Taiwan Stories and Tips

Kaohsiung's Local Feel

Dragon and Tiger Pagodas Photo, Taiwan, Asia

I was on a ship at the time, so I didn't actually stay in any of the local hotels. I ate at many different restaurants and bars, but can't remember the names of most, and would be willing to bet that some are not there anymore.

Some of my best memories of this city were the markets downtown. All of these are tucked between narrow alleys and support hundreds of locals peddling everything from herbs to toys. As you walk, people on mopeds and bicycles whiz past crowded streets that I don't think I'd attempt on a bike if they were empty. The best part of these markets is that they're not for tourists. You can tell that they are for the locals and because of that offer a glimpse into the culture. The prices of everything being sold are negotiable. If you are going to purchase anything, make sure you barter. I always found it amusing that the vendors will give you a price and sell you an item without haggling, but I really do think they enjoy bartering with you. As soon as I offer them a different price, they all break out into big smiles and it becomes a game. I love conversing with the local people, even if you don't speak the same language. Surprisingly enough, many of the people here do speak at least a little bit of English. This makes it easier, but I sometimes felt guilty that I didn't speak their language as well. Don't miss this integral part of the city's culture.

One thing I did while I was there was take a tour with one of the local cab drivers. I was lucky because he was someone well-known to everybody that came into the port on ships at the time. His name was Fong. He spoke English well and knew the city like no one else. He would also exchange money for you. There are many local vendors that will exchange American money, but they charge you a hefty fee. You are better off going to a bank or exchange, but these small guys will do if you are pressed. If you have the opportunity, take a tour with a knowledgeable cabbie. He drove like a maniac and I didn't feel really safe ever, but he took us to some of the most amazing places I have ever seen. Kaohsiung is largely an industrial city, with lots of smog, but in the outskirts there are many beautiful hills that contain Buddhist temples. He drove us around the city for almost four hours for a very small fee and showed us sights that no tour could have offered.

We also went to the famous Lotus Lake, which harbors the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas and the Confucius Temple on the shores. In this area we visited some more touristy shops where nice souvenir type items were offered. This area was beautiful.

We also took a tour of one of the local aquariums which was pretty good. I can't remember where it was, but I'm sure it would be easy to find if you were looking. Downtown we visited more of the many amazing temples of the region.

Again, we stopped in many bars, but I can't remember the names of half of them. I do remember that there was always plenty to do downtown. Yen Cheng, which I think was where the original downtown area was, was home to lots of different bars and clubs. It stayed pretty busy all night long.

Kaohsiung was one of the most memorable places I've been, rich with history and interesting sites. I haven't even scratched the surface here. Plenty to do and see!! If you go, make sure to check out the local areas instead of sticking to the usual tourist haunts.

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