South Korea – Andong, The End

Andong, South Korea. April 2017: As this visit to Andong draws to a close, here’s a few random sets of photos that didn’t fit within the blog ramblings previously.

A Very Old House: While on a local stomp I discovered this derelict old house. I’m no architectural expert but I’d say this is/was a traditional Korean style house and judging by the iron work on the front door, probably of some historic value.

 

Pensioner Power: Visitors to Korea will surely notice the gangs of pensioners that roam the streets during daylight hours! Here in Andong, from around 11 AM every day they’ll gather outside the town park function rooms and will still be there at 4 PM. Extraordinarily, they all look the same – same height, about 4 ft 8, bow legged and dyed black curly hair styles.

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Poking around the Railway Station: Rolling stock that clearly hasn’t rolled in a while might provide some interest for railways fans with a spare 20 minutes. Andong station is small with no officials to hinder their wanderings into areas not normally frequented by a white tourist.

 

More Old Houses: Clearly a preservation order keeps these very old houses in tip top condition. Essentially it’s a long-house divided into rooms with a courtyard and more very old rooms. A quick poke around here reveals evidence of overnight habitation – no beds, just a thin 1/2 inch mattress on the wooden floor. Situated on the edge of town, almost the last buildings heading out towards the Andong Dam.

 

Here, the final set of images from Andong. A stroll towards the river, a random route taking me under the railway line and across the towns 8 lane boulevard. Very little traffic, zero tourists and generally very quiet on a warm Tuesday afternoon. Nonetheless a parking enforcement car finds a violator to deal with. Any stroll around Andong will see wall art –  it’s everywhere and pretty good too. Nothing like the scribble and garbage we have to endure in the west, no, these seem to be rather more professional murals. They certainly look good and add to the towns character for sure!

And so ends this visit to Andong. I’d say well worth staying here for a week if only to experience the quieter side of Korean culture – ideal for those that need to take some time out from a hectic metropolis.

NEXT STOP: BUSAN

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Taiwan – Kaohsuing, The Party’s Over

Kaohsuing, Taiwan, April 2016. Kaohsuing, the city of surprise has been that and more! A modern redevelopment but look closely and visitors will find a surprising amount of Taiwanese history and culture, and its not all confined to museums as anyone following my Kaohsuing jottings will have discovered. A city of colour, culture and flavours, old and new, past and present. When it comes to food, well there is just simply no question about it – Kaohsuing is tops in value for money when it comes to local eats. Sure there is tourist food everywhere, and processed meats on a skewer at the night markets but its the local cafes and informal pavement carts that one finds the tastiest food in Kaohsuing.

So, to finish up Kaohsuing, a photographic summary of colour and culture, new and old! I have no hesitation in recommending a trip to Kaohsuing – infact I’d say skip Taipei and spend more time in the south where the sun shines.

Next, a look at what it costs for a 3 week trip to Taiwan….

Taiwan – Kaohsuing, Dome of Light

Kaohsuing, Taiwan, April 2016. Formosa Boulevard Metro, unassuming and just like any other station from the outside. Hire bikes lined up outside, taxi’s touting for business at the entrance and of course folk coming and going about their everyday business. There is a difference here though as I stomp through the long passage towards the ticket machine. A faint but delicate piano tune, someones playing Beethoven down here – some eloquent busking going on!

A small crowd gathered beside the piano listening intently to the classical rendition and under what I can only describe is a giant skylight colourfully decorated in an abstract artisan display. The Dome of Light is the official name for this place – and I thought it was called Formosa Boulevard Metro! Actually, its one of the same – passengers heading for their trains will pass under this dome of light which is a pretty awesome structure.

I’d say this is definitely the coolest Metro station in all of Taiwan and I go as far to say its probably the most inventive Metro in the world! Unless you know different, so drop me a comment and let me know where it is! Google Map.

 

 

Taiwan – Kaohsuing, Takao Railway

Kaohsuing, Taiwan, April 2016. Historical preservation isn’t something I’ve seen much of in Taiwan with any evidence of the past swept away with the tide of modern development. However, this afternoon I seem to have stumbled upon an old railway station with numerous tracks still in place but clearly in a disused state, looking in a reasonable condition. An old control box, somewhat falling into disrepair sadly sits here beside the tracks which given the number of them this place must have been the cities old main station.

Further on, the old station is now a small museum – the Takao Railway. The days of steam train travel are preserved here with a couple of well maintained engines and the old platform today serves as a kindergarten of sorts with pre-school kids running amok. Its also a kind of cultural park over by the old cargo sheds there. Statues and creativity with old cargo containers providing some interest, along with thousands of Chinese tourists. A pleasant hour here soaking up the recent past and a nice spot for a cool down in the air conditioned museum building.

And now there’s no time to go to Qijin Island today, having had my attention diverted by the Love River and now this Railway preservation area. So, lets go and eat at my all time favorite eating spot in Kaohsuing, a canteen right outside exit 1 of the Siziwhan MRT. Good, cheap local food!

 

Taiwan – Kaohsuing, The Love River

Kaohsuing, Taiwan, April 2016. Love River, mentioned in a few on-line articles as a spot worthy of a visit and its on the way to Gushan. About a 30 minute stomp from Central Park and indeed the place looks like the perfect hang out for lovebirds! Cross the busy bridge to find a tree lined riverside walk as cooling sea breeze blows through from the harbour. Opposite, the city skyline gleams in the bright afternoon sunshine, those skyscrapers taking on a new perspective from this part of town. Its, quiet, peaceful on a Wednesday afternoon but I suspect this place is a little busier at dusk! For now though, just a few old-timers sitting out of the heat, sleeping or just observing life on the river – which actually only consists of 3 tourist boats!

These photos snapped while wandering along the Love River…

 

Taiwan – Kaohsuing, Central Park

Kaohsuing, Taiwan, April 2016. A city park with a fusion of modern landscaping with some natural elements of ‘nature’. Worth a visit if only to marvel at the engineering structures that form part of the metro network extending deep underground. The place is busy at weekends but nice and quiet during the week – even the odd exotic bird pays a visit here.

Walking through the park en-route to Qijin Island for my second visit – taking it slow and easy, clicking a few photos along the way. Google Map.

Taiwan – Kaohsuing, Fo Guang Shan Monestry

Kaohsuing, Taiwan, April 2016. Fo Guang Shan is a Buddhist monastery of sizable  proportions and is well worth a visit, according to the top ten things to do list I have seen. A quick look on Wikipedia reveals the place itself actually has no historic value but the Buddhist movement of course is centuries old. Just an hour from the city by Metro and bus I’d say lets go and explore the place. Google Map.

How to get to Fo Guang Shan: Get to the Kaohsuing High Speed Train Station – its on the red Metro line Northbound, about T$30 from Central Park. On exiting the Metro, walk ahead a few meters and on the left are waiting buses. The first bus in the 2nd bay is for Fo Guang Shan – its a shuttle bus so they are pretty frequent.  Pay the driver T$65. Ignore taxi drivers saying the next bus is in 40 minutes time! The bus line ends at the tourist gate to the monastery but get off 1 stop before that and climb the steps to the monks entrance. This way avoids tourist tack shops and Chinese tour groups. The place is free to explore for as long as on likes.

What to see at Fo Guang Shan: Shrines, pagodas, gardens, frogs and wild exotic birds.Despite the place being on the Chinese tourist trail its remarkably peaceful. A calm and serene atmosphere exists and since the sky is blue, a good place for photographers to capture some pretty nice and unique architecture . A museum of art for when it rains and a coffee shop to cool down in, and actually reasonably priced.

So, lets explore ….

First, on the way there, one can’t miss this remarkable structure. A Ferris wheel on top of a giant shopping mall – smacks of Las Vegas to me!

Next, Fo Guang Shan the monks entrance…

And inside the complex – mystical architecture with breathtaking views.

There is a place called the Buddhist Memorial Hall, but I didn’t see it. Might have been at the tourist gate but since I arrived via the Monks gate then that explains it! Overall, worth an afternoon visit if just to get some peace from the city!. The bus is waiting for the return trip, another T$65. Although if there is energy left, why not get out at the giant shopping mall.

Taiwan – Kaohsuing, Neiweipi Cultural Park

Kaohsuing, Taiwan, April 2016. Today’s expedition, to go and hike around in the hills situated to the West. Accessible by taking the Metro to Aozihdi and stomping through a few neighborhoods until one reaches a trail path of which there are many, so I am informed.

Just a short ride to Aozihdi, probably could of hiked to there also, but a good idea to conserve some energy since its quite a hot day. So, with the help of google maps its a stomp through what looks like a redeveloped neighborhood with plenty of those apartment blocks filling up the skyline – quite smart actually, I’d say this is an upper class neighborhood. A nicely manicured city park, well kept and well used by the locals it seems. Yes, a smart coffee shop, some restaurants and a cafe constructed from cargo containers! The street lined with bonsai trees and school kids having exercise class.

Now I could take a short cut through another park or meander around it to find that trail, next to a Seven-Eleven store supposedly. I don’t mind cutting through this park, it looks pretty interesting, kind of wild with tracks forking off here and there. Something unusual floating in the sky, something pretty odd – a kite with long stretching tentacles, reaching out to the universe – and that’s as philosophical as this blog gets! Infact two kites now, both strikingly mystical gracing the sky. A quick hike over there to take a closer look.

Those kites are quite awesome and actually this parks looks pretty awesome too. Wild, natural with tracks and jungle paths, even a swamp. This is worth exploring for a while.

A cultural park according to the sign, well, I suppose one can see old-timers taking life easy under the trees! More of a nature trail I’d say and a pretty good one too. Nature photographers can find exotic birds here along with a few cool spiders and the worlds hairiest caterpillar. Overall, this city park is probably everything I wanted to see from a nature perspective although somewhat disappointed I didn’t spot a snake. And no time left for that planned hike in the hills, oh well, another time perhaps. Google Map.

Taiwan – Kaohsuing, City with a Beach

Kaohsuing, Taiwan, April 2016. On a stomp from Central Park to the Gushan Ferry for a ride over to Qijin Island. After a short diversion following the spectacle of a carnival procession, its now time to join the Saturday afternoon queue for a ride across the harbor and see what this top ten attraction has to offer.

The 6 minute ride costs 55p on a local ferry boat crammed full with locals, scooters and Chinese tour groups. There’s also another perspective on the Kaohsuing skyline – a great photo opportunity as the ferry reaches halfway and begins to slow up. If nothing else, taking this ferry is a great way to view the city’s innovative and interesting architecture.

The Island itself comprises of a residential district extending south for several miles with city and docklands on the left and the mighty Pacific ocean on the right.  – so don’t expect a tropical island paradise here! But there is a line of palms and a nice wide beach. A volcanic beach way back in history so the sand is coarse black but plenty of locals and Chinese tourists are enjoying a Saturday afternoon splash around.

Actually its a wide open space and finding solitude for a few moments isn’t difficult after a 5 minute hike south.The sea is pretty rough with no swimming flags dotted around, but of course there are a few brave souls defying the rules.

A street just off the beach, crammed full of street food, cafes and seafood restaurants, packed out with folk. This is obviously a hot spot for fish and it all looks pretty fresh – freshly frozen that is since I’ve learned most of it is imported from Vietnam.

Overall, a visit here to Qijin Island is a worthwhile expedition. A place where one can enjoy the buzz of a crowded street and then find solitude just 5 minutes away. Oh, and the Temples around here are pretty amazing too. They seem more ornate, more decorative than anything I’ve seen in all of Taiwan, so far

Getting to Qijin is easy by Metro. Orange line to Sizihwan Station – the last station on that line. From there follow the signs to Gushan Ferry. Google Maps.

Taiwan – Kaohsuing, A Carnival

Kaohsuing, Taiwan, April 2016. Qijin Island, a narrow strip of land between the docks and the pacific ocean. Visiting this place is on the list of top ten things to do in  Kaohsuing and today I will do it. Its quite a small distance from here, Central Park to the ferry at  Gushan. I’d say about a 40 minute hike. I could take a Metro ride there but its a nice day and of course I can see the sights along the way.

Google maps is a good tool to have and its easy to navigate my way around the city using the handy GPS feature. So, stomping towards Gushan then keeping an eye out for some local lunch – a row of show houses in a side street will no doubt provide delicious local food. Plenty of architecture to admire around here – modern and innovative and I dare say very pricey. For those that like to view structures with style then Kaohsuing won’t disappoint. Skyscrapers with awesomeness somehow makes one accept the modern face of Taiwan.

A carnival is lined up on the road alongside a river – the ‘Love River’ according to google map. Inching their over the bridge the procession of costumes and banging of drums is quite a spectacle. Some scary characters, some friendly ones too and they’t heading in the same direction, towards the Gushan ferry. Yes, a noisy but colorful hour watching these locals show off their skills – and then loud explosions just around the corner. Crackers, and big ones too are exploding along the street just ahead of the procession. The whole place is smoked out for a while and if I had taken the Metro, well, I would have missed all of this amazing culture.

 

Next stop Qijin Island.