Connecting Captains Capturing Contemporaries Beijing 捕捉现代典雅掠影北京

When I first stepped foot in Beijing 20 years ago, it was a big city with a perfect blue sky and most of its inhabitants did not know how to drive. Traffic was pleasant with the exception of thousands of bicycles either on roads or parked like sardines in open spaces near offices or metro stations.

I still remember my customer then Mr. Jia Wujun (贾武军) who had come to pick me up from the airport. While it was a perfectly normal day for me, it was his first day behind the wheels. He was as stiff as a stick as he handled the steering wheel with full concentration moving at the speed of a snail. He and his five brothers were farmers before but decided to take a leap of faith to dabble in a small seafood business when China opened its doors to the international market.

20年前踏上北京时,那还是个拥有完美蓝天的大城市,而人民对于开车显得相对陌生。路上交通非常顺畅,除了成千上万的单车在道路上或密集停泊在办公室与地铁站附近。

当时我的客户贾武军前来机场接我,对我来说这是平常的日子,但却是他第一天开着汽车,身躯挺直僵硬得像根棍子,全神贯注操作着方向盘,以蜗牛速度移动。他和5名兄弟在这之前都是农民,但在中国开放进入国际市场的时候,信念飞跃,决定参与小型海产品业务。

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Mr. Jia Wujun (left), Ch’ng Huck Theng (right)

Today, Jia is one of the leading seafood importers in China who owns a factory in Thailand importing big volumes from all over the world in order to satisfy huge local demands. Not remotely a surprise, considering his connection with Thailand, he took me to one of the three Thai restaurants he now proudly owns. Thai Mei (泰美) is a new venture that serves authentic yet not-too-spicy Thai cuisine.

The Chinese have become a lot more well-off although the capital of China today is choke up with traffic jams and hazardous environment where sometimes one will find it difficult to see and breathe. If one would prefer to spend some quality time with fresh air and a ‘peace’ of mind, then award winning hotel Sunrise Kempinski Beijing where I was invited to speak in the China’s Business Family Heritage Forum 2016 (2016中国家族企业传承) would definitely be a good choice to stay. Although the Chinese wealth is exploding and with the expectation of its second generation to continue this fairy tale, many families are facing issues of successions as children inheriting the family business face difficulties in differing cultural upbringing and being raised in a total comfort and well-protected environment. The forum’s primary focus was to bring together foreign companies that have succeeded in passing the baton through generations; to share researches done by local academics; and to explore the success stories of Chinese companies that have performed well in both domestic and international platforms.

如今,作为中国领先的海产进口商之一,他在泰国拥有一家工厂,从世界各地进口产品以应对大量需求,因他与泰国间拥有的商业关系,因此他领我去参观其拥有的3家泰国餐馆之一泰美(Thai Mei)时,我并不感到意外。这是家全新餐厅,提供口味正宗却没那么辣的泰餐。

纵然首都北京面临严峻交通拥堵和雾霾环境问题,如果随着生活趋向富裕的中国人愿意花费一些时间享受新鲜空气和沉静氛围,那么获奖酒店-北京日出东方凯宾斯基酒店是不俗的住宿选择。我在受邀出席2016中国家族企业传承论坛会议担任主讲者期间曾入住该酒店。中国的财富处于爆发阶段,也期待第二代可以坚守家业,但许多家庭依旧有着不同的继承问题,因为家族企业新一代在迥异文化教育和处于舒适良好保护环境,面临竞争困境。论坛主要是聚集成功进行世代更迭的外国企业;还有地方学者分享研究,并且探索国内与国际平台上表现亮眼的中国企业之成功案例。

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Hotel Sunrice Kempinski Beijing

Although distantly located away from the city, the hotel offers a near perfect environment for those who wanted to be free from noise and air pollution as described by hotel manager Sebastian Thomas. Its interior has an impressive architectural design served with immaculate facilities especially the fitness centre and the hotel pool. The breakfast menu provides a delicious spread of choice ranging from the East to the West. The hot Chinese soup noodles and healthy yogurt were simply my choice to start the day. One should also try the signature in-house grilled fish and the braised sea cucumber with rice (小米煮辽参) in the Magnolia Chinese restaurant. The double-boiled hasma in papaya (木瓜炖雪蛤) dessert would be an excellent choice to call it a day. The welcoming dessert presentation in my room, I must say, was the best I have seen so far.

酒店虽然远离城区,但不具噪音和空气污染,犹如酒店经理Sebastian Thomas描述-已接近完美,有令人留下印象深刻的建筑设计与完善的设施,尤其是健身中心和泳池。早饭菜单中西餐点兼具,而温热中式汤面和健康酸奶是我开始新一天的选择,还有兰香阁中餐厅著名的烤鱼和特色菜“小米煮辽参”,接着来一碗甜点“木瓜炖雪蛤”更是令人心满意足。至于送到房间的迎宾甜点,对我来说是至今最好的美食体验。

Beijing is a big city conveniently connected by its subway system taking away most travellers’ nightmare of being stuck in traffic. Walking around Wangfujing, this famous shopping area no longer gave me the feeling of old China that it once used to be, but rather disappointingly modern Western brand outlets now occupy the traditional Chinese buildings. Perhaps one of the most interesting scenes for tourists is the street food where exotic creatures such as live scorpions, sea horses, centipedes and worms are offered as snacks to those with strong stomachs. There is also another pedestrian shopping area in close proximity to Tiananmen Square: Beijing Qianmen Street located directly behind Zhenyangmen offers visitors a glimpse of buildings from the late Qing dynasty. Although the main street is filled with typical big brands one could find in any city, restaurants located at the side lanes provide an interesting selection of, said to be, old, traditional and authentic Chinese food.

身为首都大城市,北京交通方便且有完善的地铁系统,使大部分游客免除困在道路交通的恶梦。走入王府井,这个著名购物区浓浓的怀旧感已消失,取而代之的是现代西方名牌占据了传统的中国建筑物,让人有点失望。或许对于游客来说,比较有趣的场景是街头小食包括 : 活蝎子,海马,蜈蚣和虫子等猎奇小吃。至于天安门广场附近的另外一个购物区:正阳门后的北京前门大街景区,也有许多清朝末期的建筑物。主街道充斥着一般餐饮大品牌,但侧边小巷的小餐馆倒是有着传统与老式的中餐。

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Beijing Qianmen Street
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Mary Goh (left)

Mary Goh, manager of the hotel and also a Singaporean, is not only capable but also full of experience from spending most of her adult life in the hospitality industry in China. When we met for lunch, I must admit that I was a little sceptical when the restaurant served us Peking duck especially after tasting the Signature Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant (全聚德)the night before. However I was pleased to congratulate Mary that the roast duck served at her restaurant was nothing but exceptional. The duck meat was not fatty and the crispy skin was simply delicious especially when the meat is wrapped with freshly made soft pancakes. Another interesting dish immaculately presented and nicely cooked was their God Mother’s Traditional Fried Rice (老干妈炒饭).

北京新侨诺富特酒店的蓬莱阁中餐厅以北京烤鸭而闻名。酒店经理Mary Goh是新加坡人,但她已经在中国酒店业中度过大部分生活时光。午饭的聚餐,当酒店餐厅奉上名菜北京烤鸭时,我是有点质疑的,特别是前一晚品尝过不负盛名的全聚德餐馆之后。可是,尝过才发现这个烤鸭肉无丝毫油腻脂肪,酥脆外皮是纯粹的美味,特别是鸭肉还裹上新鲜软薄煎饼。另一道有趣的主食是现在享誉国外的老干妈辣酱炮制的“老干妈炒饭”,香喷喷的嗅觉诱惑。

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Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant

Although the Temple of Confucius located on Guozijian Street may not be as popular as the other sites such as the Imperial Palace, nonetheless, it is a well preserved heritage site that pays tribute to the greatest scholar and philosopher of China – Confucius. It is interesting to know a little more on how Confucius influenced the world through his teachings and are still very much respected to this very day. Furthermore, one can just walk over to the Beijing Imperial Academy located next to the temple where some of the top officials were educated in the olden days. Wu Dao Ying Hu Tong (五道营胡同) nearby, typically known for its small lane is popular for its interesting curio and coffee shops.

国子监街的孔庙可能不如其他宏大遗迹如故宫,但依旧是保存完好的文化遗产。这也是致敬中国最伟大的学者和哲学家孔子,而孔子的思想和教学对世界的影响相当深远,至今仍然受到各方崇敬。此外,我们可以移步到寺庙旁的北京翰林院。那里曾经是带有浓厚学术色彩的文学教育官署;而旁侧的五道营胡同,因趣致的古玩店和特色咖啡馆都集中在小巷胡同而受到欢迎。

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Temple of Confucius
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Wu Dao Ying Hu Tong

Within walking distance is the newly built Overseas Chinese History Museum of China. It is a museum dedicated to collecting and showcasing the history and current status of Chinese immigrants. The museum provides important information about the Chinese people who are scattered all over the world contributing to the politics and economies in countries where they now live in.

步行到下个景点-中国华侨历史博物馆,这家博物馆致力于收集和展示中国移民的历史和目前地位。馆内提供了散落在世界各地华人信息和重要记载,体现他们在目前生活的国家政治和经济领域方面所做的贡献。

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Overseas Chinese History Museum of China

Hunting for antiques in China used to be an exciting affair. Nowadays, genuine Chinese antique pieces are scarce and predominantly either too common or new reproductions that are purposely made to look old. Beijing Curio City (北京古玩城), covering an area of 5.8 acres, is Asia’s largest antique trading centre and also probably the best place to venture if you are looking to add to your antique collection. Within walking distance is the famous Panjiayuan Antique Market where most sellers display items for sale on the ground. A typical Chinese visitor will not only have certain knowledge of what he/she is buying but also exceptional skills in bargaining. Nevertheless, this is an interesting place to be where one will find life-sized Buddha, porcelain, books, paintings, stones, jade and many more. Don’t be anxious or stressed if you’ve bought pieces that are not within the period claimed by the sellers. One must remember the saying of ‘Good things do not come cheap!’

The 798 Art District would be a perfect choice if one wishes to dab in modern and contemporary creations and innovations. Formerly an industrial site that housed many state-owned factories, this area was eventually converted into a place for artists and cultural organisations in 2002. Today, 798 is a holy place for art and cultural lovers where museums, art galleries, cultural centres, themed cafes and boutique restaurants are housed under one single roof.

Beijing is a large city with limitless attractions. While its biggest attraction such as the Great Wall and the Imperial Palace remain the stars of the city, there is a sense that the original attitude, experience and culture of the Chinese people are gradually diminishing. Hopefully it will not end up as a Chinese body with Western souls.

在中国寻找古董或古玩曾是令人感觉激奋不已的事,但现今真正有价值中国古董作品却是稀缺的,主要是太常见,还有许多蓄意做旧的赝品。而占地5.8英亩的北京古玩城,为亚洲最大型的古玩艺术品交易中心,也是最佳的冒险乐园,走走看看。有名的潘家园古董市场就在不远处,大多数贩商在地面上展示出售的物品,精明典型的中国游客不仅需要具备一定的知识,购买时还要有讨价还价的特殊技能。然而,相当有趣的地方,在那里会找到许多大大小小的佛像、瓷器、书画,石头,玉器和更多小玩意。还有千万别被贩商干扰心思而焦虑,必须谨记“便宜没好货”的说法。

如果想要感受当代创作和创新思维,798艺术区将是一个完美的选择。前身是工业区域,安置了许多国营工厂,但在2002年被改头换面作为艺术家和文化组织的基地。今天,798成为艺术和文化爱好者的圣地,有着多姿多彩的博物馆、艺术画廊、文化中心,主题咖啡馆和精品餐厅皆在一个屋檐下。

北京是可发掘无限景点的大城市,虽然最大的吸引力还是万里长城和故宫这些明星景点,但中国人原生的态度,经验和文化正逐渐减弱,希望最终不会内里尽是西式灵魂,残留中式驱壳。

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