Preserve Farmers Market!

Preserving traditional farmers market — represents an impossible dream as farms increasingly are being integrated by large agri-business players and the older generation of farmers/owners are aging and their sons and daughters have studied in universities to become professionals living in urban condominiums.  Yes, authentic farmers markets will be a disappearing sight; most in many places are being replaced with cheap goods fare from China peddled by migrant population or shifting hawkers.

However one must note that most discerning travellers and locals love the sight, sound and smell of the Sunday local farmers market.  The question is how to preserve them?  And what are the experiences around the world?  This post will examine this ( coming).

Examples of existing fresh produce markets:

1. Barcelona: Bouqueria market. An old market which has remake itself successfully; now awarded as  the best market in the world, awarded by the World Markets Congress held in 2005 in Washington DC.  A new addition in 2003 is the market’s Culinary Classroom, where children and adults are taught to cook, and different gastronomic events are organised every day.

2. Melbourne: Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne’s premier market for over 130 years. This 19th century landmark is a vibrant open-air undercover market, rich in history and enthralling market stories. The bustling market is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and an intrinsic part of Melbourne’s way of life.

3. Tokyo: Tsukiji Wholesale Fish market. Tokyo Central Wholesale Market handled 787,782 tons (2,888 tons a day) of marine products, 748 billion yen (2.8 billion yen a day) total in 1993. Some 450 kinds of fish are received; this figure is unparalleled in the world.   Tsukiji Market, handling 87% of the total amount marine products in Tokyo, is one of the biggest markets in the world.

More on The World’s Top 25 Markets.

National Geographic’s listing of Top 10 Markets

CNN’s Top Ten Listing of Wet Markets



Vice President at Bosideng, China’s largest down jackets Madam Gao observed,” Consumers are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a branded handbag, but the public expects food to be cheap. Everyone knows that the farmers are squeezed by middlemen, they get the least return for the most critial process of food production. It is hard to fathom the logics of this as food is the most important element that sustains a good life; not a branded bag!?

Indeed, developers, cities spent billions to build huge shopping malls for the trading of lifestyle goods that gives the “look and feel” of wellbeing; but food, and for that matter good and high quality food, to be distributed in the cleanest and highest standards are paramount to human life. Food also comes in an array of oolors, shapes, smell and texture; they themselves if presented appropriately and artistically, presents a visual fare.

It is time we give the same, if not more attention to the distribution and handling of food items; and authentic farmers markest are folklore  heritage and a community institution that should be preserved.

From Food to Cooking: The joy of cooking ( Coming)

From Facebook to Culinaria : Which is a true necessity? ( Coming)

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Temple Fair for self reliant community support

Annually for 9 days the JiuWangye temple in Ampang New Village is turned into a temple fair where young and old from near and far come and offer their prayers. This fair brings people together and raised fund to support local charities including a dialysis center, a school, old folks home and other community charity. This is an example of Malaysian Chinese self reliant way of keeping their culture and cumminty alive.

For the 2012 Fair, it is estimated that the Temple raised some RM1.2million from donations, leasing of stalls and spaces to various merchandise merchants and food stalls. The temple will apply these funds to support its various community charity.

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Xuzhou: Bring about a renaissance in Han Culture?

The northern Jiangsu city of Xuzhou, home to 9 million people located in a region of 100 million spread over the provinces of Jiangsu, Shangdong, Anhui and Henan is setting a new vision with renewed vigor. In a recent Tourism and Trade Promotion Fair this year, I had the opportunity to review a number of projects the city plans to review its position as the origin of Han Culture.

A large scale musical entitled, ” An Ode to Han Style” retold the stories of the glory and  of the founding emperor of the Han Dynasty and the tragedy of the losing general Xiang Yu. Xuzhou is the native place of Grand Han Emperor Liu Bang.

(More to follow)

Han Fu

The Chinese have always felt that they lack a truly Han national costume. The qibao which was popularly thought to be a Chinese dress is actually a foreign import; one that came with the Qi tribes from the north. There are attempts now to revive the costumes popular during the Han dynasty.

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How do you create an authentic culture hub?

Many cities try to build an area with a network of streets that offers cultural products that gives a higher appreciation of cultural life.  In China, the city government try to do this by building a whole new area with new shops and invite outsiders and foreigners with good taste to set up, hoping this new immigrant ladies and gentlemen will transform the style of the street of the region. Some amount of foreign element will add variety and interest, learning from  many examples around the world; it is important to bear in mind the following:

1, The primary market for this cultural street/streets are locals. Tourists are only attracted to these areas because it is already frequented by locals, and tourists like to see through the offerings of merchandize and activities; the kind of life and lifestyle the locals practised.

2. The offerings must be popular with a majority of young people, hence the operators must also be young people, showing off their skills and wares in a variety of interesting ways.

3. Food and Beverage, bars and cafes, at reasonable prices are key to success. There must also be some really authentic restaurants selling local ware or some really popular foreign offerings already popular with the locals, offering “comfort food” to make up the critical mass of business.

I have said that THERE IS NO NEED TO BUILD ARTIFICIAL THEME PARKS, just allow the cities to develop in its organic way; allow people to show off their ideas of a good life; that way it becomes an authentic organic theme park. In Theme Parks, activities and events need to be organized, but in real cities and towns, there is no need to organize these artificial events as the people live their lives, the many personal, family, community events and festivals made up the activities.

( In Culture Is Good Business, I predicted that the Disneyland in Hongkong will not do well as Hongkong already has a character of itself and does not need an infusion of foreign culture to help put it on the map; Hongkong is already on the map. The “artificial” culture brought by Disney is hard to sustain its spark and interests with local visitors ( and Hongkong only has a population of 7million).  Disneyland Hongkong did not take off as wished by the Hongkong government, attendance figures falling short of initial targets and th park’s performance has been sluggish.)Examples of culture hubs:

1. Korea: Insadong

2. Shanghai: Tianzifang. ( Tianzifang has a middle class and young people flavour versus nearby Xintindi’s luxurious upmarket feel. As both are new additions to Shanghai’s leisure landscape, it is interesting to watch they develop and how welll they do commercially. )

3. Istanbul: Grand Bazaar, a review on youtube

4. China:  Yangshou West Street, Kwangxi Province

5. China: Lijiang Old town Square Street, Yunnan Province,

6. Barcelona:  Montcada street area with the Picaso Museum in the center and the La Rambla.

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Malaysia: The Quitessential Malaysian Nasi Lemak

When your area or town offers a certain authentic and special cuisine, should effort be made to build a business model with central kitchen so one may have a chain of these food stores all over the world. I don’t however share this view.

Building a food chain no doubt will bring in a large revenue and creates a good business. But if a certain authentic cuisine is typical to a place, the value is not in just in the sale of the cuisine, but in its magic power to bring visitors and therefore multiple revenue streams to that place.

Village Park Restaurant is one typical restaurant that fall into this category. The Chinese Muslim couple working with some 20 staffs; mainly Malays sells the best Nasi Lemak, Malaysian coconut flavoured rice with sambal ( spiced gravy) and fried chicken. This restaurant ( actually only two shoplots but took out spaces on the corridor and the road in front); opens from 7am to 10pm, always doing roaring business. There is only one such restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, and all visitors who want to try this cuisine will have to make it to its location in Damansara.

Many of us know that food from a owner-run restaurant has a special appeal, it is personal; one can feel the care of the owner attending to various matters around the restaurant and making sure the helpers see to customers’ needs. For example, while we sit there, the owner couple were sitting in the next table working on the vouchers, and the lady boss saw a fly in the display case, she went over to make sure the fly was chased out at the first instance. This is the kind of care you won’t see in a commercial run restaurant chain.

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Presenting Pewter as an artistic experience


I dropped in the Visitors’ Center of  Royal Selangor Pewter in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur last Sunday (October 21 2012). I have heard about the make-over of the operation and how the new generation of managers are transforming the brand into a Lifestyle product, taking it from a purely souvenir and decorative item to a lifestyle or even fashionable good. I was impressed and delighted at the experience I had.

The new face of the brand is now represented by a stylish elegant welcome reception; leading up to a gallery that tells the story Pewter and how its various artistic pieces are made. Then the visitor is led through various stations showing how this handicraft is painstaking created by able craftsman. Besides the factory floor, there is the “Institute of Hard Knocks” where enthusiasts can pay a small fee in return for a lesson to try to make a small pewter piece. Then the visitor is led into the spacious well layout exhibition gallery; this gallery displays all the products,it is also a large sales area where visitors can pick up pieces they fancied. Besides the exhibition gallery is an elegant cafe that looks out to the garden.

View Gallery of photos of the Visitors Center additional photos from my ipad.

This is a good example of how a craft/manufactured product has increased its “cultural” and design component in its overall presenatation.  Many crafts and artistic heritage such as Chinese silk, embroidery, ceramics and porcelain, bronzeware etc, those rich collection of wonderful crafts from China and other East Asian countries can rethink their presentation and business model. 

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Wuxi’s Buddhist Theme Park – Lingshan Buddha Statue

In a day visit to Wuxi in early Sept 2012, Local leaders told me that the Lingshan Buddha Theme Park is among the two most important events that took place in China in 1997, the other event being the return of Hongkong to the motherland. Spread over 600 over acres, with a 88 meter Buddha Statue on the top of the hill, weighing 700 tons, there Brahma Palace recreated the opulent palace the Prince Sakyamuni lived before he reached enlightenment.

When walking through the park, one must remember that this is meant to be a Tourist theme park on Buddhism, not a Buddhist temple park where the focus is on the religion. The Multi media show tells the story of  the Prince confronting the many issues of life; death, suffering and how he achieved enlightenment.

My photo collection taken at the site The official website

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