Taiwan: More Progressive Than You Think

Birdseye view of Kaohsiung, on a somewhat clear day.

Birdseye view of Kaohsiung, on a somewhat clear day.

Yes, yes, we get it. Everything is made in Taiwan; Toyotas, Canons, Snuggies, most likely any crappy plastic toy lying about. Hell-even my  Lululemon yoga pants are made here.

It’s no surprise Taiwan gets a bad rap for being a country with only manufacturing to offer. When people think of the country, they most likely envision smokestacks as far as the eye can see; tall grey factories scattered along the horizon, with marshmallows of black smoke wafting into the sky, infiltrating the earth with greenhouse gases.

Basically, one big Ferngully nightmare.

In all honesty, I was expecting this as well.  But I’m glad to report I have been pleasantly surprised.

Taiwan is beautiful. Taiwan is modern. Taiwan is clean. Taiwan has mountains and beaches and rivers that are pristine and unpolluted.  A recent Huffington Post article even applauds Taiwan for taking initiatives to create an eco-friendly nation, and  Lonely Planet  mentions Taiwan as being “one of Asia’s most diverse destinations”.

(For more about Taiwan, check out this short video clip  featuring the progressive changes taking place in the city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan)

Sizihwan Beach. 30 minute cycle ride from my apartment.

Sizihwan Beach. 30 minute cycle ride from my apartment.

However, every moon has a dark side, and Taiwan is no exception. There exists a significant amount of pollution.

Many mornings, I roll out of bed to the view of a hazy fog blurring the mountain ridges against the skyline. At school, I discuss the weather with my kindergarten students during calendar time. Seeing as they are all 5-year-old optimists, they usually say “sunny” no matter what the weather, although in reality 9 out of 10 times it is “cloudy”. And when I say cloudy, I really mean polluted.  However, I don’t have the heart to tell them the friendly clouds are bubbles of cancer blocking the happy go lucky sun from their view, and that one in four of them will most likely die from the carcinogens. You might call me jaded, but hey-it’s statistics.

But in Taiwan’s defense, most of the pollution is carried in from their evil big brother, Mainland China. And whether he is pumping chemicals into the lands resulting in the genocide of pigs by the thousands, or emitting copious amounts of greenhouse gases into the sky, they are not only polluting their backyard, but Taiwan’s.  Dammit. Where is Captain Planet when you need him?

But there is a bright side. I have been told that during the typhoon season the wind changes direction and there are no more hazy days. I’m skeptical, but I’ll get back to you  when the time comes…

There are also ways to escape the pollution. It is noticed most during peak traffic hours, hence the reason that most people wear masks while on their motorbikes. I try to stay off the road during this time because it is torture. I can literally feel myself breathing cancer, and my tongue goes numb from all of the carbon monoxide, resulting in a headache within minutes.  Good news is, the conditions are only like this in the city. As soon as I cycle 30 minutes to the beach or into the mountains, I find the air clean and crisp.

But it’s all relative. For a traveler coming from the mountains of Montana, they would most likely feel a little constrained for air. For someone coming from any city on the island of Java or any city in Mainland China, they would feel as if they were at an oxygen bar.

After living in Surabaya, Indonesia, Kaohsiung is a dream. Plus, it’s not that much different from my hometown of Houston, Texas.

Actually, it’s a lot nicer.


  1. I want to come over and go shopping and of course, breath the air.

  2. Yes, the pollution here can at times be stifling. Thank god for the beach and Monkey Mountain. Trips to these places reset the respiratory system. Love the updated site layout. It looks great.

  3. Enoch Castleberry says:

    gotta love the optimism of being 5 years old. i like the photo too. must be so nice to have a beach so close. entertaining writing, thumbs up

    • Haha yeah-if only adults could get half as excited over small things like stickers and bubbles, the world would be a better place. Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. The social life sucks if you’re Black though.

    • Sad and true; the racism here horrendous when it comes to finding jobs, but I don’t see how it affects social life.Did you live here, or are you currently living here? My good friend Jeremy lives here, and as an African- American, he found finding a job quite tough, but he is not lacking any friends! You can read about his tales at dreadlocktravels.com

      • TaiwaneseHateBlacks says:

        Blacks can’t get laid easily.

      • I have no idea about that one, but I will take your word for it!

      • JapsHateBlacks says:

        Yeah man, it’s the same all over Asia. I live in japan and it’s like that here too man. It’s a white man’s paradise and Black man’s hell. Black folks just just avoid going to Asia. Fuck asians and the whites whom they adore. I always tell Black folks not to go to Asia, and I’m glad to meet some other brothers that are like-minded.

  5. I don’t find the pollution in Taiwan particularly bad, and I’ve lived here for seven years. Mind you, I lived in Mainland China for three years prior to my move here, and nothing can compare to their pollution. I love the beaches here. And I’m glad that Taiwan isn’t a big Asian destination for travelers. That means more for me to enjoy. 🙂

    • Yes, anything is better than Mainland China (pollutions wise). I am very happy with Taiwan as well 🙂

      As for tourism, I have found that even Taiwan is not too popular among western travelers just yet, but with the Mainland Chinese it is. Just this past Moon Festival holiday, 10,000 Mainland Chinese visited Hualian.

      Where in Taiwan are you living?


  1. […] but not least, are you an expat looking to relocate to Taiwan? Click here to read more about Taiwan from an American expat blogger’s […]

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