In our armchair travels we just finished touring some cities in Pakistan. So I imagined myself as a pinpoint on a map standing at the border of Pakistan wondering where to go next. So I decided to hop on over to Taiwan which is a small island nation 180km east of China and is officially known as the Republic of China or ROC.
The first city we’ll be touring is Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan. It is home to many interesting temples, impressive skyscrapers and lots of greenery in parks for relaxation. Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s largest port, its second-largest city and the center of the country’s heavy and petrochemical industries. Visitors enjoy the wide streets, waterside parks and airy cafes. There are even two swimming beaches within the city.
To the west of Kaohsiung City you’ll find Sizih Bay/Sizihwan Beach. Its location is between Wanshou Shan and Chichin Island. This is a sandy beach with lovely coral formations on the coastlines. It offers fantastic views of nature.
The famous Sun Yat-sen (Chungshan) University was built here in 1980. It was the first university in Taiwan with awesome ocean views. Some of the other interesting places you can see here are the Coastal Garden, President Chiang’s Memorial Hall and the historical museum.
Sizihwan Beach is famous for its swimming beach. In the summer you can sunbathe or participate in volleyball games. It is well-known for its shimmering blue water, awesome sunset and natural coral reefs. Picture a most lovely setting with coconut trees waving in the ocean breeze and the white sand beneath your feet. The sunset here has been acknowledged as one of the eight famous scenes in Kaohsiung.
The Old British Consulate is just five minutes from Sizihwan Beach, sitting atop of a hill overlooking the harbor. This is an impressive red-brick building which was once the colonial mansion for the British Consul. Inside you can find small exhibitions and you can sit on the open terrace and enjoy a drink and a meal. It was built in 1865 70m above the mouth of Kaohsiung Harbor. It is a great place from which to watch giant container ships sail through the tiny mouth of the harbor. Visitors also like taking a look at a tiny temple found to the left of the larger temple beside the consulate. This is the only shrine in Taiwan to deify 17th century Dutch naval commanders.
Museum of History is housed in a former city government building. Here visitors walk upon blonde-wood floors and along marble hallways. There are photographic displays, a semi-permanent 2-28 memorial and other exhibits that change quarterly. This building was one of the important historical sites of the 2-28 incident and it’s said that the first gunshot in Kaohsiung was fired here in March of 1947.
Don’t pass by the chance to take a ferry to Cijin Island. This is a lovely island that is known for the quality of its sea products and even has a road called Seafood Street. Here you can enjoy taking strolls, bike or swim. You’ll find a wonderful lighthouse which offers fantastic views.
See the Cijin Tianhou Temple where the sea goddess Matsu has been worshipped for more than 300 years. This is Taiwan’s first temple to Matsu and is also Kaohsiung’s oldest temple. From the architectural side it is a southern-style temple with two halls, five doors and two guard rooms. The temple’s roof is a swallow-tail ridge decorated with two dragons. Inside are many important artifacts and the temple is the city’s local religious center.
Cijin Island acts as a buffer to the harbor and extends down the city coastline, connected to Kaohsiung at its southern tip by a tunnel. Visitors and locals enjoy the trip here to see the lovely temple, the light house, partake of the delicious seafood, enjoy the beach and the picturesque coastal park with seven wind turbines.
Cijin Wind Turbine Park has seven 3-blade wind turbines that generate enough power to provide the park with four hours of illumination during the nighttime. The park also has coastal plants, a lawn, a viewing platform and a performance square.
You just have to love a city that is divided by The Love River. The banks of the river are lined with open-air cafes and wonderful little parks. The river begins at Bagualiao in Kaohsiung City’s Renwu Dirstrict. The banks are connected by the Jianguo, Cisian and Jhongiheng Bridges. Originally the river was called The Kaohsiung River but in 1948 when the Love River Boat Company opened up near the Jhongiheng Bridge it was renamed the Love River. The bridges have been recently renovated and now give off rainbows of lights after dark.
On the east bank you’ll find the amazing Soaring Dragon Fish Statue, created for the 2001 Kaohsiung Lantern Festival. The dragonhead and fish body is a symbol of Kaohsiung. The statue is 25m tall, weighs 30 tons and built of stainless steel. During festivals flickering lights illuminate the dragon’s body and the dragon breathes smoke.
Yuanheng Temple is an impressive Buddhist Monastery perched upon a ridge, at the southern edge of Shoushan Hill. In front you will find three giant Buddhas.
To go hiking in the great outdoors head for Monkey Mountain which got its nickname because of the large Macaque monkey population. The monkeys are safe to be around but are getting more and more inquisitive. Take note of the signs not to feed them other wise they’ll attempt to sneak food away from you. The best times to see them are in the mornings or late afternoons.
Snake lovers will enjoy these mountains as there are plenty of snakes slithering about. You might not see them during the day while hiking but if you go night hiking you will definitely see the bright green, red-eyed bamboo snake. Down around rivers and lake areas you’ll find the Taiwan cobra.
An impressive example of classic Chinese architecture is The Martyr’s Shrine. It was built in a scenic location high above the city on the southern slope of Shoushan. There are lots of enjoyable hiking trails.
For some great views, fine strolling and people watching head for the Kaohsiung Harbor. You can see ships loading and unloading containers, do some cycling and have a drink by the water side. There is plenty of action at the Gushan Ferry Pier on weekends.
The Fine Arts Museum is located in the middle of a quiet park. The museum displays both local and foreign artwork. There is a four-floor high sculpture room with a skylight. Artists from the south and indigenous artists are frequently featured.
Lotus Pond is a scenic pond in the north of the city and is a popular destination for both visitors and locals. There are many temples along the shoreline.
If you start from the southern end of the pond and head clockwise around the lake first you’ll encounter sections of the Old Wall of Fengshan built in 1826. The north gate which is still intact runs along Shengli Rd.
Out onto the pond extend the Dragon & Tiger Pagodas, built in the 1960s as an extension of the Ciji Temple opposite. If you enter the dragon and exit the tiger you’ll have good luck.
Next you come to the Spring & Autumn Pavilions. These are dedicated to Guandi, the god of war and feature Guanyin riding a dragon.
Across the road is the Temple of Enlightenment, the largest temple in the area. It’s guarded by two giant temple lions hugging giant stone balls.
The City God Temple has traditional woodcarvings fill with symbolism like the fish representing Yin and Yang and the crabs representing official promotion. The roof has great examples of dragons and phoenixes in jiannian (mosaic-like temple decoration).
At the back of the pond follow along the pier to the walkway and onto the imposing 24m statue of Xuantian Shang-di, the Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven and Guardian of the north.
The final temple is the Confucius Temple on the lake’s northern end. It was completed in 1976 and is the largest Confucius temple in Taiwan.
For a flavor of all kinds of artwork go to Pier-2 Art District. This is an area consisting of 25 warehouses from the 1970s that have been turned into galleries, boutiques and places of entertainment. There are three groups of warehouses along two boulevards by the port. The first group features designer workshops, boutiques selling local and imported lifestyle products, a vintage shop, Ham Gallery and trendy cafes. On weekend afternoons you’ll find a flea market here.
In the second group are former bicycle warehouses which now house children’s theaters, game and ice cream parlors, Eslite bookstore and a stationery store. The third group has performance venues like in Our Time, restaurants and beautiful lawns full of huge installation works made with materials from Kaohsiung’s industrial past. Disused rail tracks here have been covered with flowers.
The Shoushan Park in the Gushan District has a zoo with dozens of animals from all over the world among them camels, antelopes, macaques and ostriches. The highlight here is the amazing Formosan Black Bear and the aviary where you can see birds at eye level. It is the largest public zoo in southern Taiwan and was established in 1978. Once the area was transformed into a campus for Sun Yat-Sen University the new zoo was built on its current site and opened to the public in 1986. Mountains surround the zoo on three sides and there are a variety of area including small animals, mammals, predators, a bird park, a reptile center and a nocturnal animal center. The zoo also has an education center where stuffed animals and information are displayed. The entrance features the largest wall mosaic in Taiwan and the walkway features paintings from various schools.
Daitian Temple has a Taoist hall in the front and a Buddhist hall in the back. Both of them are intricately decorated with folk art. This is the largest collection of artwork by master painter Pan Lishui than in any other temple in Taiwan. The square in front of the temple has old shops and at night vendors sell traditional food such as flying-fish balls and Shantou noodles. The complex includes a small museum with more artwork by Lishui.
Fisherman’s Wharf and Banana Pier has become a tourist area with al fresco dining and a promenade that offers great views of the port. The main attraction is the Banana Warehouse, a restored structure that was used in the 1960s to store fruit. In the warehouse are wonderful displays that explain the trade and shops which sell banana-themed items.
A must to visit is the Liuhe Night Market located right in the heart of Kaohsiung. The highlight of the market is the seafood with stands selling crab, shrimp, octopus and squid. There are some stands which are restaurants. There are some stall selling clothing and accessories.
For a real great shopping experience you have to see Dream Mall which is the city’s first international class shopping and leisure center. The mall has nine above ground floors plus two underground levels for parking. There are around 600 major retail stores among them five anchor businesses – Uni-Hankyu Department Store of Japan, Britain’s Marks & Spencer Department Store, Japan’s Hokkaido Ice and Snow Theme Park, Hello Kitty Ferris Wheel, Happy 100 and Cinemark Cinema as well as 18 box stores. The innovative mall design incorporates natural and maritime motifs based on four major themes – water, flowers, nature and the universe.
The Tuntex Sky Tower was the tallest skyscraper in Taiwan till the Taipei 101 took the title. Still it is the tallest skyscraper in Kaohsiung. There are 85 floors and it’s a multi-functional building with offices, residential apartments, a department store, Grand Formosa Hotel and an observation deck for spectacular views. Its unusual architectural design was created based on the Chinese character “gao”, meaning tall. “Gao” is also the first character of the name of the city, Kaohsiung.
Just like New York City in the U.S. Kaohsiung has its own Central Park. Both locals and tourists enjoy the lovely greenery here and recreational facilities. You can stroll about the park or rent a bike. The park includes such features as Kaohsiung Literature Library, Scenic Lake, Middle Island, Speech Square, Water Square, Hedgerow Labyrinth and Outdoor Terrace. Everyone enjoys the 20 minute-long water dance performed daily at the Water Square.