Monthly Archives: December 2009

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

高雄 is the second most populated city in Taiwan. Located in the southeastern corner of the island, this city of nearly 1.5 million inhabitants serves as Taiwan’s major trading port.  The port of Kaohsiung is the 6th biggest seaport in the world.

A new city-wide MRT opened in March 2008, just in time for the World Games which Kaohsiung hosted a year later. In the city center the MRT trains run underground and then gradually progress above ground as they move toward outlying areas.

The cities heavy reliance on industry and sea trade has not just had positive effects on the region. This focus on industrialization has led to high contents of air pollution, which the city has made strides in recent years to curb. Today Kaohsiung has made active pledges to use green space while expanding the city proper.

Over a dozen water taxis serve locals and tourists alike as they connect to different parts of the island harbor. The top deck is for pedestrians on foot to congregate, while the lower level is filled with scooters. When the boat pulls in to its destination a mad dash of bikes race out when the gate is let down.

Unlike the capital city of Taipei, Kaohsiung has a wide streets centered on a western grid system. This urban planning allows those with cars the luxury of less traffic to navigate in. For the backpacker, this city is easy to get around.

Compared to many Asian cities Kaohsiung sees less tourists than other metro areas of similar size because of its location. Now that the High Speed Rail connects Taipei with Kaohsiung, (3 hr ride) this is slowly changing.

Be be prepared for a joyful welcome to westerners from locals, espcially from smaller children. During my time walking through the tight city streets and markets, several childern would follow close by, say hello in english, and watch with a unique inquiry, every move we made.

Columbia, SC

Located in the middle of South Carolina, sits the capital, Columbia. It was here that General William Sherman stationed thousands of troops during the Union army’s rampage through the South. Much of Columbia was destroyed by Union troops, including a devastating and controversial fire that left most of the city in ashes.

Today, Columbia is at the heart of the Midlands. Recent revitalization near the Congaree River has seen Columbia become a solid tourist destination. On Saturdays throughout the fall loyal South Carolina fans flock to Columbia to support Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. Most SEC games sell out but it is possible to get decent seats for non-conference games at less than face value. Located on the USC campus is a new convention center and college basketball arena that can host concerts and other events.

Nicknamed “The Capital of Southern Hospitality” Columbia does not disappoint. Its rich history offers several museums as well as access to the capital building when it is not in session. For those wanting to unwind check out the Vista or Five Points for restaurants and spirits.

For those traveling the States without access to a car, the easiest way to get to Columbia is via Amtrak. The train station is located within walking distance of the central business district. Air travel is also a possibility but due to the small size of Columbia Metropolitan Airport, fares to Charlotte are more reasonably priced.

Check the official city website for more informaion-


Singapore is a city-state located in Southeast Asia. It is a former British colony, which is known for a variety of Malay, Indian, Chinese and British influences. Being located 1.5 degrees north of the equator; Singapore experiences a hot and humid climate. Even during my stay in late November (monsoon season) the temperatures were constantly in the 90’s during the day.

When many westerners think of Singapore, they think of the incident that took place in 1994 involving American Michael Fay. He was convicted of vandalism and sentenced to six strokes of the cane. This incident brought to the forefront Singapore’s strict stance on crime.

If you are a woman don’t worry, caning is only reserved for male criminals aged under 50.  The Criminal Procedure Code allows caning for thirty different violations. Chewing gum is also technically illegal. This makes the streets and sidewalks look noticeably better than anywhere I have traveled. I was looking for a piece of gum stuck on the sidewalk or litter anywhere I could. It basically turned into a personal scavenger hunt. Results: In five days, one bottle of water spotted.

The death penalty is also strictly enforced in Singapore. Drug trafficking carries a mandatory death sentence. Those convicted and sentenced to death by hanging are usually hanged within seven days of the conviction.

The island itself is very small. A backpacker can rent a bike and ride across the island in half a day. Most of the action though, takes place in the central business district. Here companies from around the globe are trying to get a piece of Singapore’s booming economy. The adjacent harbor is the busiest in the world. A constant line up of cargo ships in the ocean is an impressive sight from shore.

Overall Singapore is similar to the U.S. in terms of diversity. Most of the population is of Chinese descent but the secular society prides itself on a variety of religions and customs. Singapore has four official languages, and several official religions including: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism, Taoism, Islam, and Confucianism. The people are very friendly on the island as well. Singapore has definitely found the right mix of eastern and western culture.