Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pretty gritty (Review Asia)

Oil refineries, steelworks and shipyards. One of the world's busiest container terminals. Too much pollution and nowhere near enough culture. Also, according to an analyst quoted in a recent Newsweek article, "an angry town with 20% unemployment."

That analyst was seriously misinformed as to the state of the city's economy, but even so, Kaohsiung is what tourism experts might call "a hard sell." Despite the exodus of manufacturers to the Chinese mainland, Taiwan's second city still pulls its weight and more in terms of metal-bashing and plastic-molding, but loses out to Taipei when it comes to media attention and visitor numbers.

If Taiwan's sleek capital is a lounge bar, Kaohsiung is a roadside eatery with folding tables and plastic chairs. That's the perception, at least, and there's some truth to it. Kaohsiung offers the curious a grittier side of Taiwan - both figuratively and literally.

And that's one of the reasons I like the place. Another is less perverse, and probably has a lot to do with the 20 years I spent in drizzly England: In Kaohsiung, the sun shines almost every day of the year. Even the most partisan boosters of Taipei admit that the southern port city's 1.6 million inhabitants enjoy much better weather than their compatriots in the northern capital...

Quite a bit of the article is devoted to Qijin Island, where I took this photo, and which I worry will lose its charm if development plans go ahead. Review Asia is a Hong Kong magazine distributed around the region.

No comments: