Monday, August 04, 2008

Kaohsiung I

I went to Kaohsiung with Jenna weekend before last - the weekend right before Typhoon Fung-wong hit Taiwan. Neither of us had really been there, so we decided to finally buy high-speed rail tickets and spend a weekend there. We paid close attention to the typhoon's approach, but finally decided to take a chance on the weather and make the trip that weekend.

Rather than try to reserve a hotel room from Taipei, we decided to look for a room when we got to Kaohsiung. We ended up spending an hour or so at the travel information desk at Kaohsiung's HSR station - apparently there was some kind of "shopping festival" in town and most of the inexpensive-yet-decent hotels in the city center were booked. We finally found a decent hotel that was a bit distant from downtown but at least it was (sort of) walkable from the subway...

...and it turned out to be surprisingly nice. Horribly tacky lobby but the rooms were really nice (with HDTV) and the complimentary breakfast buffet was as good as you'd find in a good Western hotel. Everything in the hotel looked brand new. It wasn't remotely full and we got our room at a substantial discount. Our theory is that it was constructed in anticipation of the 2009 World Games.

Northern Kaohsiung struck me as somewhat Singaporean in its wide streets and architecture. (Central Kaohsiung would be pure Taiwan.) Typhoon Fung-wong is two days away in this picture.

We took the subway to central Kaohsiung. Kaohsiung's MRT system is brand new, opened just a few months ago. There's only one operational line so far, the Red Line, which runs north-south. The Orange Line is scheduled to begin service later in August, running east-west - we saw a couple of Orange Line station entrances while taking taxis around the city and they genuinely looked ready to open soon.

The Red Line is clean, shiny and new. Unfortunately, trains that Saturday were running 9 minutes apart - I can't ever remember waiting that long for a train on the Danshui or Bannan lines in Taipei, even on a weekend. When the train did come it was crowded, and just got more crowded as it approached downtown Kaohsiung.

We exited at Sanduo Shopping District and I took a couple of pictures.

From there we took a taxi to the harbor, where we caught a cheap ferry to Cijin, a historic part of the city located on an island.

Harbor pictures:

Cijin's got a lot of interesting old-style architecture; it's also quite touristy.

We ate a seafood dinner on a street loaded with seafood restaurants. I'm not usually a big fan of seafood but I appreciate it when it's done well. Saturday's meal was excellent.

Maybe it's just my imagination, but the temple roofs in Kaohsiung and southern Taiwan seem more elaborate than those in Taipei. I like it.

Temple art in Cijin.

We found this fascinating facade after dark in Cijin and have no idea what it is. This is about the best picture I managed to take of it.

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