Third Stop: Kaohsiung & Tainan, Taiwan
Great food, great people, great places. Taiwan has an air of friendliness which was very noticeable after visiting Shanghai and HK. Whilst it flares up it’s heritage from China and Japan it seems proud of its influences. It doesn’t play victim or feel burdened by it. Instead bitterness is left at the door, and the people have taken it, making it their own. It just makes this country all the more endearing.
After seeing god knows how many temples, I’ve become harder to impress, but Taiwan had some of the most ornate buildings I’d seen. The night markets are also what stand out on this trip. With the buzz of a funfair and quick tasty eats, Taiwan takes the gold for summer vacation. We made three stops in Taiwan; Kaohsiung, Tainan and Taipei. This week I will be focusing on the first two cities.
Day 1: Kaohsiung
It was quite a relief to leave HK, if you want to read more on what we did, check out Postcards from Hong Kong. Kaohsiung was our first stop and is the second largest city in the country but it was really chilled out. The relaxed vibe was apparent as soon as we left the airport and its exactly what we needed after visiting Shanghai and HK.
1. The Lotus Pond
It was pouring down but we didn’t let that stop us from exploring. First we went to the lotus pond. Around the lake are a number of little temples. There’s a huge dragon and tiger you can walk into. Opposite that, was perhaps my favourite temple of the trip. My photos did not do it justice. The torrential rain at first seemed a pain but in the end, it really added to the atmosphere. We had the place to ourselves.
2. Ruifeng Night Market
Our first night market and the most well-known amongst locals in Kaohsiung. The first time you visit a night market its a little over bearing. Stalls after stalls of food you recognise, food you don’t, there’s an overwhelming amount of choice. Not to mention, lots of people. The prospect of ordering is kind of daunting but once you’ve tried a few things it becomes part of the fun. It is incredibly cheap to eat here so you can try a range of things. This night we tried fried lemon chicken, brown sugar bubble tea, oyster omlette (famous in TW) and a cream cheese bun. We also dabbed our hand at a few games but alas, we won no fluffy toy.
1. Fo Guang Shan
I’ve seen a lot of big Buddha’s, believe me. It seems every monastery claims to have ‘the biggest Buddha’ but here is a place you do not want to miss. This one is framed by eight pagodas. It’s an incredible entrance. Ultra modern but the history of how the place came to be where it is, is really interesting. Fo Guang Shan is dominated by female monks and houses one of three teeth from Buddha in the world. We thought it was cool because unbeknownst of that, we’d visited Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka earlier this year. We need to head to India now so we can tick off all three teeth. The place feels like a Buddhist amusement park so I don’t know how it isn’t better known.
2. Luihe Night Market
Before heading to the night market, we felt like trying a Taiwanese restaurant. We noticed a lot of Japanese inspired food during our time here and that night we had the greatest sashimi. Then, it was time for more food at a smaller night market. Because we’d eaten our fair bit of fresh fish all I can really remember is trying the papaya milk, which is so well known here. It tasted cheesey to me. Our time in Kaohsiung was short but sweet.
Day 3: Tainan
We took a train over to Tainan. Whilst Kaohsiung has its status as the second largest city, it feels less dense. Tainan is more concentrated and because of that felt more like a city than KS did. We relaxed, nipped out for some Taiwan-Japanese fusion food then went to another night market.
1. Flower Night Market
The most well known night market in Tainan and perhaps my favourite of them all. This is set in a huge square. This place had a really great atmosphere with more option for clothes too.
1. National Museum of Taiwan Literature
We really only went in here to use the air con because my gosh, it was hot. You couldn’t stay out in it too long. Literature Museum was meh, but we weren’t really expecting much to be honest.
2. Confucian Temple & surrounding area
The temple itself has a small charge and its… nice. Nothing special. The Elementary school next to it is actually more impressive and in a great area. After our temple stop we embarked on a quirky café hop. First to Narrow Alley Cafe which is hidden within the tiniest gap in the wall. Dave was fitting in between the walls for jokes, only to spot a hidden door which led to the cafe. After refreshments, we wandered for something more filling, stumbling upon a place called Pop Pie. Naturally, I didn’t want to get my hopes up at the word ‘pie.’ Pie in Asia rarely means the pie I know. Whilst it wasn’t pie, this café serves up amazing quiche. ACTUAL QUICHE. It’s amazing how excited about home food you get when you live abroad. I never thought I’d be getting excited about quiche and a salad. The set included pumpkin soup and we finished off our indulgent afternoon with a lemon cappuccino. Worth checking this lovely place out.
3. Hayashi Department Store
We were looking to fill time and noticed this department store. From the wooden architecture and the name, it was obviously Japanese. Hayashi, for a department store, is small, manageable and has high quality souvenirs. You know, in Korea I find it hard to get something ‘Korean’ without it looking tacky. The goods are still completely about Tainan but the building is historically influenced by Japan.
4. Dadong Night Market
The runner up to the Flower Night Market. We noticed that the exact same stalls from the night before move to this market, so its great if you feel you missed out on something. This was the best night of dining because we saved our stomachs for a completely market-food filled evening. We tried spring rolls, pork bun (AMAZING), fish balls, beef noodles, cheese wrapped in bacon and more.
Next Tuesday on ‘Postcards’ I will be posting our itinerary for Taiwan’s capital, Taipei.
In the meantime, we’re off to Fukuoka tomorrow for the Chuseok holiday! Yay