There are so many wonderful hole in the wall places and alleyways to explore in Tainan, that we’ve spent the past month biking around without leaving the city. It’s amazing how long you can stay in one place and never even scrape the surface of its true culture! I love the luxury of taking my time to get a feel for a city and, if I could, I’d visit every city this way.
Even so, we happily welcomed the change of pace in going to visit Eric’s dad last weekend in Kaohsiung (Eric’s dad does work in Taiwan and the US). We hopped on the TRA slow train from Tainan to Kaohsiung and enjoyed the little things along the way…
In Kaohsiung, we explored the Pier-2 Art Center, a walkway with interesting street art and sculptures. There’s also a stand that sells flower shaped cotton candy -huzzah! We walked from one end to the other and emerged onto a railway-turned-field where locals were flying kites and hanging out.
After brunching on some delicious pizza and brown sugar ice cream at Pasadena, we checked out a Star Trek exhibition next door. I’m a complete rookie to Star Trek, but it was pretty cool to see original screenplays and costumes from a movie . Plus, Eric’s dad gave me the expert run down and now I can honestly say I know the name of that bald guy.
Then, Eric surprised me with an afternoon beach trip – stellar! We took the ten minute ferry from Gǔshānlúndù Station to the tiny island, Qijin. It was small enough to walk around and filled with night market style food vendors. The steep walk to the lighthouse is worth the panorama-perfect view. Across the island, the beach is wide and has fine, black sand. The cold wind didn’t stop us from going barefoot and soaking up the sun.
Back on mainland, we tried the renowned shaved ice for the first time: a bowl of ice with juice and cut up fresh fruit for around 50 NTD ($2 USD). Later, we rented bikes from the public rent stations. The first hour is free, which is awesome! If you’re looking to rent: be warned that you can only rent one bicycle per credit card. Seems like a faulty system for families looking to rent for their kids, but alas. Be ready for that if you rent bikes in Taiwan!
We headed to the Formosa Boulevard MRT to check out the Dome of Light. This glass art installation, created by Narcissus Quagliata, illustrates a beautiful story of human life.
We ended the night at Jasmine’s Place, a bar frequented by foreigners. The bartenders were kind, spoke English well, and had adventurous stories to tell including one about being stranded in Australia with her husband. The drinks were decent including an… interesting one that I just had to try:
The next day, Eric’s dad’s friends, Julia and Bess, joined us. It was lively and exciting to chat away with true Taiwanese locals – not to mention, get a free tour from one! Julia drove us around in her jeep – another crazy experience as the city is ruled by scooters. Even so, a nice change from bicycling around everywhere. Plus, I enjoyed not inhaling scooter smog – ha!
On a mountainside at the edge of the city, Julia took us past the Kaohsiung Zoo (anyone been?) and further up to a hiking path. We spent the afternoon casually walking the hillside, taking in the sights of Kaohsiung skyscrapers in the distance, and even making silly faces at… monkeys!
Monkeys are so fascinating to watch. They’re even more exciting in the wild, especially when they come climbing out of nowhere on a branch overhanging the path or you spot them enthralled with an umbrella they’ve stolen. These Kaohsiung monkeys could probably have entertained us for hours if the sun wasn’t going down.
After the hike, Julia drove us along the winding, narrow coast line on Lianhi Road that almost resembled a coastline drive in the French Riviera. We ended up at the most adorable cafe overlooking the South China Sea.
With a tree growing through the middle, the cafe’s porch is made from beautiful wood and adorned with white lights at night. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset and sip aromatic flower and fruit tea from seemingly glowing teapots. And, naturally, we ate the country’s favorite snack: waffles. I’ve eaten more waffles in the past month than I have in my life combined. When in Taiwan!
Our weekend in Kaohsiung was jam packed with jungle and skyscraper eye candy and mmm-inducing eats. The city is fairly larger than Tainan and almost feels like a sunnier Taipei with fewer subway stops. We’re excited to visit Kaohsiung again soon and explore it all. For now, though, we ended the weekend exhausted and happy to go back to the smaller vibe of Tainan, a city that is unexpectedly becoming a second home.