Kao-hsiung On a BudgetKaohsiung is the second-most populated city and also the largest port city in the country, located in the south of Taiwan. Compared to Taipei, the lifestyle in Kaohsiung is laid-back and noticeably slower, populated with friendly locals. However, with Taipei in the spotlight, Kaohsiung is often overlooked, though it offers so much in the way of art and culture, history, and delicious food.
Kaohsiung has tropical climate with hot summers and cool winters and the best time to visit is during spring between April and June or autumn, between October and December, especially to avoid crowds, typhoons and rain.
SightsEnter the dragon's mouth and exit the tiger's mouth at the the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, among dozens of temples and pavilions at the Lotus Pond.
Though it's away from the main city of Kaohsiung, Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Centre is a must-see, clean, quiet and beautiful in its architecture, gardens and especially religious and ethnic culture. The memorial center is huge so be prepared with comfortable walking shoes. There is such a thing as a free vegetarian lunch here as well as free admission.
Take a ten-minute ferry ride from the Qijing Ferry at Gushan Station to Chichin Island and explore black sand beaches, ride bikes around the light tower and enjoy the food stalls.
The Pier-2 Art Center by the harbor used to be a warehouse, but is now a huge outdoor attraction with interesting art exhibits, flea markets and plenty of open spaces to run wild or fly kites.
The Kaohsiung Main Public Library is the world's first green suspension structure. A clean and modern green building, it has eight floors and plenty of open spaces to read or relax. Don't forget to visit the rooftop garden for sweeping views of the city and harbor, especially at night.
While visiting a metro station may sound mundane, if you love art, this one is sure to amaze you. Visit the three-story station and see the Dome of Light, which the world's largest glass installation, with a glass mural built into the ceiling at the KMRT's Formosa Boulevard Station.
ActivitiesWith tourist in the name, it's expected that the Liuhe Tourist Night Market will be crowded nightly. Most locals do not visit this market, but it may be worth a stroll for papaya milk. Just be aware that the prices will likely be higher because it's known as a tourist trap.
If you love to shop, the Dream Mall is a dream come true, with high-end international designer names and even a ferris wheel on top to see the city. A free shuttle bus to get there is available from the Kaisyuan MRT.
Taiwan Sugar Museum is not a traditional museum, but actually an old sugar refinery where tourists can view old machinery, art sculptures, explore bomb shelters, and learn the history of the days when Japan ruled Taiwan. Before you leave, try the red bean ice cream.
Take a bicycle along the Ai He or Love River for great views of the city. For a panoramic views, head toward Xiziwan and see the original site of the first British Consulate in Taiwan and watch the sunset over the hills.
Visit Xin Jue Jiang (in Mandarin) or ShinKuchan commercial district after dark, where lots of youngsters hang out in the alleys and shop at boutique stores, snack at food stalls and play with dozens of claw machines and other games at arcades.
Food and DiningKaohsiung boasts the biggest night market in all of SouthEast Asia, so it's no question that you have to make a stop in at least one of them if you want to experience eating about town like a local. Two night markets, Kaisyuan and Jin-Zuan are located right next to each other and it's been much debated which one is bigger and better as both have hundreds of stalls and will take at least an hour just to walk through.
Kaisyuan is famous for its Bin Bin hand squeezed lemon juice and mini Phra Phrom, or four-faced buddha statue, where Jin-Zuan is known for beer shrimp, handmade pan-fried noodles and excellent restroom facilities.
Since Kaohsiung is a port city, seafood is plentiful. Local specialties to try include oyster omelettes and barbecued squid, which you can find at many food stands, in and out of the night market. Don't forget to try boba tea and shaved ice with fruit, as Taiwan is known to serve the best shaved ice anywhere.
For a sit-down meal, Hi-Lai Kaohsiung Arena is one of the most popular buffets in town, especially because of its vast selection of seafood, highlighting sashimi as well as cooked seafood, not to mention reasonable prices.
TransportationKaohsiung has its own airport, but you can also take the high speed bullet train to Kaohsiung from Taipei, which runs at 186 miles per hour and will get you there in just an hour and a half.
There is also a train, which is slightly less expensive and will take between 4.5 and 6 hours. An even cheaper option is the bus, which can take from 5 to 6 hours. Other options are a private car, which isn't as common.
Within the city, you can get around using the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit, but don't be surprised if you find it empty, as the KMRT does not cover all the different areas of the city, so locals resort to taking their scooters to get around.
Kaohsiung also operates a public bike system, C-Bike, which requires a credit card. The first hour is free and each additional 90 minutes accrues additional charges either $6 or $10 TWD, depending on your method of payment (I-Pass ticket, I-Pass card, or your credit card).