Victoria park on Chinese New Year eve

Yesterday night was Chinese New Year eve. It is a tradition for honkongers to go to Victoria park on Chinese New Year eve. Mainly because of the local flower and plushes market taking place there. Chinese New Year eve is the last day of the market, so vendors are hard pressed to sell their goods as soon as possible to avoid having to throw or to give them for free after midnight, when the market closes.

Learning business “on the job”

Victoria Park is also the setting of a real life “business school” for high school students. In fact, many students use the CNY market as an occasion to learn the basics of doing business. From starting a business plan, to pricing, sourcing, setting price, marketing and then adapting to competition on the market;

High school student selling plushes
A high school student texts while selling plushes with her comrades in Victoria park

Highly valuable, the experience sees the teenagers throwing themselves into the fray, rivaling with ideas to attract customers. Some even tried the idea of hanging plushes with sticks above the heads of the crowd!

Victoria park hanging plushes above the head
Students try to attract customers by hanging plushes above their heads

The Flower market

The other big attraction of the Victoria Park CNY market is, of course, the flower market. Replete with mandarin trees and various other plants or flowers, it is an occasion for Hongkongers to come and find cheap flowers to decorate their house.

On Chinese New Year eve, you can literally see “live” vendors discounting their wares as the hour advances.

Discounted plants
A merchant holds signs to attract customers for his discounted plants

As the hour advances and it gets closer to midnight, customers also hurry to get their shopping done. After midnight, the vendors must throw or donate their flowers, as they cannot be sold anymore.

Buying flowers on CNY eve
A mother and her daughter are buying flowers at a stall in Victoria Park on Chinese New Year eve

It must be said that the flowers look magnificent and are a welcome decoration.

Flowers on sale
Flowers on sale as hongkongers pass by.

Finally, if you are not there to buy flowers, then maybe you just go there to take pictures and selfies. It is a bit what these three pretty girls were doing in Victoria park, with their smartphones.

3 pretty girsl on CNY eve
Three pretty girls stroll into Victoria Park on Chinese New Year eve

In conclusion, although it was quite crowded, going to Victoria Park on Chinese New Year eve is an experience to try! You can also read about my similar experience with Chinese New Year in Bangkok, here.

Ueno Park in Tokyo: from blooming Sakura to red maple leaves

On day three of my stay in Japan, I headed to Ueno park. To be completely honest, I had been there the day before, where I managed to shoot already some pics. The main highlight of the day was finding a cherry tree starting to bloom in the middle of December. The whole Ueno park offers a study in contrast ranging from blooming sakura to red maple leaves.

Climatic change?

The habitual season for cherry blossoms is around April to May. Here, we are at the beginning of winter and seeing cherry blossoms flower in December is pretty unusual to say the least. It must be also said that winter has been pretty mild so far in Tokyo. It should also be pointed out that sakuras are forecasted to be blooming as early as 15th of January in Okinawa, for example.

At any rate, the sakuras attracted a lot of tourists who were visiting Ueno park. Some were respectful, others pulling down the branches to make sure they were in the picture with them.

Photographically, shooting sakuras in front of a local shrine was the perfect way to suggest Japan and all its loveliness.

Sakuras blooming in Ueno park.
The blooming sakuras in front of a shrine in Ueno park

Contrast with Autumn colors

The real interest of seeing sakuras blooming was when you contrasted that to the fiery red maple leaves seen further in the Ueno zoo park.

If you are a photographer who is not living in a tropical country, then you know that the razing winter sun provides light of an exceptional quality and this is true again in this case. The razing light showcase the delicate texture of the leaves in this picture.

At the same time, Japan is unique in providing you both the colors of autumn and the loveliness of spring. Where else can you have blooming flowers by the side of autumn leaves?

Spring and Autumn contrast
Contrast between blooming flowers and autumn leaves in the sunset

Winter light is ideal for portraits

At the same time, winter light is perfect for portraits, as the light is soft and gives a special glow on faces. Using shadows, I managed to take an interesting portrait of my daughter among the toris of Ueno Park.

Maria-Sophia in winter light among toris
I shot Maria-Sophia among the Tori in Ueno park using the delicate winter light to shine on her face

Further, on the way to Ueno zoo, you can find lovely stone gates which offer an interesting pattern shot.

Stone gates in Ueno park
Stone gates in Ueno park

Ueno park: a place to visit in Tokyo

Tokyo has many parks, but Ueno park has the peculiarity of presenting both, the traditional Japanese characters with a local shrine and some lovely and interesting contrasts in seasonal pictures.

Do not miss the local shrine either! Called Kaneji, it is interesting for the lovely sunset light in the evening.

Kaneji temple in sunset
Kaneji temple in sunset

The most interesting part is probably their selling lucky charms with a “hello kitty”.

HK charms
Interesting charm for safe delivery with a Hello Kitty…

In short, Ueno park is a lovely subject for pictures. If you are in Tokyo, don’t miss visiting it!

How to get there?

Of course, the answer depends from where you are. But the safe bet is to get down at Ueno metro station which you can reach with either the Hibiya or the Ginza lines.

Encountering Taiwanese photographers near “Love River”

After I finished my barefoot hike in Shoushan national park, I went back to the hotel, refreshed myself and then, went right back out! In fact, the goal was to visit a place I had seen while returning on bike back to Aozhidi MTR station: the Love River. And that’s where I encountered two young Taiwanese photographers. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Biking along “Love River”

A real iconic feature of Kaohsiung, the “Love River” is a place where couples come for a lovely evening stroll, and despite the river being very polluted, it is a beautiful setting.

Love river
Love river, its dilapidated buildings and its flower-covered banks.

While the motionless river (actually, a canal) may seem romantic, it is however also the sign of a lack of life. There is no fish hopping in the water or the habitual signs of aquatic life. This can be explained by the fact that, for a long time, industrial waste from Kaohsiung was thrown back into this canal.

Today, efforts are being made to cleanse the canal, but it will still take some time…

Love river's banks
The banks of love river in Kaohsiung are an ideal place for strolling or riding a bicycle

During the day, “Love River” is charming enough, especially as flowers still adorned the river despite the closeness of winter.

Beautiful view of love river
The beautiful view on Love river

Coming back at night

Obviously, for a romantic place, the best moment is at night, but I came a bit late, towards 9 PM. There was none of the animation supposed to be (like boat rides, etc). Love river signage

The sign of love river reflecting in the still water are a must shoot!

However, couples were still out strolling on this bridge and with some reason: this place is a very romantic place to come and walk together with your beloved.

Couple on overpass of Love River
A couple takes a stroll on the overpass of Love River in Kaohsiung

 

Later, I moved on the overpass over the road and that is where I met two other Taiwanese photographers, Paul and Jimmy, who were shooting the passing cars in the city. We took some pics, talked (gear, of course!). We then exchanged our respective instagrams and finally, took a common selfie with my camera and the remote.

Photographers selfie
Our selfie with Paul and Jimmy

Night Photography

Obviously, the story would not be complete, if I did not share the picture I took on that bridge…

Kaohsiung by night
The view from the overpass over Kaohsiung by night. Large roads!

While “Love River” is an interesting place for photography, there are not many shops or restaurants around past a certain hour, and by the time we were done with photography, it was already nearing midnight. I had a meal quite late that day, I carried out my barefoot hike, without eating.

I hence took leave from my new friends and while walking towards the MRT station, I found out “The Plus”, a homely little restaurant mainly frequented by bikers at that late hour.

The plus restaurant
A view of the inside of “The Plus”.

I must say that while simple, their menu has some tasty bits, like this cheeseburger (beats Mc Donald’s by a hundred leagues).

A local cheeseburger
A (very) late dinner.

Going back: a bicycle adventure

Obviously, by the time I had finished my dinner, it was too late, as the last MRT had already passed. I then walked from Houyi MRT station to Central Railway station… It was however impossible to use a bicycle to ride through the construction site cutting the direct road to the hotel (Sunduo).

I hired a city bike and started a long ride to the hotel, which took all of one hour. In fact, I had to take several turns to finally join the main road. Despite being tired from the day’s hike, this was quite a pleasant ride. In fact, Kaohsiung has a lot of biking lanes and drivers are considerate, and the temperature was just temperate. Furthermore, the main avenues reserve the right lane for scooters and bicycles, so all in all, even at 1 AM, it is still safe.

I saw quite a number of “spas” and night entertainment places on my way, but mostly at provincial level, so nothing sleazy outside, thankfully. Before a gaming place, I spotted this little LINE car. This proves that LINE has penetrated much more in Taiwan (one of its biggest markets – the app is blocked in mainland China).

Line car
A card decorated with cute line stickers parked outside a gaming arcade in Kaohsiung.

I finally got to the hotel at 1 AM and went immediately to sleep in preparation for another day of exploring in Kaohsiung.

Despite being tired, that first day in Kaohsiung had been more than promising! The next day, I was going to visit the “art pier”

 

The Lost Markets of Bangkok (2/2): Pak Khlong Talad

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Ah, Pak Khlong Talad! This flower market was an island of poetry in Bangkok. Especially around Valentine’s day, it was a hub of beauty and of happiness.

Flowers, activity and friendliness

A bustling flower market, most active at night time, Pak Khlong Talad was a favorite destination for tourists. With its colorful flowers and its welcoming vendors, it was one of the most charming aspects of the Thai capital.

Best stall in Pak Khlong Talad
One of the best and most colorful stalls of the market.

The vendors themselves, as they sold mostly to Thais, had no incentive whatsoever to cheat or scam tourists. On the contrary, they certainly appreciated the interest of the few Westerners who took the trouble of coming and witnessing this typical market.

Rose vendor
A beautiful rose vendor talks animatedly at her stall in Pak Khlong Talad

The end of Pak Khlong Talad

In 2016, once again under the impulse of the Thai junta Pak Khlong Talad was shut down. In a matter of weeks, and despite the protests of the merchants, the market was shut down.

This, despite the fact that cleanliness was not really an issue compared to other roadside food markets. Vendors had expanded onto the street, but that made for a lively, colorful and beautiful market.

Yet, the Junta and the Bangkok Municipal Administration were relentless in their drive to push out the vendors of Pak Khlong Talad. Some late protests took place by unhappy vendors, but eventually, they all had to close their stalls and move away, either to neighboring buildings, or to other areas of Bangkok. As a result, what was left behind was a large dark and empty street.

Dark and empty street
The same street after the eviction of Pak Khlong Talad.