Posts By: Joop

Holiday in Jeju

Woman done fishing for today – Traditional Korean seafood soup is enhanced by distinctive shellfish harvested by the famous woman divers of Jeju Island. An age-old tradition, the fisher-woman of Jeju spend long hours in the waters surrounding the island relentlessly diving again and again, collecting the unique sea snails, shell fish and abalone in the bountiful waters of Jeju.

Jeju women relaxing in the sun – While looking around a small town, we had a chat with these women. They seemed to have a good laugh on their old day. Perhaps the country life isn’t so bad in Jeju?

Palm trees – Jeju has many faces, while we were taking pictures of these palmtrees at a warm evening, we climbed vulcano Hallasan the next day. The path to the top was often covered with ice, what a contradiction!


Hiking down the coastline – Many friends recommended us to hire a car or scooter on Jeju island. If you go there, I’d recommend you to go backpacking instead. Granted, it might sound clumsy and difficult, but it’s quite an experience! This picture was taking halfway a 15km hike over the vulcanic rocks of Jeju beach. There were episodes of climbing, a beautiful scenery here and there, delicious food at restaurants and more well received surprises. Jeju is a nice place to take some time to walk around!

Cheonjiyeon waterfall – This waterfalls are located in the subtropical heart of Jeju. Best enjoyed with some juicy fruit you never seen before!

North-Korea vs. South-Korea match at Mapo-gu Stadium

The national football teams of North and South Korea have played a World Cup qualifier in Seoul today – which the South won by one goal to nil. Although the game was quite boring, there was a good atmosphere in the stadium, especially after Kim Chi Woo scored the first goal for South Korea.

The crowd was not as enthusiastic as I expected, seeing the Korean football fans act crazy during their victory in 2002. Perhaps it was the staggering cold that cooled the cheering a bit. Gold medal winning figure skater Kim Na-Young appeared during half time to address and thank the audience. Check out the pictures to see how much fun we had with our boards saying “I love Kim Na-Young” and “korea victory!” Ghehe that was great fun.

In Hong Kong for the week #2

I like this city so much that I decided to upload some more pictures to give you first hand about what I think is beautiful around here. Hope you like it!  You can go up any skyscraper in Hong Kong, (which I almost did) but you can see the city best from the Victory Peak. Simply take the tram up the hill, and you will see this magnificent view of the city. In real life, the city lights are also dancing around over the scenery. Very pretty thing to look at, almost as hypnotic like a fire or water. I view to remember!
Art gallery building in Macau, China

Don’t be fooled by these buildings, the whole area is full with artsy shaped casino’s. Macau was both the first and the last European colony in China. In 2006, gambling revenues from Macau’s casinos were for the first time greater than those of Las Vegas Strip (each about $6 billion), making Macau the highest-volume gambling centre in the world. We lost track of time as well, amazing place to be!
The metro in Hong Kong, or the MTR are much simpler to commute in then for example in Seoul or Osaka. However, if you are staying on the island as a tourist, one might as well take the tram. They are cheaper and more fun to ride as you see more of the city.

Buddhistic statue praising and making offerings to the Tian Tan Buddha.

Sheung Wan is a public market with whole floors devoted to fish, or fruit, or tiny restaurants. The variety is wonderful! It reminded me of those marketplaces in Southern Europe. If you have the chance, order some squid and let the sales men prepare it for raw eating. Little bit of sauce… delicious!

In Hong Kong for the week

After having lived outside my home country for almost 3 years, I can tell you that working abroad will always bring exciting experiences, reveal cultural challenges and —even though the rent, dishes and laundry— feel like a holiday. However, a foreigner has to comply to some basic rules. Most critical must be maintaining the proper visa for your stay, in my case a valid working visa, an administrative burden had to be completed outside South-Korea. This incentive made me come to Hong Kong for the week, combining the visa, business, meetups with friends and sightseeing in one trip.

I’m staying on the Island side of Hong Kong. My metro stop is called “Fortress Hill”. As Alice puts it: Hong Kong is a maze where you never get lost. You get dizzy from the skyscrapers, but if you let yourself lead though the well designed malls, beautiful parks and street bridges you will automatically walk to tram or metro stops. You never get lost here. It’s much smaller then Seoul, but they tend to build up so it’s still pretty crowded over here.

While Hong Kong is an exciting part of Asia, it’s quite different then what I experienced in mainland China, Japan or Korea. You can go to the spa and eat Cantonese Pigeon for dinner, and go to the Irish pub on the same evening, there is a French bakery on the street corner at the same time. What an exciting mix of different cultures!

I ran into a friend from Sweden the first day I was here, while she was under her way to the airport. She knew that I was in the city and was looking out for me, as she put it on her blog: “I knew Joop was in the city and he looked quite like him but i hadn’t seen him since Sweden so i asked: “Joop??” And it was Joop, so Hongkong is a small city after all haha! We had a drink with him and then we took off to catch our next flight.” What a small world!

 

 

Nathan road, Kowloon


Hong Kong’s Nathan Road got its moniker because of the plethora of neon signs that line the street. The area in central Nathan Road can be somewhat sleazy. I snapped this picture while crossing the road. I get drawn to Neon. It really appeals to me!

Look Right

Cars in Hong Kong drive on the left side of the road just like in Britain and Japan. I have to be careful, at every crossroad I look to the right but I cannot help looking to the trusty old left side as well for no apparent reason.

Construction workers in Hong Kong

Accidents on construction sites are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Hong Kong. Working at the great heights increases the chance of severe injury. But the bamboo scaffolds (!) aren’t helping either. Take a lesson from me kids, if your boss wants you to climb the bamboo, your helmet isn’t going to help you.

Enlightment about that foggy substance in the sky

The Korean government sends text messages to all mobile phones every once in a while. This way of informing the nation is new to me and proves to be rather effective. Sometimes it’s a simple request, asking to clean your porch from snow, but today I received a warning. “Tomorrow the yellow dust from China will reach Korea”. I wondered, what is yellow dust? It turns out that yellow dust is a seasonal phenomenon related to drought. Dust clouds originating from Mongolia and northern China and Kazakhstan that get caught by the wind and get carried as far as Korea and Japan. It’s increasing every year possible because of the Aral Sea of Kazakhstan that dried up due to a failed Soviet agricultural scheme.

That finally answered my question what that substance in the sky was. Smog? Fog? No, yellow dust from China. Thank you Korean government for this enlightenment. I will be on the treadmill instead this week. Kuche Kuche. Check the difference for yourself:

Adidas MBC Hangang Marathon 2009

I haven’t participated in a sport event ever since the Funda run in 2008 – a fun and fulfilling event, but I had no incentive to continue my healthy habits afterwards. I put my running shoes back on later that year, to find out that I would never reach a peak of runners satisfaction again without a goal. Frankly, I am getting out of shape and the Korean life-style isn’t helping either. Soju, Korean Barbeques (고기구이) and a business culture that considers heavy beer consumption BSA, (business as usual) have slowed me down. With deteriorating condition, the occasional visit to the gym have kept me ‘alive’ over the last half year.

While reading about the training sacrifices, detox weeks and running experiences that Marc van der Chijs made for his Hong Kong trailwalker participation, I suddenly got inspired again. I realized that working towards a sport-challenge in an Asian country could be a great experience. So, I decided to face a challenge for myself; today I have decided to join my colleagues in their concession to run half a marathon (21,15 km) at the end of April. Will I be in shape on time? We will see!

 

Gloomy skies over Osaka

This is one of Japan’s most famous castles, it played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century of the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Osaka Castle is situated on a plot of land roughly one kilometer square. It is built on two raised platforms of landfill supported by sheer walls of cut rock, using a technique called Burdock piling, each overlooking a moat. The central castle building is five stories on the outside and eight stories on the inside, and built atop a tall stone foundation to protect its occupants from sword-bearing attackers. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osaka_Castle
Shin-Sai-bashi – Do you see that shopping street next to the building with the Diesel advertisement? (bright path on right side of picture) That’s Shin Sai Bashi; The shopping area of Osaka. Fabulous. Absolutely love it. Downside is it was far too crowded to shoot all of the stylish people. This picture is taken from the roof terrace (full of trees) of a shopping mall. Had some warm green tea with this view, breathtaking Japan!

 

Confusing metro here, alas for me.

First impressions of Osaka, Japan

  1. Small coke is actually a small coke
  2. Grannies play Mario Kart and are actually good at it.
  3. Where are the garbage cans? Am I supposed to hold my trash all day?

Namba

The luminous tubes in the picture are the number one icon of Osaka. The running man in the middle has been a famous landmark of Osaka since its initial construction in 1919. It bears the Glico running man on a blue race track as well as some of Osaka’s other famous landmarks in the background.

Shinsekai

The Shinsekai tower is one of the city icons of Osaka Japan. Total height is 103 m, the main observation deck (behind the star) is at a height of 91 m. Actually, this is the second tower to occupy the site. The original tower was build in 1912 bus was melted down for war material in the second world war, as the tower could be a reference point for American bombing raids on Osaka.

At a Korean PC room, playing Starcraft for two days straight

Koreans love online gaming, example: This is a “PC room“, where one can play multiplayer computer games online. PC rooms like this are extremely popular among South-Koreans, ever since Starcraft came out in 1997. You have a room like this every block! Interesting because the computer and broadband penetration is quite high in Korea. But many young people are going to these rooms to play LAN-based multiplayer games with others online, in private. This particular pc-room was quite big, filled with sigarette smoke and people sitting hours and hours behind their computer screen; quite hectic and depressing place to be. I went in for a few minutes to do some work, but was glad to be outside again. But some people take it quite seriously, last August another South Korean man died just after 50 hours of nearly nonstop gaming. The man only left his online battle simulation games to go to the bathroom and to take short naps on a makeshift bed. The cause of death was presumed to be heart failure stemming from exhaustion. Good grief, I’d rather do something else.

  1. You can access these rooms for about one dollar per hour
  2. I noticed 60 seats but only two girls
  3. You hear guns go off everywhere
  4. Do not talk with your ‘friendly’ neighbor
  5. Older people play casino games
  6. Starcraft is still big, after 11 years

 

The Korean Demilitarized Zone

South Korea’s military says it is preparing for the possibility that North Korea may try to provoke a naval skirmish along their disputed sea border. (december 2008, voanews.com) While things look calm for an expat, South and North Korea are officially still at war, because of that military service is compulsory for men. One of my Korean friends served at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) for a couple of years. He told me about the DMZ, I decided to check the buffer-zone between North and South Korea out for myself. It’s a iron curtain just like the one in Europe during the cold war.

Both sides are heavily guarded by army guards — ready to defend themselves against the enemy. The border is about 248 kilometers long, the DMZ is 4 kilometers wide. I took the liberty to send out a Tweet from North Korea, just like our minister of foreign affairs, Maxime Verhagen.
We had to go through a number of checks but South-Koreans have to register 6 months in advance to go, and are not allowed to join foreigners on this visit, so I was alone today! That second picture (field) shows the North Korean mountains, they are bald — claimed to be cut down by North Koreans for heating and cooking.

The Korean flagpole war is an interesting phenomenon, outcome is the biggest flag of the world — waving for North Korea. (picture) Two entities have such deep rooted feelings to be better then the other, that one cannot live with the fact that their flag is bigger. During the Olymics in Seoul in 1988, the South-Koreans decided to raise a big South-Korean flag in the propaganda village Daesongong. This created a counter reaction of the North Koreans to enlarge their flag size. The South Koreans didn’t like this, and decided to raise their flag to astounding height. This ‘flag war’ continued to ridiculous proportions. So today, you will find the worlds biggest flag in a no-man village in the middle of no where. While it’s hard to see on the picture, this flag is HUGE! The pole is 160 meters long! The flag has to be taken down during rain, avoiding the pole to be collapsing under the weight.

The video shows the only portion of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) where South and North Korean forces stand face-to-face. The small blue buildings on the left is the MAC Conference Room, where talks take place between both sides. These buildings are set squarely on the Military Demarcation Line separating South and North Korea. North Korea in the back, South Korea in the front.