One evening, on returning from my excursion up a mountain, back in December 2017, I decided to do something differently, and have my dinner outdoors at one of the roadside stalls of the place. It was my first experience of street food in Busan.
Roadside stalls with hygiene
Contrary to what you would expect in Thailand, for example, the Koreans do take hygiene at heart. So, vendors do use plastic gloves when handling food and all of their dishes are single-use.
Most of the dishes were simply some form of rice cannelloni as can be seen on the pictures. The sauce was pretty good and in the cold evening of Busan, it did provide a refreshing change from habitual food (although I must say I tried also some delicious kimchi).
Most people just eat standing.
Indeed, one of the lovely things about street food in Busan is also the atmosphere around. The night lights, the stands and the street’s setting combine to give it a homely atmosphere. Eating out should be done more for sharing in the atmosphere of locals. One local student helped to translate for me my order and was quite curious to know from where I was. Koreans have always been welcoming and helpful everywhere I went, and Busan was no exception to the rule.
Finally, if you prefer eating in a restaurant, there are many places where you can eat kimchi or a full set meal for a very reasonable price.
For once, I truly enjoyed “going local”. But then, Korea is a place where even foreigners are gladly welcomed to share the local life. Probably one of my best experiences traveling around Asia. Busan, itself, has a more “rough” feeling to it, but locals are quite friendly and nice.
After Korea, the next step was, obviously, Japan. And to go to Japan, I caught a Japan Airlines flight, which although I flew economy was pure refinement.
It all starts at a lounge
The best way to start a travel is doubtless in the business class lounge. Even though I was not flying business, Finnair’s gold level membership allowed me to use the lounge as well as my wife and child (it must be remarked that unlike other Oneworld airlines, Finnair does allow child guests for the lounge + one adult guest).
The lounge enabled us to await peacefully the time for the flight (we escaped to the huge queue for boarding by arriving early enough).
As the flight time was nearing we went to the gate. The first thing I noted was the pressing invitation by the Japan Airlines staff by loudspeakers to board quickly and to attach seat belts upon boarding. Nothing too unusual there… except that they invited you also to use the restroom before boarding! Attention to detail or maniac obsession with detail, a first sign of the Japanese spirit.
On the flights HKG to Haneda, Japan Airlines uses Boeings 777 the cabin of which has been redesigned to improve amenities and comfort.
Seat room and leg space was quite generous, video screen was the biggest I have seen since I started flying, and everything breathes refinement and comfort. I was flying one of the recently redesigned B777 of Japan Airlines, according to the “Sky Next” concept, with Recaro seats and wifi on board. The flight attendants too, were smiling and excessively polite.
Takeoff, was quite uneventful, except the delays upon takeoff because of the queue of planes… Afternoon can be quite busy with a number of flights taking off for Japan at the same time.
Several planes took off at the same time.
The fun part was probably seeing the very plane with which I flew to Korea taking off at the same time:
As to the takeoff itself, it was the occasion of shooting a nice video of the HKG airport.
Once in flight, the food service started. A very Japanese menu (with no options) serving rice with eggs and some meat. Presentation was impeccable.
The food was tasty too, which is not astonishing for an afficionado of Japanese food.
Little additional detail: they serve also miso soup in cardboard glasses, but as you can see, the tray is already crowded by then.
Besides the comfort of the seats with large legroom, the entertainment part was also quite agreeable with large screens and a selection of the most recent movies on the market. I tried their Kasparov chess game, but found it a bit wanting (maybe because it was not that difficult – yet I only managed a quick pat). Unfortunately, i was so tired that I dozed off in middle of the movie that followed.
Upon arrival in Japan, we experienced one of the smoothest landings ever (JAL pilots have a soft touch when landing, it would seem). And so, we were arrived in Japan, finally!
Upon arrival in Haneda, we opted for ease and chose to request the transfer service provided by Klook from Haneda. A bit pricey at 9,500 JPY, but easy, as the provider contacts you via Whatsapp and directs you to the driver. The drive was ok, even though the driver did not understand english but spoke only Japanese and Chinese.
After visiting the Dragon and Tiger pagoda, I caught a taxi, asking him to take me back to Ruifeng night market. Whether I pronounce badly or cannot catch the tones, the driver did not understand… In the end, he understood “MRT”. But then again, he did not drop me at the Arena MRT, he dropped me at another MRT station. I walked to the Arena area to get to my objective, which was the Ruifeng night market.
Two main markets in Kaohsiung
When it comes to food and to passing time, there are two main markets in Kaohsiung. Most tourists hit the Liuhe night market, which is more centrally known and truly geared towards attracting tourists. But Kaohsiung inhabitants go to another, place, namely Ruifeng night market. Food there is obviously, at another level than the more tourist-oriented fare of Liuhe. The difference is understood immediately when you arrive at Ruifeng.
When you enter the market, a diffuse stench pervades your nose. No worries, it is not gutters which are stinking, but the ever-present smell of the Taiwanese specialty, stinky tofu. Those who tried it talk about stinky tofu a bit like durian: hard to stomach outside, but delicious once eaten.
I was not that courageous so as to try the dish, but if you are interested, you might want to watch Andrew Zimmern trying it before going ahead with it. The program does a good job about explaining the experience very graphically!
Still, the stench of this food pervades the whole market, but it is discrete enough not to spoil your experience of eating less “risky” food.
Games for a fun time
The interesting cultural aspect of Ruifeng Night Market is that the locals love to play some silly games to pass the time, just before or after meal. As such, the market is also a family outing.
In photographic terms, it is an interesting place to get some atmosphere, provided you slip in close with a wide angle (pics were shot with a 20mm).
I toured all over the market, and in the end, not wanting to get my stomach too upset, I settled for a dish of udon. I must confess it tasted very good, but the seating was quite confined as you can see from this pic. The price was about 80 NT$, so still acceptable.
In the end, as can be seen from this visit to Ruifeng night market, this is a place to go to experience some of the real vibe of the Kaohsiung people. It is a place where mainly locals come (I didn’t see a single foreigner during my visit), but worth visiting if you are after authenticity and real taste.
I concluded my meal with drinking a “papaya milk” smoothie, before heading back to my hotel.
How to get there?
Getting there is quite easy. You must head to the Kaohsiung Arena MRT station. Take exit 1, and walk a couple hundred meters straight on Yucheng road, and you will find the market located just after a crossing. In the case you are still unsure, I added a map below, of course.