May 30, 2008
Taipei and Kaohsiung – A tale of two cities

by Jude Knight 30.MAY.08

Traveling by bullet train was another first for me and some of my workshop friends, and the ICDF chose that mode of transport for our trip to Kaohsiung City, the second largest city in Taiwan.

Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit (KMRT) bullet train is relatively new in Taiwan, and there are many in Taiwan who have not traveled the trains but are anxious to do so. The KMRT travels both underground and overland, and could reach a speed of 300 km/hr.{{more}} It covers the route between Taipei City and Kaohsiung City in about 90 minutes, making several stops on the way. Kaohsiung is 394 kilometres (246 miles) south of Taipei. The trip is so quiet and comfortable you can fall asleep, but you would hardly want to for two reasons. Firstly, you wouldn’t want to miss the beautiful landscape and innovative architecture, and secondly, the train travels so quickly you are likely to miss your stop if you fall asleep.

We arrived in Kaohsiung City which is well known for its abundance of seafood, just before lunch and we were soon submerged in the exquisite diverse cuisine they had on offer. After lunch, we were given cultural tours and learned about the cultural and civil development of the city. Kaohsiung City is an ocean city and seaport and it boasts the sixth largest container port in the world and also an International Airport. This city is well known around the world for its world-class yachts, and several of the rich and famous commission yachts to be built in Kaohsiung.

What was strikingly different about the two cities, though, was that Taipei was really bustling all the time and the air seemed a bit heavy. At times it got icy cold without the slightest warning, and the people were cautiously curious about us, but in Kaohsiung it was warm and sunny like the Caribbean, and the people, although busy, seemed a little more relaxed and not afraid to approach us with a welcome.

We noticed a similarity, however, and it was that women were in very prominent positions at several major corporations both in Taipei and Kaohsiung.

After dinner, we retired to The Ambassador Hotel, a hotel fit for Kings. The Ambassador Hotel is situated next to the Love River, and this Love River comes to life at night with several Love Boats and Love Bridges bedecked with neon lights, a sight difficult to accurately describe. We took a ride on the Love River and, believe me, it was worth the trip. We saw a river come alive in living colour right before our eyes. What majesty… what beauty!

Back at The Ambassador Hotel we were fortunate to meet a young man who stood out in our memory. And… no, he wasn’t a part of management, neither was he in any top position at the massive hotel. Edward Huang is a doorman who really takes pride in his job, and he really lived up to the name of the hotel – a true Ambassador for Kaohsiung City and The Republic of China on Taiwan. Edward, who confessed he used to pilot one of the Love Boats, made our stay very pleasant and assisted us way beyond his job requirements.

During our stay in Kaohsiung, we had lectures and visited Formosa Television South Centre, Kiss Radio Co – a radio station popular with the youths and frequented by many stars, Creative Media College and Kun Shan University in Tainan City. We also visited the construction site of the new Kaohsiung stadium which will have a seating capacity of around 53,000. By the end of this year you will hear a lot more about this stadium as Kaohsiung City will be the home to the 2009 World Games.

In Kaohsiung City, we also presented more reports on the media in our respective countries. As we presented our reports, we noticed there was some uneasy quiet by some participants. When prodded, they explained that journalists in their countries have been known to disappear without a trace and their families tortured, and that they were hesitant to reveal certain information for fear of reprisals when they got back home. In fact, one man mentioned that he was shot at after blowing the whistle on a large corporation. He won an award but almost lost his life. We also found out how difficult it is to operate in those countries when gifts and large bribes are the alternative to torture and death. After listened to what they were willing to share, I found new respect for freedom of the press in most of the Caribbean Islands. We often criticize and complain about what we are not allowed to do or say, and sometimes we abuse the freedoms with which we were blessed, but there are journalists in countries much larger and more powerful than ours who would give anything for a fraction of what we take for granted.

We left Kaohsiung City on Sunday, May 4th, on our way back to Taipei for the final sessions, which included accomplishment presentations by our five groups and the Farewell Banquet where we were presented with our certificates. However, one serious question was left unanswered and we were determined to find out why. Look out next week for the final part in this series when we asked “THE QUESTION.”