Distant Hipster: A Guide to Austin’s Sister Cities [Part 2]

In the first part of our guide, we covered Sister Cities with populations lower than Austin’s. But that was already a week ago! Some of your friends may have already disappeared from the local scene to participate in cultural exchange abroad. You may need to reconsider your options, since Sister Cities with larger populations tend to be easier to assimilate (and your state pride shirt isn’t exactly subtle). Without further ado, the KUTX Travel Agency is pleased to bring you facts from Austin’s (the misunderstood middle child’s) big sisters!

Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, PRC (Population 993,397: 112% of Austin Pop.)


– No, it’s not the name of the latest stoner metal band…but it could be. Xishuangbanna, People’s Republic of China is like if the Greenbelt took over our entire city (alternatively, if nature was never conquered by the concrete jungle and nomadic bands of hacky sack enthusiasts). If you want to hop off the plane and just, you know, become one with nature, man, then you’ll be thrilled to learn that the lush Xishuangbanna region sits at a lower altitude than most of the Yunnan province and borders closely on tropical climate, allowing for cool weather while you explore the wilderness.

– In addition to an abundance of plants, Xishuangbanna is home to the last few Asian elephants still in China, as well as the Dai people, some of the hippest folks in the world (but don’t expect them to know all the bands you’ve claimed to have seen before they were ‘discovered’).

– While you’re channeling your inner transcendentalist in what is quickly becoming a sought after tourist attraction (though the locals surely wouldn’t use the “T” word on you) you can attend the traditional Dai Water-Splashing Festival (we’re not sure if Super Soakers are allowed), or if you’re looking for something that’s more like the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center then you can always check out the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (WARNING: Palm tree addiction may ensue).

Adelaide, Australia (Population 1.29 million: 146% of Austin Pop.)


– So far the cities on our list have been fairly reminiscent of the Austin cultural scene, but if you want something that’s more of a spittin’ image, look no further! Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia and the fifth largest city in Australia, is noted for its many festivals, sporting events, food and wine, and for resembling what it would look like if C3 designed a city.

– Adelaide is home to a plethora of up-and-coming artists (with Austin-level quirky/borderline baffling names like “Wolf & Cub” and “Cold Chisel”) as well as 20 radio stations, 8 touring music festivals and 19 local music festivals including FUSE (though we can’t help you decide between their festivals like we did locally…still no word on Shaved Puppy Fest moving to Australia).

– If the young population demographic of other cities was intimidating to you (you don’t want to be out-hipped, that may require hip-replacement surgery), you may find comfort in the fact that a good portion of Adelaide’s population is older than 55 (we don’t even want to think about the sound ordinance regulation over there).

– Adelaide has been ranked as the most livable city in Australia, due in part to its comparatively fluid transportation infrastructure. But although Adelaide was once known as a “twenty-minute city” roads like the Southern Expressway, colloquially referred to as the SEXY, (why can’t we have more fun names like this instead of MoPac?) are now often considered inadequate to cope with Adelaide’s growing road traffic and often experience traffic congestion just like here in Texas. Just remember this if you’re having trouble assimilating as a foreigner: You are never stuck in traffic, you are traffic.

Taichung, Taiwan (Population 2.7 million: 305% of Austin’s Pop.)


– Every time you go to the Pecan Street Festival (and you go every single time), you fall in love with the charm and quirkiness of market vendors and food trucks, the likes of which can only be found 365 days a year in Austin. But you’ve seen ‘em all, and now you need to sate your non-drinking-yet-somehow-sixth-street-loving appetite elsewhere. Luckily for you, the heart of Taichung has always been the small business, where the thriving downtown sector is filled with small eateries, traditional markets, and other family businesses.

– If you’ve already tried all the flavors at CoCo’s Cafe and want to take it to a more authentic level, be sure to check out the Chun Shui Tang teahouse, where bubble tea was invented (and where you can refer your less-in-the-know friends – knowing they’ll never go and you’ll always have the leg up on them when it comes to something like bubble tea…way to go).

– Isn’t it weird when you see someone properly use their turn signal in Texas? If you’re worried about getting homesick over improper traffic conduct while you’re abroad, never fear! In Taichung, stop lights and lane indicators are generally observed on major streets but are often viewed more as suggestions rather than legally enforced traffic rules, unless police officers are present. On top of this, the flat and compact Taichung is not a walking city, since the lack of sidewalks makes it unpleasant to walk even short distances (you may want to consider a pogo stick).

– Bicycles are also a very efficient form of transportation, but you don’t have to worry about shipping your road bike overseas (unless you have to show off your absence of breaks and unknown band stickers): In July 2014, Taichung started the Public Bicycles Renting Service, which is called iBike (imagine if the marketing geniuses behind Apple designed Yellow Bike). Between the endless bike lanes and blistering summer heat, you’ll be sweating away your troubles (and bubbles, if you make it to Chun Shui Tang) just like you would in Texas.

Lima, Peru (Population 9.75 million: 1101% of Austin Pop.)


– So you’re sick of people moving to “your” town. Why not blow off some steam (or vapor, if you’re an e-cig user) by moving somewhere similar with a much greater population and becoming part of their problem? Lima’s population is constantly growing due to a high level of immigration from the rest of the regions of Peru, so they’ll just love having you come visit!

– Be wary! Lima might be a little more hip than you expect. In general, Lima is considered a “young” city with the majority of the population falling between ages 15 and 29. As a result, there’s a vibrant and active theater scene (in case Zack Scott isn’t enough for you) along with the upscale Miraflores district (AKA Peruvian Sixth Street). Nightlife, shopping, and live performances center around Miraflores, where bars, dance clubs, movie theaters, cafes, boutiques, and galleries attract countless people every night.

– If you’re not a “Dirty Sixth” kind of person, you should head towards Barranco, the city’s bohemian district and home to acclaimed restaurants, venues that feature traditional folk music of coastal Peru, and beautiful Victorian-style chalets (think Rainey Street, but fewer people wearing cutoffs). Lima is also home to the oldest continuously functioning university in the Americas, the National University of San Marcos, where we’re sure Bobcat-like bros have stopped functioning intermittently between drinks since 1551.

– If you’ve been gone so long that you miss the traffic, you’re in luck! Lima is an important junction in the Pan-American Highway and the starting point for three major highways, which alongside the unorganized urban transport system (sound familiar?), causes high congestion and traffic on a daily basis. And with our April showers behind us, it’s the perfect time to catch Lima’s high humidity and low rainfall for the ultimate muggy experience, just like in Austin.

We’re sad to say we couldn’t cover all of Austin’s sister cities (assumedly because our foreign correspondents were overwhelmed by the hipness). But if this guide was too square for you then you can book your flight (or set the course on your water bike) for one of the four remaining sister cities:

  • Hackney, East London, United Kingdom (The land of Hitchcock, Poe, Caine, Firth and Elba)
  • Orlu, Nigeria (Silicon Valley’s African equivalent)
  • Antalya Kepez, Turkey (International SXSW)
  • Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi, South Korea (Home to the world’s largest IKEA store…settle down, Round Rock residents.)

Don’t forget your passport! We know you’ll be humble about all the places you’ve been.

– Jack Anderson

Photo Credit: Marla / CC BY

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