The modern face of old Kaohsiung

The modern face of old Kaohsiung

Art, food, river cruises and bamboo bathtubs; Kaohsiung in Taiwan is a mishmash of culture and commerce

Kaohsiung was a central hub in Japan's occupation of Taiwan, but today, while drinking water treatment facilities, the railway and other port facilities are a visible legacy to those colonial days, it is also a vibrant cultural and commercial experience in its own right. 

 

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Dai Tian Gong Street Food

The 60-year-old Dai Tian Gong Taoist temple in Hamasen has a courtyard that hosts a night market with excellent street food. It may be a little surprising to see night market operating on temple grounds -- it brings to mind Jesus freaking out at the market that operated on the grounds of his local synagogue -- but the Taoists don’t mind mixing commerce, stinky tofu and their religion.

The locals swear by the fresh sailfish ball soup, which Kaohsiung residents will scooter across the city for. Don’t worry about not being able to order, if there aren’t photos of the food you want, you can tell the hawkers to open up their pots and pans for you to take a peek.

Love River, Kaohsiung

Love River

This 17-kilometer long river in Yancheng is beloved by locals and tourists alike. The riverside is home to the Museum of History and the Kaohsiung Film Archives, housed in well-maintained colonial Japanese buildings and various parks.

A couple of popular coffee shops and bars with patios overlooking the river attract the younger dating crowds while the older set and families prefer a cruise. Of course, the Love River experience wouldn’t be complete without a Love Boat cruise!

The Love Pier is the jumping off point to the Cijin Island fishing port and there are various river and ocean cruises available. Cruises up the river start at T$50 (US$1.72).

Pier 2 Arts Centre

Pier 2 Arts Centre

An underused old pier has been transformed into an arts hub with exhibitions and permanent artwork housed indoors and outdoors. This is where the arts community in Taiwan untucks its shirt and shows off its wild and wacky side with art that includes spray-painted shipping containers, two-story-high twisted metal art pieces and windmills of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Be prepared to see lots of peace-sign-flashing kids and adults. The old railway that runs along the pier has been converted into a bike lane that hooks up with other bike lanes criss-crossing Kaohsiung.

Address: No.1, Dayong Rd., Yancheng

street food, Kaohsiung

Eat in the back alleys

Many hole-in-the-wall restaurants are found in the back streets of Yancheng and many of them have been in business for over 50 years.

Wander around Cisian 3 Road to sample delicacies like rice dumplings, fish noodles, rice cakes, wontons, Taiwanese stewed meat and my favorite, Lao-Jheng Sing restaurant’s (#167, Cisian 3 Road) traditional brunch treats like xiao long bao, savory soya milk and other traditional Taiwanese baked and deep fried goodies.

Don’t forget that if there’s a lineup of locals out front it must be good. You’ll never go hungry wandering Yancheng.

bamboo bathtub, Kaohsiung

Bathe in bamboo 

Ever wanted to get one of those cool bamboo bathtubs the Japanese bathe in? You’re in luck. Watch bamboo artisans hard at work on the side of the street outside the Bamboo product shops at the end of Wufu 4th Road in Yancheng.

They still assemble bamboo bathtubs, dim sum steamers, and other useful bamboo goods by hand the way their earlier generations did. Bathtubs start at T$20,000 and can be shipped anywhere.

Gold Street, Kaohsiung

Gold Street beside the Thieves’ Market

For those on the look out for some bling, the gold and jewelry dealers located in the Sinle, Dayong and Cisian 3 Road areas offer some of the best deals in Taiwan. And despite its name, today you'll be safe to wander the adjacent Thieves’ Market with your new bling.

In the 1950s and 60s, the Thieves’ Market on Fuye Road was where the trading of stolen goods, often gold and jewelry, thrived. The name of the market may have stuck but these days the clothing, souvenirs and knickknacks are all legit but the prices are still a bargain and don’t worry, thievery is no longer a serious issue in Kaohsiung.

Former British consulate at Dagou

Former British consulate at Dagou

It’s a bit of a hike up the hill to this former British consulate building but even the laziest among us will enjoy the colonial grandeur of the restored tea and dining room in the Museum of History.

If the pomp of the British style tea room isn’t your thing, grab a beer instead and enjoy the sea breezes overlooking Cijin Island, Gushan and the Kaohsiung harbor.

Address: 18 Linhai Rd, Hamasen.

 

How to get there:

    Within Taiwan, Kaohsiung is easily reachable from various cities by intercity bus, local trains and the high speed rail service. Taipei is only 2.5 hours from Kaohsiung by the Taiwan high speed rail service. There are direct flights to Kaohsiung from Hong Kong, Macau, China, Japan, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

    Best time to go:

    The best time to go to Kaohsiung is October to January. It’s best to avoid the summer months (June-August) as it’s very hot and humid.