Being the second biggest city on the island known as Isla Formosa, Kaohsiung in Taiwan has created quite the reputation for itself over the past few years. Yes, admittedly Kaohsiung has received a not-so-good reputation over the past few decades because of its high industrial activities. However, these last years, the Kaohsiung City Government has done quite a good job at turning things around. That being said, it is only appropriate to introduce the best of what Kaohsiung has to offer, aside from night markets. So, what are the top things to do in Kaohsiung?
1. Love River (愛河)
The Love River is a very iconic spot in Kaohsiung City; ask any local! The Love River, flowing 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) to the harbor, plays a very important role for both tourism and economical reasons. There are boats that take tourists along the river, but there is still much to see even if you prefer to stay on land. Just beside the river is the Love River Park; people usually run, cycle, or even have a relaxing stroll just before sunset. Outdoor cafes and a small night market also operate at the riverside; people usually enjoy the evening and night view of the Love River after a long day. Check out the some of the best hotels in Kaohsiung near Love River.
2. Lotus Pond (蓮池潭)
Lotus Pond is an artificial lake and a popular destination also located at Zuoying District. Established in 1951, Lotus Pond is well known for its many lotus plants and temples, including the Spring and Autumn Pavilions, Dragon Tiger Pagodas and the Confucian Temple. This tourist site was also known to be the place of sporting events, such as water ski and dragon boat, in the 2009 World Games. Lotus Pond is one of the most famous sunrise spots in Kaohsiung, so it is quite normal to see photographers standing by at 5 AM.
3. Shoushan (壽山)
For those who love a good hike, this destination is perfect for you! Shoushan, a mountain in Gushan District, is also widely known as Monkey Mountain as there are usually many monkeys around. This mountain is a favorite among the locals since it offers more than just a good hike and beautiful nature; you can also visit the Shoushan Zoo, the Love Observatory, Martyr’s Shrine Temple, etc. At the foot of the mountain are other sites that you can visit, such as Sizihwan, the Former British Consulate at Takao, and the National Sun Yat San University.
4. Pier 2 Art Center (駁二藝術特區)
Pier 2 Art Center has also been a favorite for the locals since the past few years. The art center has become a place for friends, families and, of course, couples. This art center in Yancheng District was originally a warehouse site built in 1973. Because of the persistence of local artists, this abandoned site was finally remade as an art center. Most of the art at Pier 2 Art Center can be enjoyed for free, but there are certain seasonal exhibition that would require an entrance ticket with the cost that ranges from at least 150 NTD (approximately 4.50 USD).
5. Zizhu Village (自助新村)
Zizhu Village is a military dependents village in Zuoying District, Kaohsiung. Military dependents villages were built in the 1940s to the late 1950s to provide housing for national soldiers and their family. Unfortunately, these villages were usually poorly maintained and many have been demolished and replaced with other buildings. To prevent Zizhu Village from the same fate, many students and artist have gathered to decorate the houses to attract travelers. Like the Rainbow Village in Taichung, Zizhu Village is open throughout the year and travelers can take pictures, relax, and appreciate all the art in the village free of charge. (Zhizhu Village unfortunately has been closed permanently by the local government.)
6. Cijin Island (旗津島)
Cijin Island is basically a small island and is still considered as one of the districts in Kaohsiung. To get to Cijin, travelers will need to hop on a ferry from Gushan; the price for an adult is 15 NTD (approximately 0.40 USD), but there are certain discounts for students, children and elderlies. Cijin Island itself has numerous sites, such as the Cihou Lighthouse, Cihou Fort, Tianhou Temple, Cijin Wind Turbine Park, etc. Cijin Beach is also a good place to relax and soak your feet; do remember to bring sunscreen since the sun in Southern Taiwan can be quite hot.
7. Ciaotou Flower Farm (高雄橋頭花海)
If you are in Kaohsiung during November, then Ciaotou Flower Farm should definitely be on your itinerary! The event at the Ciaotou Flower Farm occurs mid-November and does not require any entrance fee. The Ciaotou Flower Farm is basically a place where you can slip away in a sea of flowers, literally. Aside from the thousands and thousands of colorful flowers, you can also enjoy traditional Taiwanese cuisines, such as Stinky Tofu, at the food stands. Another plus point of this event is that you don’t have to worry about transportation; the organizers usually set up shuttle buses from Ciaotou Metro Station.
8. The Former British Consulate (打狗英國領事館)
Sitting 70 meters (229 feet) above the Kaohsiung Port and Sizihwan is the historical building of the British Consulate at Takao. This building was built on the peak of Shaochuantou (哨船頭) and towers above the view of Sizihwan and the Kaohsiung Port. The British Consulate at Takao was built after the Treaty of Peking which took place in 1860 and enforced the local government to open ports for foreign trade at several cities including Takao, the city now known as Kaohsiung. In 1867, this building was granted to Britain as their consulate. However, in 1909, the Japanese government took over all foreign consulates in Taiwan and converted this particular building into an ocean observatory in 1931. Since then, the building has experienced a few major destructions, including a bombing in World War 2 and a forceful typhoon in 1977.
Entering the consulate requires a ticket which can be purchased at the entrance for 66 NTD (approximately 2 USD); student discounts also apply. Although some parts of the exhibitions have English translations, keep in mind that most of the explanations are in Chinese.
9. Fo Guang Shan (佛光山)
The famous Fo Guang Shan in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, is an attraction that combines travel and a learning experience. This is a perfect site for travelers to learn and experience Buddhist culture while enjoying beautiful landscapes and architecture. Built in 1967, Fo Guang Shan is the biggest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan and was founded by Hsing Yun, a Chinese Buddhist monk. Fo Guang Shan covers an area of more than 30 hectares (74.13 acres), which includes shrines, university buildings, and also a cemetery. Apart from the monastery, there is also the Buddha Memorial Center. The most famous icon of the Buddha Memorial Center is the gigantic Buddha Statue with the height of around 108 meters (354.3 feet).
Fo Guang Shan can easily be reached by public transportation. Travelers can hop on a bus at Zuoying Station, which is accessible by taking the redline MRT to Zuoying MRT Station. Once outside the station, wait at the bus stop and take bus number 8501.
10. Tian Liao Moon World Landscape Park (田寮月世界)
The Tian Liao Moon World is one of the most famous badlands and mud volcano sites in Taiwan. This site is a badland because it is almost impossible to grow crops and conduct agricultural activity around the site. It is named Moon World due to its unique surface that resembles the surface of the moon. Since this natural site has been catching plenty of attention, the local government has built several observatory decks along the hiking paths. For all nature and photography lovers out there, Moon World would be one of the best destinations in Kaohsiung because it offers various hiking trails and opportunities for wildlife photography.
Although Tian Liao Moon World is located just outside of Kaohsiung City, it is still accessible with public transportation. Travelers can take the MRT to Gangshan South MRT Station. From the station, take bus Red 70 and get off at the Moon World bus station (月世界站). Be sure to plan your hours because the last bus leave around 7 PM and the journey takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
Stop by Kaohsiung City!
Kaohsiung is not usually considered a go-to city in Taiwan, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. The city, the people, the vibe; it is something one must experience during their travels in Taiwan. So, when making plans to visit Isla Formosa, don’t overlook this city! Sometimes, in places people overlook, appears the most beautiful gems; Kaohsiung is definitely one of them.