As we’ve mentioned before, Anthony and I didn’t really know what to expect when we decided to make a stop in Taiwan. What we got was a country with great food, museums, scenery, and people. We had planned on heading from Taipei to Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Kenting, but after that we weren’t quite sure how to kill the twelve days we would have before we were due at our Workaway at Duckstay Hostel. Accommodation and travel are a decent bit more expensive in Taiwan than Southeast Asia so we were apprehensive about about traveling around more, and hostels in Taipei are quite pricey so we didn’t want to hole up there when we would be working there for a month anyway. Enter Casual Way Hostel in Kaohsiung.
We stayed at Casual Way while visiting in Kaohsiung and while there we became friendly with one of the Volunteers named Crystal. She told the owner we would make great helpers and so he offered us a volunteer position for the twelve days we had to kill after Kenting. This meant we got a chance to spend a full two weeks total in Kaohsiung as well as having our accommodation for free for almost six weeks! As the saying goes, closed mouths don’t get fed! Here is a list of things to do in Kaohsiung should your travels bring you there!
Kaohsiung Public Library
Now before you say anything, hear me out. For starters, the Kaohsiung Public Library is an absolutely stunning building. It’s a huge modern structure with colored lights and beautiful floor to ceiling glass windows. There’s a nice courtyard in front, and even a garden on the roof!
Unfortunately it was raining while Anthony and I were there so we didn’t get to check this out, but the pictures look very nice. A majority of the books and magazines are in Chinese, but there are some in English if you don’t speak Chinese so don’t worry! There is a cafe as well as a restaurant inside the library if you’re hungry, and there’s lots of seating. It’s the second highest rated attraction on Trip Advisor in Kaohsiung so I promise it’s worth the visit. Plus it’s free!
Pier 2 was once an area of industry in Kaohsiung, but eventually the factories and such moved and the buildings ended up abandoned. In the early 2000s artists rediscovered the space and converted it into a place for large scale installations, festivals, and temporary exhibitions.
Anthony and I spent a good three hours here on and incredibly hot and sunny day, but in spite of the dripping sweat and sunburn it was totally worth it. Most of Pier 2 is also free which is great for backpackers, and we didn’t feel as though we’d missed anything by not paying the extra money for the exhibits that weren’t free.
My particular favorite installation was a massive yellow Transformer towering over the train tracks that run through the whole place. It has a very modern and industrial vibe, but even if modern art isn’t really your thing it’s still a great stop in Kaohsiung.
As we’ve mentioned many times the metro in Taiwan is absolutely outstanding. There are only two lines in Kaohsiung , but they’re quick, efficient, clean, and get you at least within walking distance to anywhere you might want to go. They meet at Formosa Station which happened to be the station we used to get to Casual Way so everyday we were lucky enough to visit it and the notorious Dome of Light.
In the centerpiece of Formosa Station, a massive glass paneled dome in a rainbow of colors that allows beams of jewel colored light to stream down into the station. It is a very busy stop and there are people constantly coming and going, but without fail everyone at least stops for a moment to take a look and appreciate the beauty. There are usually musicians playing whether it be on the piano that is there permanently or on their own string instruments brought from home. Anthony and I also spotted several couples taking engagement/wedding photos in this beautiful place. It’s truly stunning.
Obviously Taiwan is famous for it’s incredible night markets and Kaohsiung is no exception. At Casual Way we were lucky enough to be a five minute walk from Liuhe Night Market which offered lots of seafood and traditional Taiwanese fair, including Anthony’s favorite fried chicken stall. We also visited the massive Rueifong Night Market with our friend Crystal and were very impressed. The night we went it was raining so many of the stalls weren’t open, but this place is HUGE and has tons of food, trinkets, and arcade games. It’s like the Raohe of Kaohsiung. There are several other night markets that we didn’t make it to, but definitely check out Liuhe and Rueifong if you have the chance!
Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts
The Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts is another amazing free attraction in Kaohsiung. It is a massive four storied building with very strong air conditioning which is great considering Taiwan can get pretty hot! When we visited there was a large photography exhibit as well as lots of art celebrating Kaohsiung and Taiwan.
It can take a few hours to get through the whole thing so make sure to set aside a good chunk of time if you really want to do it justice. It’s situated in a nice little park as well which is worth walking around. A little tip: if you like yoga, there is an outdoor yoga class offered on the grounds of the museum every Wednesday and Saturday! Just search for Kaohsiung Yogi on Facebook!
Kaohsiung Museum of History
The Kaohsiung Museum of History was a much smaller museum than the Museum of Fine Arts, but it is also free! I will say that the exhibits in this museum are almost exclusively in Chinese so if you can’t read Chinese there isn’t much to see. I still think it’s worth a quick stop seeing as it’s free, and there is a very good exhibit on the 228 Incident that is in English. The 228 Incident is a very important part of Taiwanese history so even if you just pop in and go directly to this particular room it won’t cost you anything and will only take about 20 minutes of your time. Plus the museum is located close to the walking path that flanks the river so afterwards you can go for a nice scenic walk!
Lotus Lake is a beautiful little gem set away from the hustle of downtown Kaohsiung in a very peaceful part of the city. No one swims in the lake itself, but rather they spend their time here walking or biking the loop around the lake or just relaxing under a tree enjoying the scenery.
There is always a great breeze coming off the water and lots of shade so it’s a nice place to be even in the heat. Around the lake temples dot the shore and little stalls selling food and trinkets pop up along the walking path. For people who are little more adventurous, there is paddle boarding, blob jumping (think the movie “Heavyweights”), and even wake boarding!
The wake boarding is not behind a boat, but on an electronically controlled course at one end of the lake. It’s about $30 USD so it’s not the cheapest activity, but Anthony and our friend Nicole said it was worth the money! If you don’t feel like shelling out that much though (like me) just take a nice long walk around the lake and enjoy the scenery! Free and beautiful!
So there you have it! This list is by no means a full list of everything there is to do in Kaohsiung, but it’s a start! Taiwan is a great place to visit, and even though it is slightly more expensive than Southeast Asia, the good news is that SO MANY activities are either free or very cheap! Kaohsiung itself is a great laid-back city, so if you’re craving some time away from the craziness of Taipei, but don’t feel like being a beach bum, Kaohsiung has plenty to offer! If you end up here let us know what you thought!