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The First Time Traveler's Guide to East Asia

Making your first trip to East or Southeast Asia? Wondering where to go?

Okay, I've spent significant time in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. I can weigh in on those places for you. I haven't been to Macau, Laos, Burma, the Philippines, North Korea, or Indonesia yet - of them, I've heard great things about the Philippines and Indonesia in particular, but I can't comment.

So, some thoughts about every country -

Japan - Still the crown jewel of Asia, Japan has something for everyone. There's ancient and hyper-modern culture mixed all together. There's amazing technology, high levels of development, basically nonexistent crime, ridiculously high standards of quality and hygiene, and the people are friendly and polite. English isn't widely spoken, but the Japanese take being good hosts seriously and you'll be fine in any major city. You can find quite literally anything here - amazing camping and mountains and forests and oceans, or hyper-developed space-age districts in cities.

The downside of Japan - It's fucking expensive. Like, really really expensive. I hate spending money on eating and sleeping - every dollar I put into basic "staying alive" stuff is less money to be invested in commerce or philanthropy, or learning, or having unique experiences that are more interesting than... well, eating and sleeping. Yet, eating and sleeping is brutally expensive here. If you're not a veteran traveler and don't have friends here, you'll be hard pressed to spend less than $100/day in Japan. If you slum it hard, you can maybe get down to $50/day. Everything's ridiculously expensive, ranging from 400% to 2,000% higher than still-developing countries in Asia.

Where does responsibility for the outbreak of the Korean War lie?

On The Thoughtful Young Djedi from Bermuda

[Note: I was 16 years old when I wrote this.]

In the summer of 1950 communist forces of North Korea invaded the capitalist South, starting the Korean War. Most historians agree that Stalin and the USSR must take responsibility for the outbreak of this war, in an attempt to spread communism. However there is little valid information from the USSR, and thus interpretations of the causes of the war are of a western viewpoint. This absence of Communist documents brings confusion to the topic and makes “it difficult to establish what took place in the summer of 1950”, as explained by Allen Whiting. Nevertheless the majority of historians agree that Stalin was to blame, although other countries helped to increase the tension at the time.

For most historians it was the Russians that were responsible for the outbreak of the Korean War, perhaps wanting to test Truman’s determination. Stalin had supplied the North Koreans with tanks and other equipment. Moreover Kim Il Sung could not have acted without Stalin’s go-ahead. It is suggested that through a takeover of the South, Russia’s position in the Pacific would have been strengthened and would be a splendid gesture against the Americans to make up for Stalin’s failure in West Berlin.

A strong reason for a possible attack instigated by Russia was to make up for failure in the Berlin Blockade. In 1948 Stalin had cut all road, rail and canal routes to West Berlin in an attempt to starve West Berliners. However the Western allies staged an airlift to help feed the West Berliners and keep them alive. Finally Stalin was forced to give up and lifted the blockade. The outcome of this blockade was that it gave a great psychological and morale boost to the Western powers, though it brought relations with Russia to their worst ever. Stalin could regain power by a strong communist influence in North Koreans. Additionally he could regain prestige and influence among other Asian communists as well.

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