now I am wondering what would be next. The Hong Kong mountaintrail would be a little too much, but I am dreaming of finishing the New York City marathon, perhaps in 2010 / 2011. We’ll keep you updated!

Dutch Orange ball 2009

The highlight of the year for the Dutch community in Seoul would be the Dutch “Orange Ball”, held in the grand hyatt. It’s was true Dutch evening with “oranjebitter” and a Dutch band that was flown in to Seoul for the occasion.The theme of the Orange ball was “ga fietsen” meaning “take a hike on your bike”. The place was decorated with a bicycle theme. It was fun to see the foreigners dance on songs from “de havenzangers”, “Andre Hazes” and other typical dutch music covers. Perhaps the Oranje bitter got them into the mood! The food was very good, this is the desert. The lights dimmed and they served over 50 tables with this glowing ice cubes. I wonder how they managed to get these ice bricks so transparent.