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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrAlthough Kaohsiung largely remains in the shadow of Taipei nowadays, it is still the second largest city by urban population, the southwestern capital city of Taiwan, a port of futuristic buildings, funky street art, epic Asian night markets, ancient Buddhist temples, and creative MRT stations. Kaohsiung is one of those big yet walkable cities where you can get everywhere on foot or by bicycle (which can be rented from a city bike stand near every MRT station), provided that you do not mind getting wet on most of the days. Kaohsiung is famous for its rainy weather, which is greatly favored by its inhabitants.
Curiously, Kaohsiung’s ancient name is ‘Takau’, which probably came from the language of the local Siraya people and means “bamboo forest”. In Chinese historical documents, it was transcribed as ‘Dagao’ (打狗), but later on at the end of the 19th century, the Japanese started writing the name in Japanese kanji as Takao (高雄). Under the Republic of China, people started to read the kanji characters as in Chinese, Gaoxiong/Kaohsiung instead of Takao. The current name of the city actually means “High Bravery”.
Originally populated by Austronesian peoples for thousands of years, Kaohsiung area was later occupied by the Dutch colonists and used as an important port, then passed on to the Japanese and finally, the Republic of China.
Sights and ActivitiesKaohsiung is great for cycling, its terrain being mostly flat and even. You might be scared at first by the crazy amount of motorbikes on the road and parked on the sidewalks, but being a cyclist here is much safer than being a humble pedestrian.
The Dome of Light at Formosa Boulevard MRT station is made up of 4,500 glass panels (the largest glasswork in the world) in commemoration of the most important events in modern Taiwanese history. In the center of the hall, under the dome, you can often hear musicians performing and even someone playing the piano. The name of the station comes from a political incident that occurred in Kaohsiung in December 1979, when the members of Formosa Magazine started an active demonstration for democratization and human rights in Taiwan, and were, of course, arrested. ‘Ilha Formosa’ is the Portuguese name of Taiwan, literally meaning “Beautiful Island”.
A ferry to Qijin, a small island just 20 minutes away from the harbor, is a great adventure into the world of seafood (they have fish-flavored candies too).
The river that runs through Kaohsiung is actually called ‘Love River’ (愛河, Ài Hé). A stroll along the Lover’s wharf and Fisherman’s wharf is a great afternoon activity, completed by watching the night fall over the sea at Love Pier. It probably offers the best view of Kaohsiung’s seaside skyline, as well as some great light installations and other works of modern outdoor art at ‘Pier 2’ Art Center.
In the Old City of Zuoying, see the fascinating reflections of Dragon and Tiger pagodas in the waters of Lotus Lake at sunset.
Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts hosts exhibitions by local and international artists. Dadong Art Center and Kaohsiung Music Center will give you another glimpse into the artistic life of the city.
Lost in the jungle of Gushan Mountain, learn to fight off the cheeky monkeys who try to steal your snacks as you sweat and climb up the wooden stairs.
A lovely day-trip out of town is Fo Guang Shan monastery, housing one of the biggest Buddha statues and memorial halls in the world. Although just parts of the monastery are open for the public, you will still be greeted by the friendly monks and nuns and escorted around the premises.
Best Times to Visit
End of JanuaryChinese New Year is the busiest time in every country where the festival is celebrated, and although flights and hotels must be booked well in advance, you will never regret staying in Kaohsiung for the biggest celebration of the year.
End of FebruaryBeginning of March is the time for the Lantern Festival . In Taiwan, its celebration moves from one town to another every year, but Taipei and Kaohsiung hold festivities annually.
JuneDragon Boat Festival and Dragon boat races. Sticky rice street food, realgar wine, and racing dragon boats. You cannot miss this.
For more information on these festivals, head to the official website of Kaohsiung Municipality.
Accommodation and RestaurantsLiuhe Night Market (六合夜市) in the Xinxing District of Kaohsiung is great for food and handicrafts, drinks and household items.
Kaohsiung has a number of amazing vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Feng Xin Vegetarian at 128 Fumin road is great for inexpensive lunches and dinners.
There are plenty of hostels and hotels for all budgets.
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Author: wilhelminamurray. Last updated: May 17, 2015