Crowded, noisy and chaotic by day. Quiet and brooding by night, Sham Shui Po (深水埗) is a quintessential Hong Kong working-class neighbourhood in the heart of Kowloon that reflects the metropolis’s dual personalities. Read more
As long-term readers will know I have a bit of an obsession about the neon signage which gives many cities in Asia their unique and seductive streetscapes. The epitome of this has to be Hong Kong where the dense and chaotic texture of its neon have brought the city to life at night since the 1950s. Read more
As any visitor to Taipei discovers, one of the cities main attractions are its many night markets. On my previous trip I covered some of the big ones – Shida, Shilin, and Ximending, but on a recent trip to Taiwan I paid a visit to one of the smaller and more traditional ones, namely Ningxia Night Market (寧夏夜市). Read more
If you ever want to experience the worlds busiest train station then head to Shinjuku (新宿区) in Tokyo which handles a staggering three million+ passengers a day with 35 tracks and over 200 exits! Around rush hour you’d be lucky to ever find your way out the station such is the labyrinth of passages leading in all directions. I visited the area a couple of time during my trip and below is a roundup of some of the sights I encountered… Read more
Another day, another night market in Taipei, this time Ximending in the Wanhua District where the lights shine bright and every other person was riding a bike! In comparison to Shida and Shilin night markets Ximending had a more modern feeling and definitely seemed to be catering to a younger crowd. Read more
Walking along the streets of Seoul can sometimes feel a little overwhelming, such is the visual noise generated by a million neon signs all screaming for your attention. Combined with the massive hordes of crowds at certain hours and it can be quite a disorienting, if not an exciting experience all the same.
There’s something about neon lights which never cease to allure my eyes and from my travels I’ve found three main places where they shine brightest in Seoul: Gangnam, Sincheon (above) and Myeongdong (below). Cheonggyecheon stream is also beautifully lit up at night but with a more relaxed romantic atmosphere.
Myeongdong is mainly full of trendy clothes shops for young people while Sincheon is more focused on bars and restaurants (and dodgy looking motels). Gangnam is a business area lined with shining office buildings (and cool Media Poles). If you only have time to visit one, go to Myeongdong – it’s by far the most interesting and a fascinating area to people watch (if you know any other good spots please leave a comment).
UNIQLO (from Japan) seem to have new stores appearing all over the place – one just opened near me in Coastal City and for a foreign label they’re quite reasonably priced. The shot above was taken outside the COEX mall in Jamsil.
In some parts of Seoul the mayor is apparently trying to clean up the streets by curbing the lights and baring roadside vendors. Urban gentrification is something I abhor; the sights and smells are what give an area its nature and by removing them you remove the very heart of their existence.
If the lights get a bit much for you there still exist a few sanctuaries of calm and tranquility within the megalopolis. Bongeun-sa temple exists in sort of temporal warp between ancient and modern Korea, nestling between countless high-rise offices and shops. It’s amazing its managed to survive the onslaught of construction and is the perfect oasis to take a moment to relax and reflect on a warm evening.
Whist sitting here listening to the chanting of the monks I thought back over previous trips to Korea – it was my fourth time in South Korea and whilst I doubt I’ll be returning again for a while my memories are the best souvenir with my blog a visual reminder of the great experiences and wonderful places visited. A strangely fitting ending to the best episode yet.
Hong Kong is a magical place, especially at night when the neon lights come on. As if held by invisible hands the signs appear to float in mid-air advertising all manor of unknown things (to the foreign eye anyway). The light they give off creates a strange sort of artificial daylight to the streets below and for the most part they constitute the only street lighting. I could walk for hours here being drawn deeper into the narrow ravines between the decaying façades of shops and apartments memorized by this electric circus.
Neon signs are made from luminous glass tubes that contain neon or other inert gases at a low pressure. When a high voltage is applied it makes the gas glow brightly. Somewhere there must a statistic about the number of people electrocuted or killed when these things fall down as some look pretty rusty and precarious!
Hong Kong is a multi-layered city with walkways and platforms extending out at different levels above and below ground providing its 7 million citizens with access to the heart of the labyrinth or if you’re like me more likely getting lost in it. The MTR is particularly rabbit-warren like and you can end up walking miles underground.
Fans of the first Ghost in the Shell movie might notice stylistic similarities in the above shots as the film was set here (the TV Series moved it to Japan later on). I’m sure to back there in the next couple of months so if anyone know any other good places to see neon in Hong Kong I’d love to know.