Old China Hands lunch 5 April 2024

Never mind Tomb Sweeping Holiday

And yes, the Old China Hands lunch 5 April 2024 was actually during the holidays. Some people had family obligations, other did not have to work. We still ended up with 30 participants who enjoyed the food and the company. We had some last minute cancellations, somehow welcome as the restaurant was fully booked! The restaurant had to ask the last ones to leave at 5 pm as other clients were coming…

The menu, see also the pictures:
– chicken curry salad OR Morel’s chef salad (ham, blue cheese, and pan-fried chicken on lettuce) OR fresh daily soup
– farmers pork sausage with onion sauce served with red cabbage and hotchpotch vegetable potatoes OR mini steak minute with blue cheese sauce served with daily vegetables and French fries OR pan-fried snapper with mustard sauce served with vegetables and mashed potatoes
– daily dessert
– coffee or tea

The next lunch is on 3 May, again during a holiday period.

This time the spotlight is on me!

See this article in theBeijinger dated 13 April 2024: “Gilbert Van Kerckhove: Beijing Expat & Food Vlog Extraordinaire”.
Here is the link.

It says:

If you’ve been on Dianping and WeChat Channels as much as we are – trust me, we’re on there quite a bit – you’ll have noticed videos posted by a rather lively elderly gentleman, trying all there is to try in Beijing’s culinary scene.
Gilbert Van Kerckhove is more than just an old-timer in Beijing, though. Having called China home for over 40 years, this Belgian expat first arrived in Beijing in 1980, when his expertise as an electrical engineer was needed to help establish a representative office for a power plant project.
Although he’s retired, Van Kerckhove has found many ways to keep busy in Beijing
Van Kerckhove ended up staying in China and assisted in the development of a few major projects in Shanghai – including the city’s Line 3 metro line and Jin Mao Tower. He later served as a senior consultant to the Beijing city government from 2000 onwards, even finding himself as the only foreigner on the city’s Development Planning Commission tasked with planning the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
Even though Van Kerckhove retired eight years ago, he’s still as busy as ever. Along with making foodie videos for Dianping, WeChat Channels, Kuaishou, and Xiaohongshu he also travels the country helping with various educational and other projects.

Read the rest online!


Old China Hands lunch 1 March

Great turnout

The Old China Hands lunch 1 March 2024 has a total of 32 attendants. We had some special guests, such as Stephen Schindler (who founded Schindler Restaurants: Schindlers Anlegestelle, Schindlers Tankstelle, …). He is an old friend of Renaat.

Kevin brought his usual pair of bears to watch over us.
It was again a great lunch and everybody had a good time.

Another special guest

Jaime has a terrific long history in China and he wrote a book about it. He could be the honorary chairman of our Old China Hands group, being I guess the earliest one to arrive in China.

Jaime Adriano FlorCruz is a Filipino journalist and diplomat with a career spanning more than four decades. He has reported on a wide range of topics in China, including the country’s political and economic developments, as well as its cultural and social issues.
I know Jaime since the eighties… He was a famous journalist, a legend.
He was confirmed on December 7, 2022 as Ambassador to China. On February 24, 2023, the Foreign Ministry accepted the copy of credentials presented by newly-appointed Ambassador who arrived in China on February 14.
Jaime met a number of his old friends!

Great food

As always we had a wide choice in our special menu, some dishes are not in the normal menu:

  • Sliced Smoked salmon stuffed with seafood and garden greens OR poached eggs with wine merchant sauce OR Morel’s chef salad (ham, blue cheese, and pan-fried chicken on lettuce) OR cream of tomato soup
  • Fricandeau of beef served with hot cherry and mashed potatoes OR beef tenderloin Stroganoff OR red snapper Provençale style served with vegetables and mashed potatoes
  • daily dessert

See most of the dishes in the pictures. I went for “poached eggs with wine merchant sauce”, so good I ordered it for a take-away!. And then the “beef tenderloin Stroganoff”, super tasty.
As I always say, any complaint contact me immediately so we can check it. After the lunch, no more complaints …
The following lunch is planned for Friday 5 April 2024.

Chinese New Year celebrations

Empty Beijing

I wrote earlier about the Beijing atmosphere in the runup to CNY, “Beijing is ready for Spring Festival”. Here how I spent my Chinese New Year celebrations.
Streets empty with the sidewalks filled with lovely fake leaves. With all my friends gone to their “laojia” (hometown) and my Chinese family not having the usual Julong dinner, I was left to my own.

Groovy Schiller’s was however open as always with John taking good care of us. I had my chili con carne and a nice beer, and I was not disappointed. Then back home for CCTV.

The (in)famous Spring Festival CCTV Gala

Every year I watch the Gala on CCTV, said to be the most watched program in the world and a main component of Chinese New Year celebrations. For a foreigner who is not fluent in Chinese it is a bit of a self-inflicted pain to watch the 4 to 5 hour show, from 8 pm, to nearly 1 am. It gives a picture of the present state of mind in China. Overall it must show happiness, satisfaction with everything and how great China is. No hint of unhappiness is allowed.
So, my take is biased due to my poor Chinese.

Too many comedy skits. Too much overload, kitsch, dizzying effects, every inch of the screen has to be filled with gimmicks and heavy colors and stuff moving around. As far as I could see no foreign face at all, in the audience and performers, contrary to other years.
For the feedback of Chinese watching the show; see below. How do they evaluate the quality and content of the gala? China for the Chinese. But in Brussels it is allowed and popular to have CNY events, unlike in China where Christmas is “not welcome as it is not Chinese”.

I wonder how much the whole show cost. All the preparation and all the shooting of videos, I feel pity for all those who had to go through many hours of shooting for just a few seconds of footage shown.
After midnight some foreigners singing some weird French songs. Not impressed. Actually the after midnight show was better than the gala in my eyes.

Sample of Internet comments

Howard Zhang (LinkedIn)(Journalist, China Pundit)
This is a rather negative view:

Chinese Central Television (CCTV) 2024 Lunar New Year Gala – a yearly propaganda show normally features cheesy comedies, patriotic choirs and Pekin operas, this year featured a North Korean style “show of force” – soldiers in full combat gear marching on stage with marshal music blaring, while background screen displayed missile launching and fighters taking off from aircraft carriers for attack sorties.
Called “Decisive Victory”, the show is a marked departure from normal years and is obviously OTT (over the top) considering Lunar New Year is a time of family gathering and merry making.
This oddity can only be interpreted as a not so subtle message that Xi and his propaganda team want to send to the outside world. Dogged by a failing economy and bubbling discontent at home – even in the upper echelon of society, Xi is standing his ground and ready for battle – to achieve a “decisive victory”.

Spring Festival Gala Review by Chinese Doom Scroll
“It actually wasn’t that bad!”
Excerpts from a guest post by the excellent substack Chinese Doom Scroll.
Open the link for a detailed overview of the Gala.

“Every year, CCTV produces a Spring Festival Gala show. Originally, I was pretty pessimistic, since the last couple of years have been pretty…disappointing, to be honest. But scrolling around on weibo today, I found a lot of people saying that this year’s show is really good—at least, the best one we’ve had in the last five years.…
“I do have to say though, I did, in fact, enjoy this year’s Spring Festival Gala. There was propaganda, of course, but it wasn’t as thick and concentrated and nonstop as, say, the 2021 Spring Festival Gala. And there were genuinely a lot of high-quality, impressive performances. And I really love this trend of having lots of music and rap performed in local Chinese dialects. I’m a total slut for obscure dialects, I hope this trend continues.”

Finally friends to meet

I had a nice dinner in QMEX (Sanlitun) with a Chinese friend on 10 February and then on 11 February an unplanned get together with Belgian friends, again in Groovy Schiller’s. An evening of beer and wine, the place was fully packed.

Yeah Susan was busy creating romantic pics… see one sample here!

Old China Hands lunch 2 February 2024

Nice turnout

The Old China Hands lunch 2 February 2024 fell on one of those in-between dates, as many people started traveling again for pleasure or business. But we scored 32 attendants, better than expected!

As usual a crowd eager to chat and taste the excellent food from Morel’s Restaurant. The restaurant again scored high in Beijing, see the two accolades they received. The CHAO sign is given to only very few Westerns restaurants.

The next lunch is planned for Friday 1 March.

If you see the Dragon, say HI, he is my friend!

One OCH interviews other OCH

I already had mentioned David in the post “Old China Hands lunch 5 January”.
Oh well, he is again making noise! Jason Smith interviewed The Trains Guy aka David Feng on The Bridge Podcast to get his insights into the future of train tech in China.

As Elon Musk’s Hyperloop One shutters its operations, China is making Maglev and Hyperloop a reality.
Watch the Full One Hour Interview in the YouTube Link
and also on PlayerFM.
The interview with China Global TV Network. 51 minutes is also on CGTN.

Beijing is ready for Spring Festival

Mass migration

Beijing is ready for Spring Festival while the biggest world mass migration starts with Chinese people traveling to celebrate Chinese New Year with their families, or simply going on vacation.

I never leave Beijing during the “Golden Week” of October 1, May 1, Spring Festival (the holiday period for Chinese New Year). Railway stations and highways (certainly), and airports (sometimes) are plain chaos. Meanwhile Beijing is ready for Spring Festival for those clever people who stay and will enjoy a quiet city.

Fairs Open with Festive Shopping Experiences in Beijing

Shopping for festive goods at fairs is an essential part of this holiday. Beijing offers a variety of options, combining both modern and traditional fairs to explore.
Over 300 merchants at the Workers’ Stadium are offering a diverse array of products till 6 February. These include a wide range of traditional festive goods like bacon, dried fruits and nuts, as well as tea and even furniture. There are also specialties hailing from various regions across China, such as rice from Wuchang, oysters from Rushan, coconut powder from Hainan, beef jerky from Inner Mongolia, as well as exotic products like Russian chocolate, Ugandan coffee, Ghanaian cocoa butter, and Moldovan red wine.

Both my wife and I went exploring the market. I tasted the BBQ skewers at the stands outside of the covered market. My wife bought a full trolley of sausages, seaweed, and pressed donkey head (my daily breakfast).
Another famous fair is at the National Agricultural Exhibition Center, also until 6 February, I did not visit as I guess it is pretty similar.
The traditional “Beijing New Year Goods Fair” is a treasure trove of agricultural and other products, ranging from dried mushrooms from northeastern China to seafood delicacies from southern China, and from beef and mutton from Inner Mongolia to tonic products from Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan. And also nuts, snacks, sweets, pastries, tea, seafood, and more from various provinces and cities across China.

Festive decorations

Taikooli in Sanlitun is featuring Legoland and yes there is a Lego Dragon!

Our Worker’s Stadium Avenue has festive decoration including images of leaves projected on the sidewalks.

That is in the Chaoyang section, the Dongcheng section seems to have a smaller budget… and less lights…