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Sunday, April 16, 2017

City Guide to Artsy Kaohsiung

I only have myself to blame. Like on my first morning there, I had no idea why I was even in this city. I remember I had the idea of going here because of some blog, but I needed some time to look up things to do that fits my preference (except for the usual night markets of course.) Anyway, I digress. It was still a blessing in disguise, as I finally got to see more modern Taiwan art, or just more artworks for that matter. I’ve never been to a museum for a while so I finally got to in Kaohsiung.

lotus lake
Kaohsiung's Lotus Lake

HOW TO GET TO KAOHSIUNG
Located south of Taiwan, I initially thought it would be difficult to get to Kaohsiung. But being the second most populated city in the country, it has underwent major developments in terms of mass transportation and infrastructure. Easiest way to get to the city if you are overseas is through Kaohsiung International Airport. There are also multiple trips using Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) that enables travelers from Taipei to reach Kaohsiung’s Zuoying Station in less than two hours. There’s also the cheaper option via the Taiwan Railways (TRA). In my case, I took the two-hour bus from Taichung to Kaohsiung Main Station which I recommend for the hassle-free and very affordable service.

street art of Taiwan Railways

GETTING AROUND KAOHSIUNG
Mass transport is one of the things I adore about Taiwan, and I really enjoyed exploring Kaohsiung with the usual buses and KRT, Kaohsiung’s MRT system (using anime characters for designs and signboards). There are only two lines and sometimes there’s still one bus transfer required to reach my destination, but it was not that big of a hassle. One thing I didn’t get though was that I was not able to reload my Easycard in Kaohsiung (on both TRA/KRT stations and even in 7-11s!) It seems like iPass is the main card used in this city, but I was still able to consume the remaining value of my card. There’s a public bike rental at www.c-bike.com.tw and rates are quite cheap. Scooters can also be rented in some shops too!

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DAY 1 – Of Sunshine and Lights

I started out early to Lotus Lake 尾北里, a popular destination known for its huge pavilions and dramatic views of Zuoying District. I then headed out to Sizhiwan for the Takao British Consulate and afterwards, got a serving of my recommended dessert in all of Taiwan.. BàoBīng (剉冰) or Taiwanese Shaved Ice (so freaking good!) This is so cheap in Kaohsiung and I managed to eat this for about three times when I was here.

taiwan shaved ice
yummmmeh!

Sizhiwan is also the location of Gushan Ferry terminal, the port going to Cijin Island 旗津. If you are thinking of things to do around Kaohsiung then going here would be a nice idea. You can go biking and see different sights like the Cihou Fort and Lighthouse, and go swimming at the beach. But then again, if you just want to go on a food tour then you can still splurge on affordable seafood! More details and pictures on this post.

cijin island

As soon as it got dark, I hopped on a subway to witness Kaohsiung’s city lights. My first stop was Kaohsiung Public Library. I was hoping to look around and make it to the building’s rooftop but it seemed like it closes early on Mondays.

Kaohsiung Public Library

However, if you don’t want to step out of the KRT station (just make sure you are on Formosa Boulevard Station), then be prepared for another spectacular piece of art! The Dome of Light is said to be the largest glass work installation in the world spanning an area of 2,180 square meters. It was designed by Narcissus Quagliata and is one of the most visited sights in the city due to its location and amazing construction.

Dome of Light

Dome of Light kaohsiung

The busy Liuhe Night Market 六合夜市 is one of the more accessible night markets in Kaohsiung. Since I was just already around the area, I decided to have a look see and ended up buying my souvenirs (aka pasalubong), I remember the magnets are only priced 30NTD, and of course, I didn’t miss out on the street food!

the famous Liuhe Night Market at night

DAY 2 – Of Colors and Designs

As I was just staying nearby the area, I decided to take my early morning walk around the Love River 爱河 and Kaohsiung’s own 228 Peace Memorial Park. There’s a so called “love boat” that cruises through the river to Jhongheng Bridge, I bet it would be better to experience this during the night. The fare is 120 NTD for adults and runs 3pm-10pm on a weekday and almost whole days during the weekend.

love river kaohsiung
early morning at Love River

My DIY “art tour” commenced at the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts 高雄市立美術館, one of the three public arts museum in the country. It is situated in a cultural park, so before you enter, you’d get to enjoy the serene surroundings and check out some interesting sculptures scattered around the park. The museum spans four floors, but the third floor was blocked to visitors when I was there, perhaps to prep for a larger exhibition.

Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts

taiwan aboriginal art

The artworks on display were impressive, but most of the artworks are contemporary so if you’re looking for antique pieces then the National Palace Museum in Taipei might be your best bet. It’s also interesting to see various types of displays, aside from the conventional use of canvas and sculptures, there were video projections and small films. I enjoyed seeing the artworks, I was expecting that I’d only be spending less than an hour but ended up staying for two. I was particularly fascinated with the galleries that had themes showcasing the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan.

taiwan art

I went back to Sizhiwan Station because I saw something that could be worth seeing but it was closed on Monday, the Takao Railway Museum. But truth be told, if you like trains especially the old ones, you can skip this place. There’s not many trains on display, probably only 3 or 4, and there were no English information available. Good thing there are lots of mom-and-pop diners around the area so I was able to eat my lunch here. Plus I was able to get some more of my favorite Taiwanese dessert, Taiwanese Shaved Ice!

Takao Railway Museum

art kaohsiung street
unique art installation in Pier Art 2 District

My last destination for the day was the Pier 2 Art District 駁二藝術特區. Just like the Huashan 1914 Creative Park in Taipei, this area was also a previously abandoned warehouse site that was then transformed into an art hub. Exhibitions and even musical performances are held on various schedules which is pretty popular with the young locals. There are also coffee shops, clothing and art supplies stores so if you’re looking to spend some money, then you came to the right place. Lol

Pier 2 Art District

art district taiwan

What piqued my curiosity was the random art sculptures and murals, it was fun trying to guess which alley or street they would pop up next. The most eye catching display for me was the wall painting of a KRT train.

art district kaohsiung

street art taiwan

More time for Kaohsiung? Here are other places worth looking into..

Fo Guang Shan Buddha Monastery – I now regret not giving this place a chance. It happened that when I was in Kaohsiung, I have suffered through what they call a “temple fatigue” so I bailed on the Buddhas. But now that I did some research while writing this post, it actually looked interesting and might be worth checking out.

National Science and Technology Museum – would be a great spot to go to with the whole family

Caishan Natural Park – nature walks and great views

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