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.
One of the main sites upon arriving in the city of Busan, in Korea, is the Gwangandaegyo Bridge. Spanning 7.4 kms over the Busan bay, from Namcheon to Haeundae, it offers a gorgeous sight from the Gwangalli beach. Obviously, that was the first spot I hit upon arriving in Busan.
A bridge which looks its best at night
The bridge is illuminated at night, so it is no wonder that it looks its best then. Beyond the spectacular view on the bridge spanning across the bay, this bridge can also be seen from a mountain nearby, called the Hwangnyeongsan.
But on my first evening in Busan, I just went down to the Namcheon beach, as it was the more accessible area to shoot the bridge. That evening, I was lucky as the moon shone over the sea, giving the whole area a perfect flavor.
To the left, there are a number of buildings, offering an interesting contrast to the bridge, and further down the animated area (where I confess I did not go).
But the real best shot can be taken after a short hike up Hwangnyeongsan.
The view from the mountain
As mentioned, Hwangnyeongsan has the best views on the bridge and the bay.
The climb is steep, but the whole road is paved, so not much of a challenge.At a point, you will find a viewpoint platform. In winter, not a lot of people do this hike, so I had the whole place all to myself.
In the sunset and during the blue hour, Gwangandaegyo Bridge then becomes magical. Obviously, you must use a zoom to exclude all the trees in the way, but still, the general view of the bridge is quite impressive.
As the night sets in, the colors and the impression gets closer from what you you can see when you are on the Busan beach.
After this, I went back down, this time looking for some food.
How to get there?
There are two places where I shot the pictures in this post. The first one was near the MRT Geumnyeonsan, and involves walking down to the beach.
The second place is up on the mountain, but I could not retrace exactly the place; suffice it to say that at a point, after climbing Hwangnyeongsan, you will come across a viewpoint on Gwangandaegyo bridge, on the right of the road.
After having climbed suicide cliff barefoot and by night, I still had to more. That’s why, last Sunday, I decided to do a night barefoot hike on Kowloon Peak to catch the sunrise.
Starting off at 3 AM
Although I live very close to Kowloon Peak, arriving at the top on time still requires starting off early. I thus left my home at 3.30 in the morning. Being night time as since I was alone, I decided not to climb via the Suicide cliff, as it would have been too risky. I took the stairs on Fei Ngo Shan road. As I do now more or less regularly barefoot running, my cardio has improved. I managed to climb without making any pause. This being said, being barefoot also requires me to be slower and to watch where I set my feet. I had a headlamp as hiking by night requires you to see where you walk, all the more as you hike barefoot.
Upon arrival, it was still dark, although the first embers of dawn could be glimpsed. However, very annoyingly, the tip of the mountain was covered in clouds (and was quite windy too). Topping 500 meters, Kowloon Peak is often shrouded in clouds.
I then sheltered from the wind. As the daylight was slowly increasing, I attempted to shoot some pics of the city. Unfortunately, given the strong winds, my tripod was not so stable, so several shots were spoiled. I still managed to shoot some pics with my iphone on a moment where the clouds parted.
Later, towards 6 AM, as the dawn was breaking, and the sky started taking the “blue hour” color. Fortunately, the clouds and the fog also started dissipating.
The blue hour also manifested itself in this picture.
It must be said that the clouds kept covering the top of Kowloon Peak. This gave however a lovely feeling to the area, as Kowloon peak is one of the few places where you can be said to be “walking in the clouds”.
Drone view of Kowloon Peak
The winds at the top were quite strong, so I was not too adventurous when flying my Mavic Pro. I tried however to take some context pictures that would show the area and how it really feels.
For example, an iconic shot at the top of Kowloon peak is the helipad on the top. A “dronie” with the helipad helps to show the path down from the top of the mountain.
Kowloon peak also has very gorgeous view on Kowloon itself.
As the dawn advanced, the clouds started to clear up, but on the other ridges of Kowloon peak, it gave a lovely Chinese watercolor effect.
Normally, going down should be quicker than going up. That’s true but when barefoot, you have to be more careful, obviously. The danger is not so much about hurting your feet as of losing your balance. The technique I used is to land on my forefoot (similar to barefoot running) and being watchful when resting the remainder of my foot; indeed, landing on a pebble might be discomfortable (or even slightly painful), but with training, you take it in stride (your foot redistributes the weight differently). If you jump or land too heavily, there is a risk of losing balance (I had a rucksack and a tripod) and falling. That’s why, barefoot hiking should be done with as light gear as possible.
On the whole, the sunrise experience was perfect in the timing and the pleasure of hiking barefoot in the mountain, but a bit marred by the lack of sunrise. I only got to see some sun when going down.
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;
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!
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.
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.
It must be said that the flowers look magnificent and are a welcome decoration.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
During the day, “Love River” is charming enough, especially as flowers still adorned the river despite the closeness of winter.
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).
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.
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.
Obviously, the story would not be complete, if I did not share the picture I took on that bridge…
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.
I must say that while simple, their menu has some tasty bits, like this cheeseburger (beats Mc Donald’s by a hundred leagues).
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).
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 famous Sai Yeung Choi Street where performers show off karaoke performance and which is also known as Mongkok’s “karaoke street” came through as exploding the decibels. To counteract the noise level from the performers trying to outdo each other with louder volume, a shop decided to put a “noise barrier” on the street. City authorities have considered this “noise barrier” as a hindrance to public passage, but this triggered a debate on the noise on “karaoke street”. This youtube video might give you an idea of the atmosphere:
A traditional hot spot
To understand better this area, it should be known that Mongkok’s Sai Yeung Choi street featured prominently among the Mongkok Umbrella movement hot spots as well as during the infamous “fishball riots“. Today, while the calm has returned, it still is a very populous area. Young and older Hongkongese come to enjoy the karaoke and the atmosphere on week-ends and public holidays. Not to mention, it is the only place where the last few remnants of the Umbrella movement still hold a sit-in.
When fun becomes nuisance
The problem is that most karaoke performers come there to earn money. When money is involved, it is the guarantee things will run out of hand. And indeed, performers have started competing by raising the sound level of their installation.
Obviously, some people love the music and the fun like the ladies dancing to the tune of “Moon river” in the picture above. Other people (especially those who must live in the surroundings) tend to be bothered by the close proximity of those karaokes. In fact, they tend to literally almost walk on each other’s feet. To understand that better, watch my latest Periscope on that street:
Originally, that karaoke street was taking place every evening. As people complained of the sound pollution, they restricted it to week-ends and public holidays. If the sound pollution continues being a nuisance, it is highly possible this original cultural spot will be eliminated altogether.
For now, you may want to go and check it out yourself (Mongkok MTR, exit “D), look for “Sai Yeung Choi South Street”.
Tonight, there was a red moon on Hong Kong. As the moon crescent was well formed and the skies were somehow clearer, the moon could be clearly visible as it went down over the horizon. Sadly, as always where there is nice weather on Hong Kong, the sky still had some haze.
Why a red moon?
Well, it is important to mention that earlier during the evening, the moon was not red. It was white. It got that reddish tone, simply because as it got lower, the atmospheric pollution caused the bluish components of the light to be lost.
You can find an interesting explanation on the causes of that phenomenon on USCB Science Line.
On the technical side, the picture was shot at 200 mm, and I raised the iso slightly to 400, in order to keep a faster shutter speed (exposure is still 15 seconds here!), to try to keep the moon clear enough to be distinguishable.
The earth turns!
When you are doing astrophotography, an important part to bear in mind, and this is particularly true for the moon: the earth rotates!
It may not seem as much, but the rotation of the earth is sufficient to cause a blur during the 15 seconds exposure on this picture.
Astronomists generally use a gear that rotates slightly the camera to account for the earth’s rotation, but obviously, that’s not my specialty right now.
How to get the moon clearer?
You can opt to try shorter exposure times by opening the diaphragm and increasing the shutter speed to keep exposure as short as possible. Obviously, it gets tricky with you include darker elements such as a cityscape. In the end, as always, it ends up being a question of choices and compromise. I made the choice to keep the picture with as little grain as possible while reducing exposure time to try and minimize the effect of earth’s rotation.
Last Sunday, there was an exceptional alignment of the moon with Kowloon peak in Hong Kong. On that occasion, the moon passed just above the Kowloon peak. It was a slightly cloudy night, so, the combination of the moon and the clouds gave the sky a delicate pastel or watercolor tone.
Obviously, such pics are possible because I live just in front of the Kowloon peak, but they are also a factor of chance. It was upon seeing the moon from my window that I jumped to set my tripod and my camera.
A slight observation about technical aspects here: with the rotation of the earth, you cannot always keep very long poses when the moon is present in the frame. Anything above 30 seconds and it will have moved within the frame. Here, my focus was more on the sky, as clouds were passing by anyway, and I must say, not too unsatisfied of the end result.
Some technical elements to end:
Camera: Nikon D750; Lens: Nikkon, 80-200mm, f.2.8, 25 seconds exposure, f.8.0 aperture. Exposure was corrected for tungsten light (the lamps on the tower on the right), hence the nice color of the sky.