Kaohsiung, the largest harbor city in Taiwan, is a mesmerizing blend of traditional and modern, and dizzying contradictions. There are as many high-rise buildings and yet traditional Chinese temples remain. Located in Southwestern Taiwan, the city remain an undiscovered treasure for foreign visitors. Our suggested itinerary is designed to show you the best the city has to offer and what are the things you can accomplish in 3 days. Depending on your interests and travel priorities, you can certainly mix and match destinations, activities, and attractions.
Things to know before traveling to Kaohsiung, Taiwan:
Language – The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese. English is widely used in most areas because it is part of the regular school curriculum. Like other countries in the world, speaking at least some Chinese phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals.
Culture – Most people in Taiwan have traditional values based on the teachings of Confucius. Because of these teachings, the Taiwanese culture is a collective one. Most (if not all) of the time, they are willing to suppress their feelings for the sake of the group. For a foreign traveller, it is important to know that the Taiwanese stress public harmony and overt conviviality. Any indication of conflict is readily buried and confrontation is frowned upon. In order to maintain harmony, they treat people with respect and dignity regardless of their own personal feelings.
Etiquette – Taiwanese are generally friendly, easygoing and kind people. Most foreign visitors who come to Taiwan are pleasantly surprised to know that the locals welcome them wherever they go. The locals are very acquainted with Western customs and they are also appreciative of foreign visitors who are eager to learn about their culture. In social meetings, people shake hands and normally, the oldest person in a group should be greeted first. Always greet with titles (honorific, academic or professional) unless you’re on familiar terms with them.
Money and costs – New Taiwanese dollar (NT$) is the official currency of Taiwan. Exchanging money is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Asia. You can exchange currency at the airport, hotels, malls, local banks, and money changers throughout Taiwan. ATMs are plentiful, all accepting international credit cards and debit cards, so it’s easy to withdraw your money in NT$. Credits cards are commonly accepted in most mid-range to high-end restaurants and hotels.
Getting around – Taiwan is not a big country. Getting around is very easy thanks to its comprehensive road system and high-speed railway. In Kaohsiung, Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is the most convenient and reliable way to get to your destinations. Taking the bus or the train are the two most common ways to get around the city. Before your travel date, remember to have the Chinese addresses of your hotel/hostel printed on a piece of paper or saved in your mobile phone. Just in case you’ll have trouble navigating, ask the locals, show them the address and they’ll be more than willing to assist you.
Where to stay – There are many types of holiday accommodation in Taiwan, whether you’re looking for luxury hotels to cheaper accommodation like youth hostels and bed and breakfast. What’s the best area to stay in? If you are going to follow our suggested itinerary, we recommend to stay in Chien Chin since all of the main sights are so close to each other and can be easily reached on foot. Hotels in the neighborhood of Kushan are also good options for visitors who want to stay in the center of the action.
Hotels to consider in Kaohsiung:
Detailed itinerary: Discover Kaohsiung, Taiwan in 3 days
Take the high speed train from Taipei Main Station to Zuoying THSR Station. By high speed train, Taichung is only around 90 to 120 minutes away from the heart of Taipei. Depending on your time of arrival, you can either take it easy and soak up the atmosphere in the city or you can begin your tour at 9 in the morning. Before your travel date, remember to have the Chinese addresses of your hotel/hostel printed on a piece of paper or saved in your mobile phone. Just in case you’ll have trouble navigating, ask the locals, show them the address and they’ll be more than willing to assist you.
No visit to Kaohsiung would be complete without a trip to one of its temples like the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum. This Buddhist temple complex features 8 Chinese pagodas, with seven-story each, a wide and long path known as the Way to Buddhahood, the massive Fo Guang Buddha, and the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum.
In the late afternoon, make your way to Kaohsiung Main Public Library, the city’s largest library and cultural meeting hub. Its hanging garden (free of charge) is a perfect place for sunset viewing where you can get a stunning panoramic view of the Kaohsiung harbor and beyond. After your historic tour, make your way back to your hotel and get a good night sleep so you have energy for a whole day of adventure the next day.
Get up early in the morning and make your to Kaohsiung Central Park, an urban park in Qianjin District. One of the most laid-back attractions in the city, the park is an urban oasis of well-kept gardens, lake, lovely ponds and benches that are shaded by trees. It’s a great place to people watch as the park is famous among locals who practice zumba.
While touring Taiwan you will surely notice bubble tea kiosks on every corner. Bubble tea, also known as boba milk tea, originated in Taichungn and Tainan in 1980s. Bubble tea originally was made from mixture of hot Taiwanese black tea, tapioca pearls, condensed milk, and honey or syrup. Several varieties of milk tea were made through the years. Today, bubble milk tea is made from tea mixed with milk or hybrid fruit milk teas, with the addition of chewy tapioca balls or fruit jellies. To get the best tasting bubble tea in Kaohsiung, head to Chun Shui Tang Tea House in Lingya District, the creator of the bubble tea in Taiwan.
In the afternoon, make your way to the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, located at the Lotus Pond in Zuoying District. The whole landscape with stunning views of the Small Tortoise Mountain, pagodas and temples surrounding the lake is a exceptional testimony that culture and development can co-exist.
Rui Feng Night Market is probably the easiest and most enjoyable way to get acquainted with the local life in Kaohsiung. In the evening of day 2, check out the with a huge array of goods and products, snacks, Taiwanese noodles, clothing, among others at Rui Feng Night Market. While bargaining your way through the crowds, make sure to grab some famous Taiwanese food like rice noodles, fried oyster omelette and pork buns.
On your 3rd and final day in Kaohsiung, check out from your hotel/hostel in Chien Chin. Leave your stuff in one of the coin-operated lockers in Zuoying THSR Station before you go for last-minute shopping and seeing those attractions that you haven’t yet had time for. Do not leave without getting some souvenir from Kaohsiung Dream Mall, the largest shopping mall in Taiwan. From modern shopping center to the rooftop amusement park, it will certainly be a fun shopping experience. You will surely find great food, widest variety of crafted goods and other must-have souvenirs. Fit in one last amazing lunch or dinner in the city before you depart from Kaohsiung.
Have you been to Kaohsiung or anywhere else in Taiwan? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Lotus Pond’s Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, Kaohsiung, Taiwan (Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com)