For many years now, majority of travellers would choose Taipei over Kaohsiung especially for their first visit to Taiwan, and that was the case for me. I had this impression that Kaohsiung City would be, perfect as a choice, for retirement – Quiet, peaceful, with ample bicycle tracks boosting a healthier lifestyle. Not that this is not impressive, but (I thought) it lacks a main drawcard, thus appearing somewhat dull for travellers, which is also why I hesitated to visit until my third trip to Taiwan.
Kaohsiung is in fact the second largest city in Taiwan, and is the island’s largest industrial centre, most notable for its busy ports. Exploring Kaohsiung finally for the first time, my impression of it being peaceful and great for retirement have not changed but, there is actually a lot more being offered than what people might think. In this post, I have list down the Top 10 Things which I recommend so, if not knowing what to do in Kaohsiung is what kept you from visiting, now you know and you should go.
Top 10 Things to Do in Kaohsiung City
1. Head over to Qijin Island for Seafood Feast!
Approximately 5 minutes away from Kaohsiung City, this destination is great as 1/2 day trip. I would recommend coming in the evening, just in time to catch sunset from the beach, and the view from here is splendid. The beach was clean and sand was really soft but, the water was not as clean to be advise for swimming. There was also quite a large area filled with amazingly detailed sand sculptures where people can get up-close and fill their cameras with innumerable photos.
Lining the main streets on this island are, other than a few souvenir shops, street vendors or seafood restaurants with fresh catch that goes from NT$100/plate. Though they are simply steamed or stir-fried dish with basic spice, this will retain the sweetness seafood has.
And when the night falls, head on over to another attraction – Star Tunnel 星空隧道 – which though is nothing special, just a tunnel with man-made glowing stars and a horoscope map-like that we don’t quite understand, you will arrive next to a cliff at the end of this tunnel. Watch the star-studded sky as you get sprinkled with seawater when the strong wind send huge waves crashing against the cliff before it lands on you.
Directions to Cijin Island: Catch the ferry to Cijin Island from Gushan Ferry Pier (Sizihwan metro station, Exit 1). Ferry fees are NT$25/way or NT$20 with i-Pass, and takes about 5~10minutes. Intervals are 5~30minutes depending on time of the day. Check the official website for more information.
2. Sizihwan & Yanchengpu One-Day Free & Easy Cycling Tour
Sizihwan is a community that sits on the adjacent bay of the Taiwan Strait, which is also dominantly occupied by one of top universities in Taiwan – National Sun Yat-Sen University – while Yanchengpu is an old town of Kaohsiung. Together, these two districts is pack with cultural, educational and entertaining attractions both old and new, sufficient for a fun-filled adventurous day. There are many more sites to visit on these districts (refer to map attached at the end of section), but here are some of my favourites:
(2A) Former British Consulate at Takao
Takao or Takow is a former name for Kaohsiung and as the name suggest, it is a former British consulate, now turned museum with display rooms showing what were they used for in the past. There are 2 areas and at the top, you will find Rose House Cafe 古典玫瑰園, which I highly recommend because..
Rose House 古典玫瑰園 offers British-style afternoon tea for 2pax starting from NT$599 and overlooks Sizihwan Bay which is a bonus on top of the affordable delicacies. Where else can we find a better place than this to rest in between visiting sites?
Information: The British Consulate at Takow
(2B) National Sun Yat-Sen University and Sizihwan Beach
Riding further down from the Former British Consulate at Takao, you will arrive at one of the top universities in Taiwan and the impressive thing is, there is a beach within the university’s compound itself! Sizihwan Beach is one of the only 2 beaches in Kaohsiung, the other being in Cijin Island. In the summer, the beach is pack with sun-goers, full-swing of water sports and activities. Surfing is apparently doable here as well but, be sure to check the waves chart before heading down as it may not be suitable all the time and then you waste your trip down. Jealous of the students here. I can imagine them dozing off with their textbook in hand, but at the beach!
(2C) The Pier-2 Art Center
Once an abandoned and forgotten warehouse, it has now been brought back to life thanks to a group of artists, turning the old area into the current fine art-filled Pier-2 Art Center. If you were to search online, you will find many interesting pictures taken here – definitely a insta-worthy place! And if you are making the trip down to this art center, be sure to try their handmade ice-cream as well.
(2D) Takao Railway Museum 打狗鐵道故事館
This place used to be Kaohsiung’s first railway station but has since ceased operations due to shifts in industry, and it officially open as the now railway museum in 2010. On the land where trains used to station in its glory days, are now overgrown grass that buries those tracks, and modern art pieces spread across this field. Though there are no more actual trains in sight, these art pieces definitely brought some colours in, rather than letting it fade to a junk piece of land. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10AM – 6PM, and admission is FREE.
(2E) Holy Rosary Cathedral
If you are cycling to Love River, you might want to have a look at this place (but skip if you are pressed for time). The Holy Rosary Cathedral is actually the oldest Catholic Church in Taiwan, with a simple but beautiful architectural style.
Refer to map for other attractions around these districts
The best way to visit all these sites is by cycling to these attractions. There are a few rental shops outside both Sizihwan and Yanchengpu Station. Alternatively, you can alight at Sizihwan station and there will be a booth from 幸福九九 rental shop at Exit 1. They would also hand you a map with all the attractions listed above so you may skip all the trouble taking it down on your own. Bicycle rental fees was NT$100 for full day and will have to return at 7pm when we rented it, but do check with the respective owners. If visiting all sites listed on map, it would be 6~7pm by the time you are done, and though you could head on over to Cijin Island since the pier is nearby, I would suggest staying in Kaohsiung City and visit their night markets instead.
3. Night Markets (definitely)
(3A) Ruifeng Night Market
There are actually quite a few night markets in Kaohsiung City but, most tourists would return to Liuhe or Ruifeng Night Market which are the more popular ones. Ruifeng Night Market is a lot bigger than Liuhe Night Market, and in here are more-than-you-can-count vendors. Not only are there countless variety of Taiwan’s snacks found here, there are numerous carnival games which some are not even seen elsewhere, or even full poker table open up for gambling in the middle of a night market.
Almost impossible to list down just one thing to try at Ruifeng Night Market but if I must, it would be the Tang Bao (soup buns), or 小笼包 Xiaolongbao as what we know in Singapore, from 邵師傅上海湯包 “Shao Shifu Shanghai Tang Bao”. I have not had such good ones in a long time and if you are a lover of Xiaolongbao, you might regret leaving this out.
Information: closest metro station to Ruifeng Night Market is the Kaohsiung Arena station. Do note that not all night markets are open daily, and Ruifeng Night Market is one of them that only opens on certain days – mainly Tuesday, and Thursday to Sunday.
(3B) Liuhe Night Market
One thing I noticed about Ruifeng Night Market is that, there were quite a few student-like locals that brought foreigners here, acting as a guide. In comparison, Liuhe Night Market appear as the “tourist trap”, as observed from the crowd. Surprisingly, this night market is much more smaller than what I expected after the hype I read about online. In terms of food offered, majority are seafood stalls similar to Cijin Island but after visiting both places, I would recommend Cijin if you are looking to feast on seafood as the same dish is more expensive at Liuhe Night Market’s (reads: tourist trap?).
Directions: Alight at R10/05 Formosa Boulevard station and walk about 5minutes to arrive at the night market (directions are given from metro station). *Do look for the “Dome of Light” (continue reading) if you are heading to Liuhe Night Market.
(3C) Lingya/ Ziqiang Night Market 苓雅/自强夜市
Though not the popular-among-tourists kind of night markets, I would like to recommend Lingya (or Ziqiang) Night Market, especially to travellers who puts “must-eat” food in their itinerary. Staying nearby for some time, I had the opportunity to try out so many different stalls here, and I must say this night market hides some of the best food you can find, including Taiwan’s popular 滷肉饭 braised meat rice from 南豐魯肉飯 “Nan Feng Lu Rou Fan”.
Another thing I found at this night market is one of the best Kaya Toast that I have eaten outside of Malaysia, from 好运客滿 “Hao Yun Ke Man”. According to the staffs, the owner is Taiwanese, who picked up his Kaya (coconut jam) recipe from a Singaporean.
Directions: Walk along Sanduo Road after exiting Sanduoshang metro station, turning right at Chenggong 1st road until you reach Lingya 2nd road.
Overall, I prefer Ruifeng over Liuhe Night Market mainly due to the variety it has, and with a mix of carnival games, makes it an interesting trip. And don’t leave out Lingya/ Ziqiang Night Market if you are hunting down the best food in Taiwan.
4. Stand Under The Largest Glass Work In The World.
This colourful piece of glass-work, namely the Dome of Light designed by an Italian artist, is installed at Formosa Boulevard (metro) station, and is the largest of its kind in the world. Because of this art piece, Formosa Boulevard station is named one of the most beautiful metro stations in the world. Don’t forget to stop by and appreciate it especially if heading to Liuhe Night Market.
5. Shop at Yuansu Yuchu and Shinkuchan Shopping District
If shopping districts like Ximending or Wufenpu is your kind of heaven, you will be pleasantly surprise that they are not only found in Taipei. Yuansu Yuchu and Shinkuchan Shopping Districts are similar to Takeshita Street in Harajuka, Japan, with numerous shops carrying the IT item, and themed cafes usually on second floor. If you are looking for beauty products, two of the best beauty products carrier – 86shop and Little Three 小三美日 – are here at these districts to satisfy your needs as well. Rejoice, shopaholics!
Directions: Yuansu Yuchu and Shinkuchan shopping districts are close to Central Park Station, Exit 3.
6. Ride A Ferris Wheel That Sits On A Mall’s Rooftop
Amusement parks on rooftops seems like nothing out of ordinary in Kaohsiung, and on top of that – a Ferris Wheel. Sitting on top of Taiwan’s largest shopping mall – Dream Mall 夢時代購物中心 – is the Kaohsiung Eye. Because of the elevated position, it offers a great view of Kaohsiung City and its harbour. Recorded guide will be played in each cabin, introducing the different sights in view, which I’ve found informative. Budget travellers can enjoy this too as it only cost NT$120 (approx S$5).
Getting to Dream Mall: Take Kaohsiung’s subway and alight at Kaisyuan Station. From here, you can either wait for the mall’s free shuttle bus at Exit 3, or take a cab, which takes about 5minutes to reach.
7. Visit Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Center
Get away from the city center and enjoy serenity at Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Center, while learning about the teachings of Buddhism. The environment is peaceful, and those teachings gets you wondering and pondering. This memorial center is huge on top of that, covering more than 100 hectares and therefore, one can possibly lost track of time and the next thing you know is that they are closing soon for the day, so get there early. If you are seeking to recuperate from some illnesses or tiredness, I’ve heard that one could try asking to stay with the monks at the main temple.
Information: Take Kaohsiung Bus No. 8010 or 8011 from Kaohsiung Main Terminal which is located at R11 Kaohsiung Main (metro) Station, taking about 1hr to arrive and cost NT$70/way when I went last year. There are limited bus trips throughout the day and once you miss it, the next one could be hours away. So do remember to take note of the bus schedule.
8. Land your feet on the “surface of Moon” at Tianliao Moon World
This site is actually a bad land where nothing can be grown due to rain and erosion over the years, leaving a desolated scene looking like the moon, and thus the name – Moon World. The Moon World is the only one of its kind in Taiwan, spreading across a few areas, and Tianliao’s site is only a part of it. Quite a fascinating sight which I would still recommend to visit even though there is nothing much here.
Directions: Take 港都汽車客運’s 紅70B from R24 Gangshan South (metro) Station. I would recommend to call the bus company and confirm the bus schedule first before heading down since the trips are infrequent. You wouldn’t want to be stranded at Gangshan South Station as there is literally nothing there.
9. Spend a day or two in “another world”
A complex of Lin’s, a wealthy businessmen in Taiwan, vision, to have everything in one place – E-DA World consists of an university and international school, a theme park, residential area, a mall, two hotels and, I don’t know what else could be there – creating another “world” on its own (a world in a city?? whutttt!?)
With so much to explore & discover, one could easily spend a full day or two in its compound; probably screaming your lungs out at E-DA Theme Park.
Directions: Check out its official website on How to Get There.
10. Take a 2D1N Trip to snorkel at Xiaoliuqiu
If you are heading to Kaohsiung and am looking for a little sun, sea and snorkelling, but have already visited Kenting before, why not visit Xiaoliuqiu – an offshore island which you can reach in less than 1.5hrs from Kaohsiung City. Wrote a guide about Xiaoliuqiu previously, where you can find out more about this tiny gem.
Where to Stay?
Harbourviews Backpacker Hostel
Backpackers Hostel would be your best bet especially for solo travellers, and Harbourviews Backpacker Hostel is probably one of the best I’ve stayed so far. It is clean, fairly cheap with prices starting from NT$300/night/dorm bed, spacious inside the rooms itself, a fully equipped kitchen with a long dining table, which is also the communal area, and most importantly, the people who comes to stay at this place, whom you will most probably visit the places in this list with. Private rooms are also available if you wish for more privacy but do not want to rule out meeting other travellers.
Apartments in 85 Building or 高雄市前鎮區新光路21號
For something even more luxurious, apartments are in abundance and many of them lies in Kaohsiung’s tallest building, 85 building, or at 高雄市前鎮區新光路21號. These apartments are reasonably priced at approx. S$30~50/pax/night, providing ensuite bathroom with bathtub, a balcony which overlooks the harbour (and 85 building if staying at 高雄市前鎮區新光路21號), and conveniently located close to Sanduoshang Metro Station.
With this list of things to do, it is time to BUY THAT TICKET AND HEAD TO KAOHSIUNG!
HOW TO GET THERE?
Getting to Kaohsiung has never been more convenient for the budget travellers as, low-cost carrier Scoot Airline flies direct to Kaohsiung City from Singapore in just a little over 4hours.
Hungry for more? Want to visit Kaohsiung, but reluctant to forego Taipei? If these recommendations aren’t enough to satisfy your cravings, why not get the best of both worlds by visiting both Taipei and Kaohsiung in a single trip!? You can fly into Taipei and depart from Kaohsiung or vice versa with Multi-city booking.
Not quite sure what to do in Taipei though? Read this guide for inspiration 🙂