On Pollution and Offensive Odors

This thread is based on my experiences in Kaohsiung (I’ve yet to travel elsewhere), though I’m sure it applies to other places in Taiwan to some extent. And before anyone asks, I did do a search for this, and while there are many threads related to the topic of pollution, I didn’t find any that discussed the causes of it. I figure 15 minutes of searching was enough due dilligence. I even asked my wife, but since she’s lived in the USA for the last 10 years, she’s a little out of touch with things here and couldn’t really give a good answer. So…

I’ve been living in Kaohsiung for one and a half months now and I’ve only seen a blue sky on 3 occasions. Does anyone know what exactly is the cause of all of the pollution here? I realize that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of cars and motorscooters here, which certainly put out a lot of exhaust, but that can’t be the sole cause of the problem. After all, there are plently of other huge cities, NYC for example, that have just as many cars, but whose pollution problems aren’t nearly as bad as it is here. I know Kaohsiung used to be a big industrial city. I don’t know to what extent that is still the case. Are there still a lot of factories who dump their waste products into the waterways and pollute the air with various emissions? Today I was down by the harbor area in Kaohsiung and I took this picture. Not only is the water an unmistakable shade of grey, it also smells pretty bad too. I’ve noticed this at other various canals throughout the city as well.

My other question is, what on earth is “that smell”? You know the one I’m talking about. As you’re driving down the street, content to be breathing in the blue exhaust fumes from the scooter in front of you, and suddenly you come upon an area that smells absolutely rancid. Is that literally the smell of human excrement that is seaping up through open sewers? Rotting animals? Rotting food? Garbage? A combination of everything? I’ve noticed that the smell is not always in the same places everyday. For example, this morning the smell was extremely strong on the street just outside my apartment building. However, in a month in a half, I’ve never noticed it here before. I couldn’t smell it at all when I went out tonite. If anyone knows what this smell is please fill me in, as I’ve been curious about this since I first visited Taiwan last year.


I travel down to Kaohsiung once every month to spend a weekend and a day with my wife’s family. Although they live in the sticks, we often go into Kaohsiung city for fun or shopping. On every occasion there have been blue skies when it wasnt raining. I have seen more blue skies in Kaohsiung than in Taipei. So I am not quite sure why you havent been seeing the same.

As far as the smell goes…I think you answered it yourself already. It is a combination of things. Often times when you get that sudden smell that smacks you in the face, you can bet there is a chodofu stand very near by. The underground, yet openly ventilated to the street above, sewege system is also to blame. Don’t forget the dog crap on the sidewalks, rotting garbage, etc etc. Just be glad you don’t smell it all the time.

As for the scooter polution. Man, don’t breath that stuff in directly. If you have to ride, wear a face mask. Too much of that exhaust will kill you.

Taiwan has the highest density of factories and motor vehicles in the world. Taiwan has taken steps towards confronting this problem by implememnting pollution laws. For me it’s difficult to see these laws being enforced, I’ve seen people burning garbage in my town. I’m sure in time Taiwan will fall in line, hope it’s not too late.

What’s been explained to me is that the trade winds during the winter change direction, and keep more of the pollution over the city. If you’ve only been here for a little more than a month that’s what you are experiencing. During the summer months Kaohsiung has much cleaner air…but it’s bloody hot.

Thanks everyone for the replies. I guess the answers were pretty obvious, though I just wanted to be sure.

Quarters I think you might have sheer luck on your side to be seeing blue skies here in Kaohsiung whenever you visit. Like I said, I’ve only noticed it 3 times here. Not that I go out every day and check, I might have missed it other times. And usually when I do make note of it, it’s in the morning, so perhaps it clears up later, and I don’t notice. There are plently of Forumosans who live in Kaohsiung who could call me out on such a thing, so I wouldn’t make something like that up. I’ve honestly only noticed it three times. I live on the 20th floor, and even as I look out my window now, all I see is a grey haze shrouding the city. In the US I lived in a 22nd floor apartment, and never saw this before. I wish it weren’t so. Maybe your wife’s family lives in a part of the city that isn’t quite so prone to the pollution being trapped in the air??

As far as wearing a pollution mask, I definately wear it. It’s one of those cheap 20 NT jobs, however mine is actually functional in that I put activated carbon filter inserts into it (specifically made for this purpose). It makes a big difference, as I rarely smell exhaust anymore, except if I don’t have the top pinched over my nose quite tight enough. I never leave home without it! I really don’t understand why I see so many people wearing just the plain cloth mask. That’s what I did before I got the carbon filters, and it was pretty much worthless to just have the cloth there.

Speaking of filters, I forgot to ask this in my original post. I want to buy one of those home air purifiers (like Hepa, Ionic Breeze, etc) to run in my apartment, at the very least, at night in my bedroom while I’m sleeping. The air inside our homes here is likely just as bad as it is outside, since its the same air. Does anyone else have one of these and can recommend a decent brand available locally in Taiwan? Or a place to go look? Costco seems to be way over priced so I was thinking Carrefour might be a good starting point. Any suggestions?

Much of the reason you can’t see the sun is because of haze. It is often not only due to car pollution but also to farming/ploughing or construction in dry weather of which there is alot of in and around Kaohsiung - so it’s not as bad as you think.
In the winter, you will experience better visibility than in the summer. Although both seasons are roughly the same pollutant wise, the higher Relative Humidity usually found during summer months severely scatters light because of it’s affect on byhygroscopic particles, making the air more hazy and thus more dirty than it actually is.

The haze is indeed partly due to the weather/seasonal atmospherics. I live in an area of Taiwan reknown for its relatively clean water and air, but I can’t see the hills now outside my town because of the haze/clouds.

I’m glad I asked this question now…as it’s somewhat conforting to know that the haze is partly to do with weather and atmospheric conditions, and not just the pollution here. :slight_smile:

No one seems to have mentioned that area around Zuoying. The one with the chemical factories, oil refineries and a truly horrid smell. As soon as you hit Nanzhih, the smell seems to penetrate the Gaotie (HSR) car and reminds one “Welcome to Gaoxiong”…

Today outside my building these retards were burning plastic. How disgusting is that? It really pissed me off today to see this, more so than usual. Just the look on his face when I gave him a look of disgust and shook my head, stupid hick! I could see the particles floating in the air with the thick black smoke.

Not too long ago open sewers were still common in Taiwan. Now they’ve usually been paved over, but they’re still there - close to the surface and vented to the street. I lived in one house near Shida that still had an open sewer line to the street - once at the street, it was paved over, but it was still pretty disgusting.