Southbound is a new world
Does the Taipei city two-day trip post makes you feel like visiting? Taipei is a fun city that has so much to offer, but same as other modern cities, you may feel the hassle hustle during the day of commuting hours. I was studying and working in Taipei for 8 years and therefore I can totally understand it can be pretty overwhelming and sometimes you like to go away from the city. So today we are going to talking about one of my favorite city in southern Taiwan- Kaohsiung, an all-year-round Sunnyland.
It’s interesting although Taiwan is a small island the weather changes dramatically between north and south because we are on the 23°26′12.5″ tropic of cancer, southern Taiwan has a tropical climate.
Not a surprise, the sunny weather in the south is a charm but during summer it can be a challenge. During winter time, it is totally a nice weekend getaway that I highly recommend.
I went to Kaohsiung by High-speed railroad, since I only have one day could visit (wish I had MORE!!!) the train is super convenient with affordable price, less than 100 USD for a round trip, sometimes they provide early bird or special offers with hotel option, you can check their website for more details. but if you have more time to spend and would like to travel in other cities, there are many buses would take you from Taipei to Kaohsiung as well with a fantastic price, about 30-50 USD, totally doable!
This time I visit Kaohsiung to see my friend Chubby who is a local there. I was so happy to meet an old friend and see around town with a local, that’s the best way to know a place, isn’t it? Alright, let’s start with the old town of Kaohsiung:
- East gate of Old town 舊城東門 & The center of old Fongshan city History 見城館
You can definitely walk to see the whole old town, but it’s quite a walk that take about 15 mins up, you will not want to do it if you are visiting during hot weather, believe me. The Bureau of cultural affairs Kaohsiung City provides a bus for tourists who visit the old town, so you can easily hop on the bus after you get out of the main train/high-speed railroad station of Zuoying 左營 the bus is a small one with some cute graffiti on the car. they only sell day pass, it’s 50 NTD that can bring you to the whole old town stops. I recommend stopping at The center of old Fongshan city history 見城館. fee 49 NTD that’s a small museum introducing the history of the old town, they show some old picture, video, also a 3D, AR, VR demonstrations. this place will give you an idea of history, will suggest up to an hour here, then go out to see the real East old gate built by Netherland.
- Dragon and Tiger Pagodas at Lotus Pond 龍虎塔，蓮池潭
This is the iconic pagodas of whole Taiwan, and to be honest, I will be always impressed by this view no matter how many time I see it. It’s just AMAZING!
Giant Dragon and tiger, two of the awe-inspiring creatures of ancient Chinese culture, patronize the Pagodas with the Lotus pond behind, what a view! The paths are very interesting, Z shape leads you to the front door.
There’s a saying that you should walk from the mouth of the dragon (the left door) then come out of the mouth of the tiger (the right door), which will bring you good luck! It’s all very auspicious, I know. In the old town, I think it’s just so right to follow the old way! 🙂 inside the pagodas are some stories on the wall, you can see from the story of the underworld, heaven and the famous filial love Chinese stories. Although they are all in Chinese, the vibrant colors and distinctive illustration will entertain you if you can’t read them. Go up to the top floor to see the whole pond is highly recommend!
- Spring and Autumn Pavilions 春秋閣 & Qimingtang (Qiming temple) 啟明堂
The second big pagoda is Spring and Autumn Pavilions, right in front of Qimingtang 啟明堂.
You will think who is the god riding a dragon, it is one of the famous, common deity Guanyin觀世音菩薩, with two kid figures, one boy, one girl who are his helper. I highly recommend go visit the Qimingtang (Qiming temple) 啟明堂, it’s one of the most luxuries, distinguish temple in Kaohsiung. the main deity is Holy Emperor Guan 關公, who is a patron saint of war, justice, business…etc. The two floors have different deities. Remember to always check the statues, roof, ceiling, the golden ceiling is so marvelous. Taiwanese come here for their worshipping to deities that you can see they all take it seriously about the ritual, such as knee down and pray, put their student ID on the table…etc. therefore, one note is to also respect them and the temple, lower volume, do not touch any belonging that is not yours, and no flash photography is appreciated.
- Beijing (Arctic pavilion) 北極亭
The last attraction of the pond is Arctic pavilion, you will not going to miss this one because it has a giant deity- Xuanwu 玄天上帝, just right up on the pavilion, under his one foot is a snake, the other is a turtle. According to legend, Xuanwu used to be a butcher, until he got old, he realized his life was sinful. He decided to quit it and do some spiritual practices. blissfully he got a deity’s suggestion, he can only be enlightened once he is willing to open his belly, take out his intestine, wash off the sin. He had no doubt about doing that immediately, gods were pleased and moved by his determination, so granted Xuanwu status as a deity. However, the intestine he pulled out transformed into demons, the stomach became a turtle demon, the intestine became a snake demon, making chaos everywhere they go. Xuanwu heard this news, he borrowed a powerful sword from another deity, he caught the two demons in the end, therefore they become one of the traits of Xuanwu. This is the biggest deity figure on the water in southeast Asia. The bridge is not long, but all the details are so beautiful, many deity figures on the handrail. It’s saying Xuanwu is a god of water, so in old Chinese palace, they used to worship him for protection from flood. so not a surprise he stands upon the pond, protecting this treasure land.
- Kaohsiung Confucius Temple 孔廟
After the walk at the old town and Lotus pond, the last attraction is needed a slightly walk from the others. about 10 mins walk, Confucius temple is completely a new world to me. the whole building is truly spectacular! Confucius is the saint of the teacher, in Chinese history, he is been given “the very First teacher” title in history, his witty set the whole Chinese culture, not only the academy, philosophy but also the ritual, rule of day to day life. So if you are interested in learning about Confucius life, study, the atomic impact of Chinese culture, you should really visit Kaohsiung Confucius Temple, they have a very nice demonstration at right-hand side where they introduce history, figures, and famous words from Confucius. It may not be the oldest Confucius temple in Taiwan, but it’s really a beautiful, some TV show take shots here before. There are more than twenty Confucius temples in Taiwan, but I will say this is my favorite!
- KW2 -Kaoshiung Port Warehouse No.2 棧二庫, Banana pier 香蕉港
After the old town trip, it may take you up to half a day if you going to see every temple and pagodas. it’s totally worth to do it, in my opinion! then you can take the bus back to the main train/high-speed railroad station of Zuoying 左營, there is a metro station (you can pay coins or the same MetroCard of Taipei), the orange line can take you to Sizihwan station, about 3 mins walk to KW2 -Kaohsiung Port Warehouse No.2 where is now a popular place for young people. KW2 was a real warehouse since Japanese colony time, but now they transform the area into a place for crafting market, art performance, restaurants, people can hang out here and enjoy the sea view. it is a pretty big place, and they set up lots of outdoor installation art can let you take pictures, for sure that’s an Instagrammer goal!
The day we visit was pretty late, so we didn’t take many pictures. but we still checked some crafting stalls, Eslite bookstore, and the Banana pier, which got the name from export bananas for a quite long period to Japan. It’s definitely fun to visit here, I like to see the port with giant boats come and go.
Fun fact: I am a big fan of ports, since where I lived and was raised – Keelung city- is a small city but famous for the port, every day I would pass by the port, it’s never too little to see the sea, it brings peace to me always!
- Night market- Shinkuchan Shopping District 新崛江
Yes, another time I am going to mention the night market, hehe. 🙂 It’s the place you can get people watching, shopping, and snacks, so why not right? there are about ten night markets in whole Kaohsiung, but some of them require some driving, since we only take public transportation this time, we take the metro to the nearby night market Shinkuchan Shopping District. It was a bigger night market before, also the place young people shopping for clothes, where provides affordable price, but with the city’s renovation plan, the new markets raise, hence Shinkuchan Shopping District is getting smaller, but still has some stores and snacks you can get. Personally, like it for I got some cute socks with very nice price, so if you are planning to just take the metro to night market, this one is so convenient!
I absolutely LOVE the authenticity of culture, and seriously you will notice immediately the hospitality of sweet people who always have a smile on their faces. They kindly offer you favors and they say is a small thing. How lovely!
Many thanks to my friend Chubby who showed me around town and made this trip happen! until now Kaohsiung! miss you already!