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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Dazed and Confused at Kaohsiung's Lotus Lake and Cijin Island

There were lots of options to pick for a place to go for my extra two days – Alishan, Cingjing Farm, Kenting, or spend more time exploring New Taipei. But for some reason, I had my heart set on going to Kaohsiung. I have seen it on some blog posts and was somehow convinced. Once I arrived in Kaohsiung however, I found it hard to find things to do that would suit my preference, and I got lost most of the time too, despite the ever-so-reliable Google Maps. It is most likely however that it is not Kaohsiung’s fault, but I was already suffering from “travel fatigue.”

tiger dragon pagoda
The popular Dragon and Tiger Pagodas of Kaohsiung

It seemed like the top recommended sights were either malls or related to religion. I have nothing against it of course, but after seeing way too many temples and pagodas in China and Taiwan, I wanted to settle with something more neutral. I had my heart set on for Lotus Lake 蓮池潭 that morning. After just seeing Sun Moon Lake the previous day, it's a wonder that I still enjoyed my time here.

lotus lake

/rant
I was probably having one of my bad days. I just couldn’t find the easiest route to the lake without having to walk for more than twenty minutes. I’m not a whining kid, but to do that in when it’s like 35 degrees Celsius outside, I guess we would all agree that that’s not an enjoyable activity. I really tried looking for a bus that can take me directly there, but I consulted Google, Google Maps and local train station employees but there was no other option. But lots of blogs swear by the existence of bus #12, which I was not able to see throughout the day.
/endrant

lotus taiwan
the only lotus present in November
a friend mentioned that I should have visited after sunset, as these pagodas are lit up
lake kaohsiung
Lotus Lake in a hot sunny morning

kaohsiung
there’s a local belief that you need to enter through the dragon’s mouth and go out from the tiger’s pagoda so that you’d get good fortune.. I did that exactly but where is my good fortune????
taoism
inside one of the pagodas
detailed view of one of the sculptures inside the tower, this is one of the punishments served in Hell in Taoism belief
lotus pond
zigzag pathway to the towers

another large pavilion in this huge Taoist complex
a humongous statue of Beiji Xuantian Shangdi or Xuanwu "The Dark Warrior", a god who is said to possess magic and talent in martial arts
Spring and Autumn Pavilions
another common sight in Taiwan, guardian lions

On the way back, I thought I could find an easier route but I ended up getting lost in a highway! LOL It would have been funny if I wasn’t hungry and sweating like hell. Now that explains why there were some motorists who tried to help me, they were probably trying to say “you’re going the wrong way stupid,” but language gap. I've never been so relieved to see a subway station again.

Qiming Tang, another large temple just across the lake

My next stop was to Cijin Island, however, before I took the ferry, I tried to visit a famous landmark located nearby Gushan Ferry Terminal, the Takao British Consulate 打狗英國領事館. But sad to say, I wasn’t able to learn anything about it because it was closed! Same goes for some of the places I visited around Cijin Island. So don’t go here on a Monday!

takao kaohsiung
sorry, this is the best photo I can take since the gates were closed :(
sihziwan
view up the Takao Consulate

Getting to Cijin Island 旗津區 was not that challenging, I thought it would be a hard task since I am used to island travel in the Philippines requiring at least 2-3 hours of boat time. However, just a train ride to Sizhiwan Station and a few minutes of walking to reach Gushan Ferry Station, then it was a 10 to 15 minute ferry ride for 25 NTD. Snap, snap, that easy!

ferry kaohsiung

The island of Cijin was relatively small. From the port, I was able to manage to get around by foot, it might take you 4-6 hours to circle the island. But if you don’t like walking as much as I do, then there are lots of bike and scooter rentals available as soon as you reach the port. From there, it is quite easy to get some interesting sights such as the Cihou Fort 旗後砲臺. Built during the early 1700s to serve as a lookout point. Too bad there also weren’t signage and info boards on the site,

cijin island port
port to Cijin Island
Cihou Fort

The hike was all for nothing after all when I reach my next destination, the Kaohsiung Lighthouse 高雄燈塔, and as expected, it was also closed (turns out, even Taiwanese people didn’t even know this and we ended up sharing the same sentiments.) But then again, you get to have a beautiful 360 degree view of the island, so there was still something positive through all this.


cihou lighthouse
I could only see it from afar.. sigh
cijin  lighthouse
Again, it was closed. The lighthouse was obstructed by this tree :(

Anyway, it was a walk down the beach for me which is what most of the tourists come here for. Not to sound like a party pooper, but since I came from a country where beaches are dime a dozen, this was not what I expected. Come to think of it, if I was looking for nice white-sand beaches, then I should have probably went to Kenting (that’s another story…) What I find nice was you can totally swim for free and there are public restrooms where you can change clothes and even shower. Plenty of street food vendors around the area and even jazz bands playing as well, which helped liven up my mood.

cijin beach
Cijin Island

It was already too dark when I decided to move on to Cijin Wind Turbine Park, but the buses are limited and only run for 30-50 minute intervals, so I decided to just walk around the nearby area and found out this weird market that aside from the usual fruit juices, has stores that only sell the same thing, dried seafood, and each vendor has the exact same variants. I wonder if they even get to sell by the end of the day.

sunset cijin
sunset on the beach

My saving grace that day was the street market. Lots of great and cheap seafood selections but decide before 6PM as restaurants gets busy by this time and you’d have some trouble looking for a free table. If you enjoy it in the island and want to spend a couple more hours, the last ferry to Sizhiwan is at 11PM.

cijin seafood
best steal at Cijin Island!

On your way back to the KRT station, do sample some cheap Taiwanese shaved ice on the nearby stores. It is cheaper here and I swear it is so good! You’d need it to cool your body down from the heat in Kaohsiung!

the Taiwanese sure love their fruit juices

Cijin Island is your best bet for some vitamin sea if you live around Kaohsiung and its neighboring provinces like Tainan or Chiayi. I wouldn’t recommend going all the way down here if you are coming from Taipei but if it would be a nice addition if you already made it to Tainan or Alishan.

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