Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Sensitivities of Making an Invisible Community More Visible

At the first sight, the Won Won Shopping Complex looks like any other retail/office building in central parts of Taipei.  The concrete two-floor building is devoid of paint, excess decorations, and frankly, any character that would make it stand out among dozens of similar buildings with similar grey/brown hues on a rather nondescript street.  The sign for the complex is small and fading, hidden behind little booths selling cheap SIM cards and a seat for the tired, half-napping security guard.  For those in a hurry to their destinations, the Won Won Complex do not really deserve a second look, in the same way its neighbors also would not.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Can Urban Design Combine the Practical and the Monumental?

Odaiba is a piece of reclaimed land in the middle of Tokyo Bay.  Given how new the land is, and the centralized nature of its original planning, despite being in the middle of the city, the neighborhood does not look like any other in Tokyo.  While the rest of the city is parsed up into millions of tiny plots occupied by houses, office buildings, and shops standing shoulder to shoulder, intersected with narrow two-lane roads, Odaiba is characterized by almost an excess of open space.  A massive concrete promenade runs through the neighborhood end to end, punctuated only by a few trees.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Japan as the Cheap Place to Live?!

Growing up in Japan, I have always had the impression that the island country is one of the most expesive places in the world.  Friends and family members always complained how for the same price as one would pay for something in Japan, one can get much bigger and more of the same thing.  Research data tend to confirm such anecdotal impressions.  The city of Tokyo has consistently ranked as one of the most expensive places in the world, and its high rank on the costliness has changed little in the past decade.  Both professional and personal evidence point to Japan being an expensive place compared to most other parts of the world.

How Private Specialist Clinics in Japan Allow for Medical Services Much More Efficient than Hospitals

One of the greatest advantages of living in Japan is its high-quality affordable medical services.  National insurance cover 70% of all medical costs incurred in any clinic or hospital, while the insurance itself costs a fraction of what the same would cost in the US.  Medical facilities often have the most advanced medical equipments anywhere in the world, while the skill levels of nurses and doctors are top-notch.  Medical accidents are few and far in between, while even the smallest illnesses are dealt with meticulously without any occurrence of careless dismissal.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Jet Lag Becomes Worse as One Becomes Older

Intercontinental travel is something I do quite frequently.  Just in the past two years, I have flown multiple times between Asia and Africa, Africa and North America via Europe, and between the Americas.  For all of these aside from the inter-American flights, the time difference between the origin and the destination is big enough to separate night and day.  But with so many experiences under the belt, I generally is able to grind through the time difference, often by ensuring that no sleep is taken during the long flights across the continents, so that exhaustion means immediate sleep upon arrival at the accommodation at the destination.

Monday, August 21, 2017

It is Easier to Become Acquainted with a Foreign Culture in One's Home Country than in the Foreign Country Itself

For many people, one of the primary reasons to travel to foreign lands is the ability to see those lands for themselves, in the process becoming familiar with the local culture and people.  By being there and experiencing everything they possibly can, people think they will, over time, become familiar enough with local realities that they can assimilate into local life, whether or not that was the original intention.  However, in many cases, stepping directly into a foreign land with the sole purpose of understanding local life can be counterproductive, as practical obstacles hamper productive efforts to absorb local knowledge.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

How Incessant Desire of Waiters Cause Endless Increase in Tips Over Time

After eating in dozens of restaurants in countries where tipping is the norm, one figures out a pattern: Waiters, if one ever bothers to look at their expressions after receiving tips, are often never happy about the amount of tips received.  It does not matter if one tips 12%, 15%, 18%, or 20%, the expressions are often completely blank or laced with a slight frown, indicating that the amount could have been more.  They obviously cannot show negative attitudes outright, but the underlying unhappiness is all too clear.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Group Travel Can Weaken Social Relationships with Friends and Family

Many backpackers travel alone, not because they have no friends or inherent distaste of other people, but they find solo travel to be much more carefree than if the travel had conducted with others.  Traveling by oneself means there is no need to consult others when making decisions on where to go, what to do, where to eat, and where to stay.  The travel plan can be executed so much quicker, and changes in the itinerary can be made much more flexibly.  The freedom of traveling independently comes from the fact that there is no restriction of others having different opinions, who needs to be persuaded otherwise.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Patience is the Greatest Virtue a Traveler Can Learn on the Road

What is the longest downtime a traveler can have?  For many, the answer would be zero.  Being in a new place, new environment, and potentially new people, there would be little in terms of boredom.  Always something new to see and experience, the traveler should never be bored while being in new and exciting destinations that the traveler him/herself chose in the first place.  Unfortunately, such is but empty speculation from people who rarely travel.  The reality is that traveling, more often than not, involve much waiting and sitting around than the traveler would experience back home.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Pains and Risks of Looking for Public Wifi

Traveling across multiple countries, it often makes very little sense to purchase Sim cards in every destination.  Without it, one's smartphone would not be able to take advantage of mobile Internet networks available to local carriers, instead strictly relying on whatever wifi networks that can be obtained for free and for a fee in public and private institutions.  The constant search and usage of these wifi networks are a unique sight and experience in travel nowadays.

Monday, July 24, 2017

South America in Summary: The Potential for Greater Regional Cooperation due to Shared Heritage

It is difficult to generalize a whole continent, and that is especially true for one as big as South America.  From the north tropics of Cartagena to the Antarctic extremities of Patagonia, the varying climates of the landmass is only superseded in variety by the existence of many biomes, from the frigid high altitudes of the Andes, to the palmy Caribbean coasts, to the humid Amazon, to the Mediterranean weathers of Chilean and Argentine wine producing regions. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How Important is Punctuality to Business?

Foz do Iguacu, Brazil.  I have been spending the last two and a half hours waiting for the bus heading across the border to Argentina.  The customers waiting at the bus stand are getting rumpled by the minute, as buses bound for other destinations pass through one by one.  Finally, the right bus arrives, but the customers are not relieved.  The bus opens, and the long luxury bus is crammed full to the aisles with passengers that the bus probably spent way too much time collecting elsewhere.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Why Using Credit Cards in Foreign Lands are Dangerous

Before I embarked on this long trip through South America, I had the fortune to be approved for a traveler's credit card that charges no foreign transaction fee anywhere in the world.  Considering that foreign banks generally charge administrative fees for ATM usage, this traveler's credit card has now become by far the cheapest way for me to access money.  Hence, more than anytime I have in the past, I have been swiping credit card anywhere that the option is available.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

How Public Displays of Affection Demonstrate Cultural Liberalism

If there is anything that surprised me about Chilean culture, it is the sheer openness with which locals show romantic affection to one another in public places.  In subway cars, shops, plazas, and especially bus/train stations, couples casually French kiss, with not a care in the world that there are hundreds of people around that are baring witnessed to their romantic displays.  They just pick a spot, hold hands, face each other, and start making out, loudly and at length.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Where is the Boundary between Graffiti and Art?

Valparaiso, Chile is known unofficially as the mural capital of Chile.  Pieces of art spray painted on walls grace every other building in the colorful hills hugging the Pacific Ocean.  Tourists trek through the hills looking for the most beautiful pieces, snapping pictures on literally every other street in the city's hilly neighborhoods.  Along with the architecture and the natural settings, the murals contributed to Valparaiso being granted UNESCO heritage status.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Why "Beg-Packing" is Completely Unethical Way of Traveling the World

A few months ago, the Singaporean newspaper Straits Times did a great piece on what is  called "beg-packing," a phenomenon whereby foreign tourists, often whites from developed countries, finance their backpacking trips across Southeast Asia by selling knickknacks like postcards or performance arts on the streets of their travel destinations.  Sitting on the street sides, these tourists get handouts from local people drawn by curiosity of foreigners practically begging on the streets.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

To Tip or Not to Tip: That is the Question

Going on tours, I always have a dilemma. Does the tour guide expect a tip, or is the tip included in the service?  Does the guide earn a living from tips, or is it culturally taboo to give tip (yes, in many Asian countries, tipping can be considered an insult).  For a person new to a foreign country, the answer is not a simple one, often requiring careful observation to see how others behave so that one can follow suit accordingly.  But when everyone is looking at others for guidance on the topic, the dilemma becomes a collective one.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How Tourism Helps Increase Urbanization

Uyuni, Bolivia is really in the middle of nowhere.  Surrounding the town is endless expense of deserts, themselves hemmed to one side by towering mountains that separates the area from the mountainous bulk of the country.  From the window of the bus that comes down from the mountains, the town looks like a mirage, a clump of civilization surrounded by inhabitable nature.  Indeed, the town abruptly ends at deserts, overlooking into complete nothingness.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Is The Exotic Presented by the Chinese a Form of Soft Power or Just Blind Curiosity?

Walking down the streets of major cities in Bolivia, one would come across an interesting phenomenon, almost all of the minibuses that serve as the main form of public transport for the local populace is decorated in the front and the sides with a series of Chinese characters, printed on in order but making completely no sense.  These characters add a sense of the exotic to otherwise bland one-color exterior of the busses.  Occasionally, the same is observed for trucks that carry products within the towns or across the country.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The One-upmanship of Tourist-Catered Enterprises

Look at any major tourist site in the world today, there is bound to be an adjacent area with hundreds of shops serving the needs of hundreds of thousands of travelers coming through every year. They do a roaring business.  People need to eat, sleep, be entertained, and have their laundry done. And away from home and unfamiliar with the local prices, the tourists are willing to pay much higher prices than the local residents for services and products, some of them so basic as to not cost that much to provide.