Asia: Winter '01Asia: Winter '01Asia picturesAsia pictures

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Taiwan, Singapore, MalaysiaTaiwan, Singapore, Malaysia
See Christmas in Singapore, the KLCC, and the historical town of Melaka.

Hangzhou & ShanghaiHangzhou & Shanghai
China easily matches Western wonders with Wu Zhen, the Venice of the East, and the leaning tower of Tiger Hill.

The biggest treasures of China can be found here, including the Great Wall, and the Forbidden City.

Map of travel destinations

For the holidays this year I took a trip around Asia, visiting more than 10 cities in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and China which turned out to be a fantastic trip, by all means more exciting that farting around a Christmas tree at home.

I found Taiwan to be a very frugal environment, where life moved rapidly using a no-frills approach. Almost wholly devoid of the fluff that we often find in the western world, the Taiwanese people act with a goal in mind and are constantly looking for new opportunities and endeavors to tackle. Even the daily news is a visceral experience, using an extremely candid method of portraying the gritty essence of human nature, showing close-ups of crying convicts and deadbeat husbands with as much frequency as the next rising pop star.

The rumors about Singapore are all true: there exist rules and regulations that cover every aspect of your daily life. However suffocating all these rules may sound though, the end result is a city that really has its act together. The highways and sidewalks are spotless. Signs along the highway predict--with amazing accuracy--the time required to reach your destination. And the shopping is like none other. While America can pride itself in being the number one capitalist state in the world, Singaporians have perfected the art of shopping with multiple city blocks of shopping centers all interconnected through underground tunnels. You could wander through the endless array of tunnels, escalators, and elevators in the malls and not see daylight for days.

Malaysia is a country filled with palm trees. Palm trees stretch the entire distance of the highway from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, broken only by the occasional exit sign. However, once you reach Kuala Lumpur you encounter a very dichotomous city split between the rich and the poor, much like what I found in Casablanca. The twin towers (the tallest in the world) and their surrounding structures house some of the wealthiest citizens in KL, but travel a mere 10 miles out and you encounter just the opposite where walking and biking are the norm of transportation.

In the end, China turned out to be the most intriguing country with a burgeoning capitalist population trapped in a communist stronghold. While Shanghai boasts a population of 20 million and a sprawling skyline bursting with skyscrapers to support it, other cities Hangzhou and Suzhou still show the lifestyle of communist-induced poverty with hand-drawn carts and run down apartment complexes. However, after visiting places like the Forbidden Palace and the Great Wall it's easy to see why China was so fond of isolationism: no person, place, or thing in the rest of the world can match the grandeur of these historical sites. Entire canals stretching hundreds of miles were created to transport the multi-ton exotic stones used in the construction of the Forbidden City.

Hopefully these pictures give you a feeling of these places that I visited and if any of them peak your interest, I highly suggest visiting them in person.

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