When you think about Taiwan, there are many things that will probably pop into your mind – scrumptious and savoury street food, bustling night markets, as well as picturesque and modern landmarks. As much as the capital of Taiwan fit this image, Kaohsiung is a hidden gem that fits the bill all too well.
Located in southern Taiwan, Kaohsiung is a major port city with its own metro system. Although it is a modern cosmopolitan city only second to Taipei, Kaohsiung is more laid-back and relaxed compared to its counterpart in the North.
Kaohsiung is characterised by its year-round warm weather and its mild winters. The temperature at its hottest days can go above 30°C and during winter, it could go to as low as 15°C.
Getting To Kaohsiung From Taipei
You can take the Taiwan High Speed Rail line (HSR) from Taipei Main Station to HSR Zuoying Station. It takes about 90 minutes, and ticket fare is around NT$1490 (USD 47.58).
Alternatively, you go with the normal train (the Taiwan Railway Administration) from Taipei Main Station to Kaohsiung Main Station. The ride takes around 4 to 5 hours, and costs between NT$800 – NT$900 (USD 25.55 – USD 28.74).
You can also purchase at a convenience store a bus ticket (costing around NT$600 (USD 19.16), depending on the bus type and company). You can take the bus from Taipei Bus station.
Traveling around Kaohsiung is easy, due to the convenience of its metro system – Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). Furthermore, you also choose to rent and bike around the city. Kaohsiung has a lot to offer for tourists but here are 10 things that you should absolutely do when you’re in Kaohsiung!
Experience The Vibrant Night Markets
When you’re in Kaohsiung, your trip is not complete without experiencing its night markets. Night markets are vital to Taiwan’s culture, and Kaohsiung boasts one of the best night markets in Taiwan. Lined up on both sides with food vendors selling delectable local street food and xiaochi (small bites) as well as handicrafts, games, apparels and accessories, night markets are popular destinations for both tourists and the locals.
While there are quite a number of night markets in Kaohsiung, two in particular are famous in their own right – Liuhe (Liouhe) night market which is a tourist night market, and Ruifeng night market, which is a huge local night market.
Located in Sinsing district, Liuhe night market is popular for its seafood. From crabs, shrimps, to octopus, many vendors offer fresh seafood dishes and snacks. The stretch of the night market also offers a range of apparel and souvenirs for tourists. If you ever drop by Liuhe, don’t miss its famous papaya milk drink and steamed shrimp!
Ruifeng night market is located in Zuoying district. It is open daily except on Mondays and Wednesdays. It has a wide selection of food, from common local snacks such as stinky tofu to more unusual (but equally tasty) ones such as bubble tea toast (which they are famous for). There is also an array of accessory, apparel and carnival game stalls further in.
There’s no better place than Kaohsiung’s night markets where you can find and taste Taiwan’s local delights!
How to get there:
Liuhe Night Market: Within walking distance from Formosa Boulevard Station
Ruifeng Night Market: Within walking distance from Kaohsiung Arena Station
Take A Day Trip To Cijin (Qijin) Island
Cijin Island is a small island off the coast of Kaohsiung, and is famous for its fresh seafood, historical and cultural sites. You can explore the island by walking or renting a bicycle. There are many sights to see on Cijin island, including the Rainbow Church and the Cijin Star Tunnel.
The Rainbow Church is a breath-taking colourful artistic structure. While this attraction is not really a church, the stunning colours makes it a perfect spot for Instagram-worthy selfies or wefies!
The Cijin Star Tunnel was originally a military tunnel but it has since been decorated with paintings of constellations that glow in the dark. Once you reach the end of the tunnel, you will come face to face with the sea of Cijin Beach.
There are also other attractions on Cijin Island that you won’t regret checking out: the Cihou Tianhou Temple, Cihou Lighthouse, and the Sea Shell Museum.
How to get there: Take a short ferry ride from Kaohsiung harbour.
Explore The Scenic Lotus Pond
Home to more than 20 temples, Lotus Pond is a large artificial lake that has always been a popular tourist destination in Kaohsiung. At night, the area is illuminated, creating a gorgeous view. The Lotus Pond is particularly famous for the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas and Spring and Autumn Pavilions. And if you’re up for it, it is also a great place to watch the sunrise.
The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas are a pair of tall towers that are connected to each other, and you have to enter its premise through the mouth of the large statue dragon. It is said that entering from the dragon’s mouth and exiting by the tiger’s mouth rids you of bad luck and increases your good luck.
The Spring and Autumn Pavilions are two four stories tall pavilions reminiscent of those in Chinese palaces. In front of them stands a statue of Guanyin riding on the dragon statue.
How to get there: Take the train from Central Station to Zuoying Station and walk a short distance to Lotus Pond.
Be Amazed By Pier-2 Art Centre
Pier-2 Art Centre is a place where the old meets the new and where both tourists and locals enjoy how well an old area meshes together with the new fine art. It used to be an abandoned area of warehouses, but it has been revamped into a place filled with a myriad of art. From murals and museums to artistic warehouses and objects made out of various materials, there are many interesting artworks that would inevitably capture your attention.
How to get there: Within walking distance from Yanchengpu Station
Get Blown Away By Formosa Boulevard Station
Formosa Boulevard Station has been heralded as one of the most beautiful metro stations in the world, thanks to the installation of the “Dome of Light.”
Situated at the concourse level (B1) of Formosa Boulevard Station, the stunning “Dome of Light” is one of the world’s largest art installation. It is created by Narcissus Quagliata, an Italian artist, and it is made from coloured glasses.
The artwork speaks of the history of human life in four themes: water, earth, light, and fire, with the notion of love and tolerance. It’s one of the sights in Kaohsiung that is hard to tear your eyes away from. It is visually awe-inspiring, and it’s easy to find yourself lost in the beauty of the dazzling and impressive dome.
How to get there: Take a train to Formosa Boulevard Station
Looking Down And Seeing Kaohsiung From The 85 Sky Tower
If you love high places and like to observe the city from above, Kaohsiung’s 85 Sky Tower is the place to go! The observation deck is at the 74th floor where you can enjoy a great bird eye’s view of Kaohsiung city and the harbourfront in quiet peace. The entry fee costs about NT$250 per person.
The 85 Sky Tower, as its name implies, is an 85-story skyscraper located in Lingya district. It stands at 378m tall, and has an antenna poking out at the top of the building. It is also the tallest skyscraper in Kaohsiung, and the second tallest in Taiwan. The tower also consists of restaurants, hotels, office spaces and other services.
How to get there: Within walking distance of Sanduo Shopping District Station
Go On A Shopping Spree At Xin Jue Jiang (Shinkuchan) Shopping Street
Xin Jue Jiang Shopping Street is the place to go to in Kaohsiung for a variety of cheap clothing, accessories, shoes and the like. Buzzing and teeming with young crowds, it’s the perfect place for youngsters to get into the latest fashion trends. A plus is that the shopping street caters equally to both female and male fashion, and if you’re tired or hungry, you can always grab a bite along some of the food stands there. The street is full of alleys and shops, so be sure to explore them and bring back some good bargains! It opens in the afternoon until night time; if you want to avoid large crowds, visit the shopping district during the evening.
How to get there: Right next to Central Park Station
Spend Money On Branded Goods In Dream Mall
In contrast to Xin Jue Jiang, Dream Mall is the biggest shopping mall in Taiwan and in East Asia. It holds both local and international brands and cuisines, as well as a variety of entertainment facilities. There is even a dinosaur-themed rooftop amusement park, with its iconic large Ferris Wheel (the Kaohsiung Eye) that oversees the city.
The mall is very family-friendly, and if you’re tired from shopping, you can always hit the movie theatre or the game arcades to unwind and relive your childhood. There are also events at the open space outside the mall on some weekends and holidays, so it’s also a great opportunity to check them out when you visit Dream Mall during your vacation!
How to get there: Within walking distance from Kaisyuan Station. You can also take a shuttle bus from Kaisyuan Station to the mall
Relax And Wander Along The Love River (Ai River)
The Love River is a place you should definitely stop by in Kaohsiung. It boasts a magnificent scenery, especially during sunset. The river runs for 12km and meanders through Kaohsiung city to the Kaohsiung harbour. There are many cafes, bars and restaurants along the river banks, as well as a riverside park. On a fine day, spending some leisure time wandering along the serene river, or dropping by a nearby cafe to relax while having a cup of coffee or tea could do wonders for your mood.
At night, you can also find musicians or bands playing live at the outdoor cafes. The illumination of colourful lights during the night will also charm you. While it is a popular spot for a romantic getaway and dates, it’s also a perfect place to refresh yourself and spend some quiet time among the fast-paced itinerary on other days.
How to get there: Within walking distance from Yanchengpu Station
Visit The Moon At Tianliao Moon World
Lastly, Tianliao Moon World is an attraction that you can’t miss out if you’re already in Kaohsiung! It is characterised by its resemblance to the surface of the Moon (hence its name), and is the most developed badland in Taiwan, formed by years of rain and extensive stream erosion. What makes this place unique is the fact that most badlands in the world occur in dry climates and Kaohsiung is anything but dry with its tropical rainfalls.
There is a sturdy wooden footpath and trail, various rest areas and toilets so rest assured, you can take your time to enjoy your surroundings. If you visit Tianliao Moon World at night, the slopes will be lit up, enhancing the beauty of this scenic attraction.
Tianliao Moon World is in the suburban area and might be somewhat out of the way. However, the sights and its natural landscapes are so spectacular that it makes the trip worthwhile. It’s definitely a place that you should add to your bucket list. You can even boast to your friends that you visited the “Moon”!
How to get there:
Taking a car or taxi is the quickest and easiest way to get there. Alternatively, you can take the Kaohsiung City bus Red 70B from Gangshan MRT Station. The ride takes about an hour. However, the bus runs infrequently especially on weekdays so do take note of the last bus back to the station.
A Modern City of Tradition and Culture
Kaohsiung is a city that is immersed in its rich culture and tradition, yet is also a successful modern city where most places are easily accessible and within reach. From its cultural night markets, to huge contemporary malls, as well as historical buildings and natural landscapes, Kaohsiung has a place for everyone.
If you’re planning a trip to Taiwan, Kaohsiung is a city that you should definitely consider!