Discovering Kaohsiung's Many Charms | Taiwan


Imagine Taipei, but more relaxed. That is how I would describe Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second-largest city. Despite being laid-back, the city has evolved into a thriving metropolis brimming with modern living necessities such as charming cafes, walking paths, cycling routes, outdoor parks, museums, jazz bars, art districts, and more, all surrounded by adjacent beaches and expansive, lush, forested mountains.

Alexa Pajarillo
Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum

While most tourists are familiar with Taipei—the capital city—and its stunning blend of modern and traditional architecture, night markets, and cultural and historical sites, they might be surprised to learn that Kaohsiung shares much of the same vibe—albeit with less hustle and more solitude. Here, curious visitors to Taiwan might find a southern charm just waiting to be explored.

Ariadne Jolejole
A trip to Taiwan always becomes a culinary journey

It’s been a while since I last traveled abroad, so the sighting of wide roads, spacious sidewalks, and the presence of airy parks at almost every other block astounded me. The city is well-known for its petrochemical and technology industries, but it also manages to raise its residents' standard of living through thoughtful urban planning that incorporates livable space.

Levy Amosin
The Dome of Light inside Formosa Boulevard Metro Station

One of the most important aspects of effortless mobility is the availability of an efficient transportation system, and what better place to highlight Kaohsiung's transportation than the Formosa Boulevard Metro Station? It is a three-level underground station known for its "Dome of Light," which was designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata and is the world's largest glass sculpture made from individual glass pieces. The art glass piece, which consists of over 4,500 glass panels, is 30 meters in circumference and spans an area of 2,180 square meters.

Marky Ramone Go
Me standing near the four glass pedestrian entrance of the station

Every day, various light shows lasting approximately 10-15 minutes take place under the Glass Dome route. Another noteworthy feature of the station are the four glass pedestrian entrances designed by the world-renowned Japanese architectural firm Shin Takamatsu Architect & Associates.

Mishi Magno
Lots of shops, galleries and cafes can be found here at the Pier-2 Art District

In an hour, you can see a lot of the city since there's minimal traffic. We achieved just that, as we quickly found ourselves basking in the afternoon sun and refreshing breeze near the seaside, not far from the Pier-2 Art District, where converted warehouses now house galleries and art spaces. 

Celine Murillo
The waves-inspired the Kaohsiung Music Center

I also discovered that you could learn more about Kaohsiung's art and architecture scene by walking along the canal-side promenade that leads to the Great Harbor Bridge, where an impressive building catches your attention; the Kaohsiung Music Center, which features a geometrical shape inspired by the ocean waves and other aquatic creatures. 

Steff Juan
Kaohsiung City teems of art installations and objects.

A hundred steps beyond that, you’ll come across the Kaohsiung Museum of History, which is another eye-popping structure designed in the classic imperial crown style distinctive of Japan.

Karina Punzal
The the Kaohsiung Music Center, the Pier 2 Art District as seen from my drone above the Love River

Another attraction in the same area is the Love River, which flows through the heart of Kaohsiung and serves as a model of urban renewal thanks to its transformation from a polluted river into a peaceful stretch of water surrounded on each side by restaurants, cafes, parks, and galleries. Following the beautification of this river, it became a popular dating place for lovers, therefore earning the name Love River.

Alyana Bromeo
Basilica Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary

Not too far from the bridge on the Love River, one can find the Basilica Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Taiwan.  First established in 1858 by the Dominicans, the church underwent various restorations before being rebuilt into its current Gothic and Romanesque form in 1928.

Kelly Austria
Guess what? there's also a 'bibe' craze in Kaohsiung.

There are so many interesting locations to visit in Kaohsiung that you may not realize it, but you'll be amazed to find that you've already walked over 20,000 steps.

A Taste of Kaohsiung’s Street Food Culture

Despite a long day and more than 20,000 steps, we didn’t let the opportunity to explore Kaohsiung’s night market go to waste. The Liouhe Night Market, a straightforward 300–400 meter street with food stalls on both sides, is a good place to get to know Taiwan's street food culture despite being shorter than Raohe Night Market in Taipei.

Fatsi Dela Cruz
The Liouhe Night Market

The almost a kilometer walk from our hotel worked to my advantage as I was able to tome down what I had for dinner and create room for some street food-tripping. The staple of Taiwanese street gastronomy were on full display and already attracting a growing crowd by 9pm.

Ayi Del Rosario
All kinds of grilled and deep fried food can be seen here

For first timers in Taiwan, it is imperative not to miss the mysterious stinky tofu, which is an acquired taste and one of the hallmarks of Taiwanese cuisine. Having tried it in my earlier visit to Taiwan, I took a pass this time and focused on the others that made me drool to no end. There's the oyster omelet, green onion and oyster cake, taro balls, peanut ice cream wraps, oyster vermicelli, gua bao—also known as Taiwanese hamburger, albeit saucier—fried chicken fillet, mango shaved ice, grilled squid, gao bao (pork belly buns), flame-torched beef, Taiwanese sausage, and more. 

Hannah Villasis
Come hungry, leave full and satisfied

While I would have like to sample everything, I settled for a Taiwanese sausage from one booth, some green onion and oyster cake from another, and a glass of bubble tea to wash it all down.

Places to see in Kaohsiung
Me in front of the giant Shakyamuni Buddha at Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum

Before proceeded to Tainan, we wrapped up our Kaohsiung media familiarization tour with a stop at Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum.

Kaohsiung Travel guide
Inside one of the galleries in Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum

Widely regarded as Buddhism's spiritual epicenter in southern Taiwan, a visit to Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum provides an excellent opportunity to delve deeper into the Buddhist teachings. Laid out over hilltops spread over thirty hectares, visitors can explore a variety of religious and educational sites, including historic Buddhist temples as well as the more modern Buddha Museum.

Kaohsiung Taiwan Travel guide
Expressed my gratitude for the good karma that brought me back to Taiwan

Eight symmetrical pagodas line up a wide walkway in the Buddha Museum, with a main hall and a gigantic statue of Shakyamuni Buddha at the end. The pagodas house exhibits, interactive spaces, and a wedding hall for Buddhist ceremonies. Several galleries display fascinating Buddhist artifacts and relics in both permanent and scheduled exhibitions, while the main hall is home to numerous shrines.