The last full day of the trip was somewhat low key really. We’d already seen quite a lot of things, it was also raining which didn’t help. I decided we need to see some culture though, so headed for the tourist information. After a little prompting they let us know about some performances taking place at a theatre that evening, so that was the evening sorted out.
Jayoung was now interested in finding an antique market, I think she had ideas of the markets we’d seen in Hong Kong. The lady couldn’t help with antiques, but told us about a Jade market. We headed for the Jade market and Jayoung twisted my arm into buying some more things. There were also more glass ball there, so I bought 2 more. I now have a ridicules glass ball collection in all honesty, but I have options for experimenting.
We headed back to the hostel for a while and then went for some food at shabu shabu, we bought a buffet ticket and then only had a few things. The food was good but overpriced. Then finally we headed to the theatre and got some tickets for the show. I thought they put on a good show. It was split between an acrobatics performance and then one scene from a traditional Chinese opera. I think for me the best bit was the interval though as this allowed me to get some good portrait photos of the performers, and we were allowed up close. Well that was a great trip to Taiwan, I’d love to go back someday and see the southern half of the island, the aboriginal culture, and the temples there.
The third day in Taiwan was a bit of a slow starter, owing to the fact we’d got back late from Juifen the night before. The day started in our favourite little award winning dumpling restaurant, the waitress showed us to “our” table….. ok they didn’t, but it was starting to feel like they expected us every day! After a nice breakfast it was off to see some culture in Taipei. We started off with a temple.
As it happened the temple we visited was quite busy with people because they were having a festival, so it was a nice time to go there. I’ve visited many temples where the majority of people were tourists, so it was nice for that trend to be reversed on this day. I must of course mention the underground shopping mall close to the temple, otherwise known as the crystal ball emporium! I got 2 more glass balls of differing sizes… I’d always wanted to play with more balls;-) The _____ temple was a nice size, and was set in a courtyard. As we walked into the temple many people were bowing and burning incense sticks, I never get bored of taking photos of people with incense. The debut of the new glass balls wasn’t long in coming either, a shot of a monk and a photo with 3 balls lined up together…. 2 photos I wanted to get for this series, so check.
The next place to see was liberty square, a huge area with some great buildings. I’m not sure Jayoung was digging the architecture too much here, but we both liked the tiled pavement. It was getting a little later in the day by this stage, and the lovely golden light from the sun was bathing the buildings I wanted to photograph. The clouds were also gathering and for a brief moment there was a rainbow. Now storm clouds, architecture and a nice pavement are just made for HDR, so that’s just the shot I took. I guess the photos look a little like postcards. After taking a photo of the national theatre building, and one of the CKS monument we walked to the subway station. Outside the subway station was the subway restaurant, I had a total subway craving at this point so we had our evening meal there. There isn’t a subway in the town were I live in Korea, so this was like having “foreign food”, ok that’s a cop out and we should have tried a little more of the local flavour.
After the meal we jumped onto a train and headed to an area where there was a night market. Once we got there though we realised that the rain was coming down heavily, so the night market was kicked into touch and we headed back home. I wasn’t quite done with the night markets though, and when we got back to the hostel I headed out for a few minutes with my 2 crystal balls. Puddles are great for reflections with the balls, and as it had been raining there were many… it wasn’t raining as heavily now though so I lined up the balls in a puddle, got my knees dirty, and got a few curious looks from the locals.
The second day on Taiwan was spent a few hours outside of Taipei in the town of Juifen. I wish I’d had longer to explore Juifen, we could have done with 2 days there really.
The day started off with a trip to the bus station, where we met a couple who where on there honeymoon. They were headed to Juifen as well, so I chatted with them a little on the bus, when I told them I didn’t have a map they kindly let me have theirs as they’d been to Juifen before and new their way around. As it turned out later in the day I was most thankful for their kindness. The reason for this little excursion out of the city was I wanted to get a night time photo of a long and winding mountain road, well more of that later.
Juifen as it turned out was a charming little town, and probably made for the best day of the trip. After 1 ½ hours by bus we arrived in town, and got dropped off close to the main market street. This was heaven for Jayoung, and danger at every corner for me! The street was thronging with people oweing to the fact it was a public holiday in Taiwan, I don’t really do crowds but hey ho. We both preferred the shops on this street far more than the night market the previous evening and it was long before Taiwanese dollar was being spent, to my considerable glee Jayoung spotted a glass ball in one of the shops so I bought that as my other one had a few too many scratches. We walked the length of the street and rather tired from the heat it was decided a nice cup of green tea was what the doctor ordered. A rather expensive cup of green tea as it would happen, costing twice as much as our meal in that award winning dim-sum restaurant! Well the tea was good, and we got to keep the tea leaves we didn’t use.
The market negotiated, my wallet that much lighter, it was time to take a look at some temples, scenery and mountain roads. As we walked up the hill we passed the traffic that was gridlocked along the road. Jayoung was probably struggling a little as the road was going up the hill, but we found the temple which was being bathed in the evening sunshine. The temple was nice, but perhaps the view you could see from there was even nice. The blue mist in the hills reminded me of Korea, and in particular a similar scene I’d once seen at Seoraksan. The sun fading fast it was now time to looking for the winding mountain road, which I foolishly had not actually located at this point. This meant a mad scramble to find it in the fading light. Well a bus ride, some walking and an educated guess later and I was standing at the place. We arrived not a moment too soon as I saw a man climbing down off the mountain and I just knew it was the spot. A little closer inspection identified a rope, and I realised getting to the place where the photo should be taken would need a little mountaineering. I clung onto the rope and made my ascent, it was dark so I had to feel my way and I was most thankful for the rope, it probably made the difference between me getting to the spot or breaking bones and falling off the edge of a mountain. The viewpoint was a precipase on the side of the moutain, enough space to put up a tripod and that was it. I gingerly got everything in position and then waited for traffic. I soon realised this was going to be a looong exposure, about 2 minutes in fact. The road wasn’t so busy so it was a case of waiting for the traffic to come, I decided to wait for a bus as the slower movement would make for a nice light trail. I reckon about 30 minutes later I was on my way back down the mountain with my shot, and happy with a good days work.
There are times in Korea when things work out nicely, and this Chuseok my school finally made the sensible choice and gave everyone in the school the Friday off work, allowing a 6 day holiday! Huzzah champagne corks fly, and everyone is happy! Well 6 days in long enough to go abroad, so having missed out on a mini holiday with Jayoung during the summer because of a Typhoon that didn’t realise Jayoung had booked her holiday for the Monday and Tuesday, we took the chance to visit Taiwan. Well Typhoon Fanapi just cleared off in time for our arrival, so we got our flight to Taipei and found our way to the hostel. There we were greeted by a chirpy young women called Vanessa who showed us to our room, and then helped us plan our itinary a little. Vanessa had chosen to wear a pair of hot pants that more closely resembled a belt (the weather is hot in Taipei!) to which Jayoung wanted to know if I liked her choice of clothing. Jayoung always does this, actually I was a little surprised she didn’t mention the other girl there who was wearing a rather low cut top, and seemingly liked to lean down…. The minefield of having your girlfriend with you eh!
After settling into the hostel we had the rest of the afternoon to explore a little of Taipei. I’d chosen our hostel location fairly well, we were close to the 101 building so it was off to what was the tallest building in the world until those in Dubai got penis envy and decided to erect and even bigger phallus, you’ve got to love skyscrapers. Having got to the top, well the 87th floor, of the building the views from the top were quite magnificent. The view was made all the more dramatic by the way the sun was lighting the clouds in front of us sending rays of light down onto the city below. Next on our list of 101 building things to do was to hike up a nearby hill to get a decent view of the building, as opposed to a decent view from the building. Try explaining that to a Taxi driver when you can’t speak mandarin Chinese! Our trusty friend Vanessa came to our rescue though, and after a quick phone conversation between Vanessa and the taxi driver we were on our way. It’s quite a few steps to the viewpoint it must be said, and Jayoung just loooves those steps, added to that it was still pretty sticky and we were both soon sweating profusely. After a little time we made it to some rocks where several other photographer had set up, so up I scrambled to get my 101 photo.
The 101 building behind us we headed for a dumpling restaurant that Vanessa had pointed out to us on the way to where we were staying. These dumplings here were excellent, and by the end of the holiday we’d become part of the furniture of this restaurant. We ate dim sum every day, a little like my trip to Japan where I started to eat miso ramen at every available opportunity…. Well if the foods good why not, but I think we should have been a little more adventurous. Anyway on the wall of the restaurant was a picture of the chef holding a trophy for his masterly dim sums, well if it’s good enough to win prizes it’s good enough to eat every day! Finally we headed for the night market, and a chance for Jayoung to spend all my hard earned cash, this is a forte of hers. It was also a chance for me to get some street portraits and try a few other photos out. As it turned out the market was a little boring for finding nice cultural souvinirs, so I think I ended up happier than Jayoung having taken some photos in the market and had Jayoung model for me as well! So busy first day, and now it was time to go and rest our sleepy heads.
No not THAT second coming! I mean the second coming of my writing a blog in S.Korea, and other Asian countries I’ve so far visited. I’ve had almost 4 years now in the land of the morning calm. It’s almost 4 years ago that I got bundled into my first class out here in Korea feeling distinctly jet-lagged and rather hoping to be a shadow teacher for the day, actually the week. You see I’d really helped myself a lot on the jet lag front by going to my friends wedding in Spain (they’re not the sort to finish at last orders at 11pm!) and then the next day arriving back to Stansted airport where I had to “sleep” the night at the airport as my plane arrived later than the last train into central London. Anyway there I was stood in front of 3 students, of fairly high level ability for there age. I reckon that first week was passed easier due to Chuseok falling almost as soon as I arrived, though I think I waisted the holiday catching up on all that sleep I lost….I was soon into the swing of things in Korea, indeed I was swinging my leg in the rough direction of a punch bag having taken up Taekwando. I was also visiting Julliana’s quite often, an expat bar that also didn’t believe in last orders at 11pm, indeed the party didn’t start until 11, and usually went on till sunrise. That was life for me in the first 3 months or so out here. Taekwando 3 times a week, Korean class twice a week and Jullianas at the weekends. The people I was hanging out with back then were Gavin, Trevor, Janna, James, Haydar, Daragh, Kai, Andy and Susan…. well in fact there was a big crowd of people, and I could really make too long a list. It’s funny, but it’s never been quite the same as that first year.
Photography in Korea didn’t really get going until my first short holiday, I had a long weekend and so headed for GyeongJu. It was my first trip, and so brandishing a popular travel book I settled on a hostel called the Hanjin. I arrived and the owners son, who was Clint, helped plan my stay in Gyeongju. I had a great time, and after that traveled most weekends. I made trips to JeonJu, Busan, Seoul and probably quite a few other places. I think it was on a trip to Seoul that I ended up staying at Stay Korea, which has become a little bit of a second home for me in Seoul, there with a sunny smile to greet me is Sunny. If ever you need a place to stay in Seoul, stay there! May came along and my Mum visited me in Korea, this was the first time Mum had traveled without Dad I think. I know she had a great time, and saw many things in Korea. I couldn’t meet her at the airport sadly, but I booked stay Korea for he, so I knew she’d be in good hands. The rest of the year was good, I steadily worked towards my black belt in Taekwondo and took a trip to Hong Kong with Mary. Hong Kong was great, so great I made it the only place I’ve so far visited twice in Asia. At the end of that first year in Korea I changed jobs and worked for a public school called Maesan, with a visa run to Tokyo! Tokyo was amazing, and would be well deserving of a blog entry all on it’s own…. depending on whether I can remember the trip well enough!