Boat trip, Leifeng Pagoda in Hangzhou, China

OMNG4This weekend we made a small trip of 180km out of Shanghai to see the West lake in Hangzhou China, with 6.5 million people not a small town, but due to the beautiful scenery of the lake and the hillside, it’s a favorite destination for many Shanghainese. For me, it was a trip down memory lane, because I had been there for a few weeks during my first stay in China, ten years ago. While at the lakeside, we tried local food, walked around the bamboo forest and had an icecream while looking around. Later, we payed a gondolier about 8 euro’s to take us around the lake by private boat.
While on the lake, we noticed the six story Leifeng Pagoda on top of a hill, a beautiful sight. I was surprised to see it, and wondered if I missed it during my last trip to Hangzhou. It turned out that the Chinese reconstructed the pagoda eight years ago. The original one was build in 975, but collapsed in 1924. The new tower was quite modern, it contains four sightseeing elevators, and modern features including air conditioners.


The view from the tower was spectacular, especially considering the sunset. On one side you can see the city, on flat ground, on the other there is a forest on the hills with a temple here and there. The original base of the pagoda is kept in good condition as well as the treasures discovered in an underground chamber.

Eating bacon in Daejeon

By XKCD when I return to Korea, the comic graph by Randall Munroe pops into my head. Who knows if bacon is really that bad, but I have a feeling that I should not eat it too often. I never really liked bacon, until I ate it in Korea. While living there, I had to compensate the barbeques with a lot of running, leaving little time to feast on this pork/alcoholic delights on a daily basis. Can say a lot about how great the country is, but end of line in terms of food; Koreans just love bacon, where else do families give each other “spam giftsets” for thanksgiving? I spent last weekend in South Korea and just had to give in to eating some Samgyeopsal (삼겹살) again. As sophisticated as it gets, this was the best barbecue I had all summer! 70% of the Koreans like this particular dish so much, that they eat it every week. Just remember what Miss Piggy said: “never eat more then you can lift”!

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!

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.

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, 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.