Kaohsiung

Thanks to Typhoon Hato, we had a premature beginning to our time in Kaohsiung. At first, we weren’t sure if this was a good or bad thing. We had hoped to have traveled farther south, but with the bad weather, we didn’t want to risk wasted miles on an average hotel room in a rainy beach town. So, regardless of the possible excess in an unfamiliar city, we headed for Kaohsiung.

To sum it all up, Kaohsiung is an awesome city. Unlike its counterpart in the north, it’s easy to navigate, loaded with down to earth expats, and as laid back as it is sunny. Those extra days were a gift for us–to relax, to explore, to indulge.

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View from Backpackers Inn, Kaohsiung

Day 1

Running from the typhoon was nothing short of an experience. We caught the earliest ferry leaving Green Island to head back to mainland Taiwan in Taitung. Unlike the first ferry in, as soon as we left the calm waters of the reef, we entered the open waters of an approaching typhoon. Listening to the moans of the others on the boat as we rocked back and forth was not the way we wanted to start a four hour drive to Kaohsiung. The storm clouds started to cover the sky, and we knew we had to get on the road as fast as possible. Neither of us wanted a soaked suitcase of clothes, money, and cameras.

With luck on our side, we drove straight through the country with the rain remaining in its clouds. The mountains dividing the east and the west refreshed us with their cool, brisk air and gave us some killer views of the jungled mountainside. Despite a polluted and industrial finish to our drive, it was a successful crossing. After arriving in the afternoon, we took our hungry stomachs for “it’s fine” Mexican and ate to our hearts content.

We settled and unpakced in to our wonderful hostel, Backpackers Inn, Kaohsiung, and we grabbed some awesome crafts beers at Zhangmen Brewing and dinner in a local market nestled in an alley behind our hostel. It was a much needed relaxing evening after an on-the-go day.

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Zhangmen Brewing

 

Day 2

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Fo Guang Shan

Waking up in a clean, cool room is a wonderful way to start a time in a new place. Knowing that we wouldn’t be packing our bags that day and heading off again right away, we both felt a sense of ease and nonchalance that was necessary. At our leisure, we started our day with the complimentary breakfast eggsalad sandwich–which totally hit the spot. With our tummies satisfied and our energy flowing, we hopped on the scooter to explore as much as we could before the rain came.

We plugged in our destination into Google Maps and headed out for Fo Guang Shan. It was an hour drive to Fo Guang Shan on a quiet Tuesday morning. We arrived to this large, relatively empty complex eager to explore the grounds and golden shrines of this temple. As this place doubles as a university, there were several nuns willing to shed some wisdom to those enjoying this spiritual place. We were lucky enough to receive some candles shaped as flowers and an incense to light for the large golden figures. It was a wonderfully quiet space considering how large and magnificent the area was. Definitely a must see in Kaohsiung!

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We hoped to see something else exciting before the weather turned and headed for Pier 2-Art Center, but the winds and rain came before we finished our first beer. We headed back to chill before meeting our friend, Cat, for some bomb Thai and much needed catching up. It’s always an amazing thing to see someone for home on the other side of the earth–we live in such a connected world.

Day 3

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Great day. The first half was spent exploring the thicket of the jungle and jumping off rocks two stories high into a whirlpooling waterfall! The second half was spent at a table with white linens, fine silverware, and the sexiest wine glass on the planet. Great day.

Lover’s Gorge was everything one could ask for from a gorgeous waterfall. You want to swim, jump, and bask in its awesomeness. Lover’s Gorge was all of that. As fitting as it was, an older Taiwanese couple was wading in the water as we arrived–quietly enjoying their romantic spot away from everything. We frolicked in the water, got friendly with some chatty locals, and enjoyed a natural delight practically gifted to us.

Le Mout was the perfect antithesis of our rustic, back to nature day. We dressed in our finest backpacking attire and enjoyed an evening of decadence and drooling over good eats. It was a yummy night cap to a yummy day.

Spontaneous trip to one of Asia’s Top 50?!

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Day 4

Tour De Cat was the best way to ‘last day’ in Kaohsiung. After two years living down south, our friend from home was the perfect guide through this awesome city. We hiked the relaxing trail of Monkey Mountain and found monkeys swinging from the trees and comfortably hanging out with people, hopped the university fence to go to a secret beach looking out to the South China Sea, and returned to Peir 2-Art Center to explore the work of some of the creative minds in southern Taiwan.

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It was so cool seeing someone whom we met in China from the States in another city in Taiwan. As we all head on our separate paths, we never know when ours will cross again; but all the same, we cross and meet and reconnect. It was wonderful seeing the city through her eyes and having it introduced by her.

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Liz and Cat

Later that night, we stuffed our faces at a local Taiwanese rè chǎo 熱炒, and then, all met up at a bar with some of her friends. And as far as expat bars go, this one was like “Cheers”–everyone knew everyone’s name. Compared to Taipei, it was very cool seeing an expat community small and close-knit, with everyone grabbing drinks on a Thursday night.

Day 5

We woke up to fill our bellies with cheesy dàn bǐng 蛋餅. We’ve had our fair share of this crispy, breakfast egg wrap, but this one was different. The dough was thick–chewy on the inside and crunchy on the outside–and loaded with stringy mozzarella cheese. That was the right kind of meal to get us fueled up for our next adventure…

Xiao Liu Qiu