Kaohsiung, South Taiwan: Best Things To Do and See in This Seaside City
For too long, Kaohsiung has been known as a heavy industrial city in southern Taiwan. Nonetheless, it’s high time to turn your attention to Taiwan’s largest port city before the mainstream tourists do! As a destination with year-round fine weather, beautiful beaches, multifaceted art and culture and low cost of living, Kaohsiung certainly deserves more love on the tourism front. Read on to discover how you can enjoy a WAN-derful trip in Kaohsiung before the mainstream tourists make their way there!
How to reach Kaohsiung?
There are several options to get to Kaohsiung from Singapore. The fastest option will be to fly direct to Kaohsiung on either Scoot or China Airlines, a quick 4 hour 10 minutes’ flight. Direct flights operate once a day except for Fridays and Sundays.
My pick: Scoot, because you will reach Kaohsiung before noon, so there’s more time to explore the city at ease!
Alternatively, you may fly into Taipei in the north, where there are more daily flights from Singapore including budget airlines – Jetstar and Scoot, as well as standard carriers – Singapore Airlines, China Airlines and EVA Air.
Upon arrival at Taoyuan International Airport, transfer to the Taiwan High-Speed Rail (HSR) which will bring you to Kaohsiung’s Zuoying HSR Station in under 2 hours. If you don’t mind longer travelling time at a lower cost, take an intercity coach to arrive within 5 to 6 hours.
Where to stay in the city
As the third largest city of Taiwan, Kaohsiung’s attractions are sprawled across a massive and varied geographical land area, stretching from the coastal urban area to the rural mountain range. Therefore, where to stay in the city essentially boils down to your travel preferences. But it makes sense to stay near major transport hubs, be it the HSR, railway, rapid transit (MRT) or bus stations for accessibility.
The HSR terminal is in Zuoying (左營) on the northern outskirts of town, where you will need to connect to the city centre via the MRT Red Line, bus, railway or taxi. Its railway and bus terminals are both conveniently located together at Kaohsiung Main Station, which is also served by the MRT Red Line at R11 station. In fact, there is an MRT station (R4) on the Red Line that stops at Kaohsiung International Airport, a quick 15 minutes’ journey from the city centre. Thus choosing accommodation along the MRT Red Line is a good bet for free and easy travel in the city.
My pick: Airline Inn Hotel just a stone’s throw from Kaohsiung Main Station. Why? For its superb accessibility to other parts of the city, reasonable price range, service and comfort!
- Airline Inn Kaohsiung Station
- No. 33, Jianguo 3rd Road, Sanmin District, Kaohsiung City
- Price: from 67 SGD per night
Things to do in the city and surrounds
1. Cijin Island (旗津島)
A trip to Taiwan’s southern coastal city is incomplete without heading to the beach. Head to the lovely island with a short 5-minute ferry ride from Kaohsiung Harbour or a quick drive through the Cross Harbour Tunnel. Cijin may be a small skinny island, but the list of things to do and see there will keep you enthralled for an entire day.
Savour the freshest and tastiest seafood at wallet-friendly restaurants along Cijin Old Street. Check out well-preserved historical landmarks such as the 300-year-old Tianhou Temple. Enjoy the lovely sea breeze and tranquil scenery as you stroll along Cijin Seashore Park. The list of exciting activities never seems to end, making Cijin Island a top “must-do” when in Kaohsiung.
- How to get there: Alight at Sizihwan MRT station (O1). Then, walk about 10 minutes to Gushan Harbour where you can board the Cijin Ferry.
- Price of ferry: 20 NTD for a return trip.
2. Pier 2 Art Centre (駁二藝術區)
Originally an abandoned warehouse by the Kaohsiung Harbour, the space has been transformed into Pier 2 Art Centre, a bustling area for modern art’s fans. The district is home not only to varied art galleries and museums, but also the go-to place for indie boutiques, cafes and restaurants. On weekends, Pier 2 comes alive with street performances by aspiring young talents!
- How to get there: 5-minute walk along Dayong Road from Yanchengpu MRT station (O2) exit 1; 2-minute walk along West Side Harbor Line Bike Path from Sizihwan MRT station (O1) exit 2.
- Official Website
3. Fo Guang Shan (佛光山)
As the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, Fo Guang Shan (F.G.S.) is not just your typical religious place of worship. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Buddhist or not, for a tour at the religious headquarters of F.G.S. promises to be an eye-opening one. Spread out over an area of over 30 hectares for the monastery & more than 100 hectares for the Buddha Museum in Dashu District, marvel at the majestic and high-tech structures as you explore F.G.S. and learn more about the Buddha’s teachings. Watch an interesting 4D animated movie – “Life of the Buddha” at the museum’s movie theatre for free. Don’t forget to enjoy a wholesome vegetarian fare at Waterdrop Teahouse in the Main Hall, the only restaurant in Taiwan right under the Big Buddha and listed as one of Taiwan’s top 10 vegetarian restaurants before leaving!
- How to get there: Transfer to Harvard Express Line for a 30-minute journey (70 NTD) to F.G.S. via highway outside Zuoying MRT Station (R16) exit 1.
- Official Website
4. Formosa Boulevard Station (美麗島捷運站)
Formosa Boulevard station is not just another MRT station. Besides being a transfer station for the Kaohsiung MRT Red and Orange lines, it is recognised as the city’s hot scenic spot with its mesmerizing Dome of Light. Created by acclaimed Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata, the dome is the world’s largest glass art installation situated on the station’s basement level.
Made from individual pieces of tinted glass, the dome covers an impressive area of 660 square meters. Admire the stunning artwork representing the story of human life through these themes: Water – The Womb of Life; Earth – Prosperity and Growth; Light – The Creative Spirit; and Fire – Destruction and Rebirth.
- How to get there: Take the MRT to Formosa Boulevard station (R10 / O9), and find the dome at the intersection of the red and orange lines.
5. Tianliao Moon World (田寮月世界)
Fancy a trip to the Moon but not an astronaut? Fret not. Head to Tianliao Moon World, a tract of barren land in the eastern outskirts of Kaohsiung. The area is named as Moon World because of its resemblance to the moon’s surface. Caused by rain and erosion over the years, the renowned badlands is bound to keep visitors captivated with its desolate beauty.
- How to get there: Transfer to bus Red 70B bound for Moon World at Gangshan South MRT station (R24) exit 1.
6. Night markets
No trip to Taiwan is complete without a visit to its vibrant night markets. Kaohsiung is no exception. The city is home to several famous tourist night markets such as Liuhe and Ruifeng, as well as many popular local night markets offering tons of mouth-watering street food, merchandise and old-school games. For an authentic local experience, skip the touristy markets and join the locals at one of the traditional night markets such as Labourers’ Park, Qingnian and Ruibei.
- My pick: The local night markets don’t operate daily, and locations are rotated every evening. If you are in Kaohsiung on a Monday evening, proceed to Labourers’ Park Night Market for a fantastic slice of local nightlife!
Many travellers, particularly ladies, love shopping in Taipei for its diverse range of products, from local produce, beauty care to trendy apparel and accessories. In Kaohsiung, you will find even more joy in shopping with its relatively lower cost of living compared to Taipei. The best places to shop in the city include the hippest Shinkudan Shopping Street, Asia’s largest shopping centre Dream Mall and Houyi Wholesale Shopping District for the budget conscious.
8. Day trip to Tainan
Taiwan’s oldest city, Tainan, is just a convenient 40-minute train ride northwest of Kaohsiung. History and culture buffs should not miss a day trip out to the ancient city when in Kaohsiung. Immerse yourself in the city’s unique blend of Dutch, Chinese and Japanese cultures. Marvel at the beauty of the fine historical architecture along its nostalgic-looking streets. Seek an experience that is hard to replicate in other parts of Taiwan.
Expected damage on your wallet
As mentioned earlier, Kaohsiung enjoys a relatively low cost of living compared to its more famous cousin up north. Thus, it is possible to enjoy a great trip even when on a budget. The table below gives a rough idea of average prices for accommodation and expenses including transport and food:
Let’s go before it gets more crowded!
As plans to develop Kaohsiung as an attractive tourist destination progress, I’m pretty sure it will become the next hot spot in Taiwan soon. So let’s go and enjoy the city before the mainstream tourists do!
*Featured Image credit: tingyaoh | Pixabay.com