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Published: October 17th 2014
Sunday saw us 'enjoy' our hotel breakfast before we dragged our bags back to the railway station down the street. Thankfully there weren't too many shops open (they open at 11am here) so the footpaths were available to actually walk on - instead of the usual bike parking lot and overflow shop displays. It didn't however help really as we soon ended up on the edge of the road as at least that was flat not 'step up, step down' as any walk on the footpaths in Tainan were. We had no problems getting a train (once we had found the booking office - it does help to scan the walls for English directions!) as they were very frequent between the two cities. Forty minutes later we were in Koahsuing battling the intricacies of yet another train station. This one was enormous and in a state of renovation which made it much harder to find the correct exit. Kaohsuing is Taiwan's second largest city and is it's largest port.
If we didn't find the correct exit - there can be a dozen or more, leading in all directions) it would make finding the hotel we had chosen almost impossible to
find. We eventually left the station and were pleasantly surprised when our hotel appeared after only a few minutes walking. We virtually always use the web site Trip Advisor now for all our accommodation in cities and it is always spot on. This time we stayed at The Kindness Hotel Qixian (no 1 on the site) and it certainly lived up to it's name. A really friendly hotel ten minutes walk from Formosa Boulevard MRT which was the transfer station for the only two lines in Kaohsuing. After the traffic in Tainan where there was no underground it was good to have an MRT again. After settling in we decided to spend the afternoon at the Fine Arts Museum.
Our hotel was in the bridal dress area so their were dozens of either wedding apparel shops or very ornate (think 5* hotel style foyers) wedding photography studios. These staged glamour pre wedding photos shoots are big business as the couples pick backgrounds and five different dresses for magazine style shoots. We giggled over some of the very kitschy pictures which were on display in big glossy books on the footpath. Fromosa Boulevard station was the usual warren of exit
tunnels and escalators though this one had a very impressive central foyer which was covered by a large colourful dome made out of stained glass. This Dome of Light is a tourist attraction and is the largest glass work in the world. It was designed by an Italian artist - it is 30 meters in diameter and covers an area of 2,180 square metres. It is made up of 4,500 glass panels. Being a lover of coloured glass I was quite impressed by it..
The Fine Arts Museum was a trip on the MTR and then a connecting bus which drove along some lovely wide tree lined streets. The museum was situated amidst the trees of a large park and unfortunately they were changing their permanent exhibits so many of the galleries were closed. However we thoroughly enjoyed the two temporary exhibitions which were open. The first was called the Art of Architecture and was the presentation models created by the firm of architects called Foster and Partners who have designed some of the most memorable modern buildings in the world. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience wandering between miniature skyscrapers - the detail of the models was breathtaking
I wander who lives in there...
One of the many miniature models on display in the Art in Architecture exhibition
- they were actually stunning to look at.
The next exhibition was called Formosa the Beautiful and was a series of 102 paintings which were displayed as one long (248 meters long!) continuous painting around the walls of half a dozen galleries. The paintings conveyed the geographical and cultural features of the entire country in the 1950's and took the artist (Lin Chih-hsin) 18 years to prepare for and finish the art work. It was a fascinating look at the country and another enjoyable hour soon passed. Interestingly the people here still call their country Formosa - we were corrected a few times when we said Taiwan - by locals.
Later we went down to the art district called Pier 2 which was an old warehouse area that was renovated into art studios. It was really crowded and we soon realised that their was a music festival happening that evening. There were many weird and wonderful statues scattered around the site, lots of street art on the buildings and a great atmosphere. We checked out some of the galleries and small stalls full of vintage clothes and enjoyed some food before deciding to follow the river around to
the riverside promenade eating area called Love River which had been the old city sewers. However because of the festival we couldn't pass by through the river park without festival tickets so decided to go back the next evening instead.
One of the biggest street night markets was held in the street running off the exit we used to get out of Formosa Boulevard station so we decided to eat there instead. It was shoulder to shoulder crowded when we arrived and most stalls had queues and the usual deep fried food. There seems to be little variety at the night markets - just dozens of stalls selling the same products. There were lots of stalls selling seafood which was grilled but though we had a few snacks the waiting time and crush of people (and motorbikes still trying to push their way through) we decided to just go back to the hotel and finish the night off with a dessert using a free dessert voucher the hotel had given us.
The 'dessert' was a buffet meal - really great food, fabulous choice of Taiwanese dishes, and the best cappuccino coffee we had drunk in Taiwan! They even
offered us a pass out when we left in case we got hungry again before it closed at 11pm! One of the many little extras this hotel offers - other well utilised ones were the freezer stocked with a dozen flavours of icecream and wafer cones to help yourself to whenever and free washing machines and driers. Highly recommended hotel with lovely friendly staff.
A visit to the Ciaotou Sugar Factory next day saw us in a much quieter part of the city with a real village feel. We weren't particularly interested in the workings of the sugar mill but it was lovely wandering the area as it had many houses and offices left over from the Japanese occupation. Some of the houses were in very good condition. Many were in a sorry state of repair as well - as were the many air raid shelters which were scattered around. A peaceful area shaded by many well established trees.
Back in the city bustle we went looking for another Birkenstock store - the prices of these shoes are so reasonable here in comparison to Australia that I had decided to purchase a second pair before we left the
Early evening saw us walking the length of the riverside walkways on both sides of the river at Love Pier as the sun set. We enjoyed a couple of drinks in one of the many little cafes which lined the banks, watched the area light up with some neon (in fact many of the buildings didn't light up at all) and decided to walk back the few kilometers back to the hotel instead of using the MRT.
Next morning a 4.30 am wake up call announced the end of our fortnight in Taiwan - next destination Hanoi in Vietnam which was to be the fourth time we had visited one of our favourite cities. We enjoyed Taiwan but doubted that we would revisit the country. It is not a cheap destination for budget travellers. We loved our time in the Rift Valley amidst the rice paddies and were super impressed with the efficiency of the public transport. We were a little disappointed that so much of their traditional aboriginal culture has died out and feel that as a country that could really really promote that much more. The people though made a lasting impression - they were
all truly the most polite, friendly and helpful people we have ever met in any country we have travelled to.
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