Kaohsiung Taiwan – Along the coast down the southern end of Taiwan sits Kaohsiung (pronounced by locals as ‘gao-xiong’), a sprawling city with just under three million in population. It’s actually the second-most populous city in Taiwan, although that fact is often lost in the funneled bits of information known about Taiwan as visitors tend to overlook Kaohsiung for its northern counterpart and without a doubt the most popular place to visit in Taiwan, Taipei City.
Regardless of this, Kaohsiung is equally as stunning and interesting, and offers just as many varied experiences as Taipei, if not more. The city is vibrant and bustling every day of the week, and the inter-city transport is super easy to use, and can be likened to Japan’s superior train system, where there are plenty of trains running throughout the day, and transfers are easy and quick (if required).
Kaohsiung is a city where you will be able to experience the rich diversity of food and culture right in the middle of its concrete jungle, but if you travel only an hour or so out of the city, you will can embrace the wild and unique nature that harbours in Taiwan’s mountainous inlands.
How To Get There?
Many countries, western and Asian, are able to get direct flights to Kaohsiung, as the closest airport is the Kaohsiung International Airport. Airlines such as China Eastern, Cathay Pacific, and ANA operate over a few countries and offer affordable direct flights, as well as indirect flights with one stopover for most other countries.
If you are heading to Kaohsiung from major cities such as Taipei or Taichung, the cheapest and most popular method would be to catch the Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR). For one-way tickets that cost $20 – $50 USD, the trip will take between 1-2 hours, depending on where you depart from, which is a great time to rest up in between sightseeing. The seats are wide and comfortable, and tickets can be bought on the way at the main train stations – however, we recommend that you purchase the tickets 1-2 days beforehand to ensure you and your companion(s) get seated together.
Where To Stay?
Kaohsiung Taiwan Guesthouse – Green Light A
Taiwan is filled to the brim with affordable accommodation that’s located right in the middle of the city, which means whatever choice you make, you’ll always be getting bang for your buck. The Green Light A guesthouse is one such property. Located a stone throw away from Ruifeng Night Market, this modern and clean accommodation is the epitome of budget luxury – once you lay your eyes on the spacious rooms, large windows, leather furniture, flat-screen TVs (some rooms), and relatively new amenities, you’ll be sure to know that the price you pay for this place is an absolute steal.
Why Guests Love It: “The bed is soft, and the environment is clean and comfortable”, “The room is very beautiful the price is cheap, the location is excellent. There is a 24-hour supermarket nearby, and the breakfast shop nearby is also delicious”, “Pleasant stay, very close to Ruifeng Night Market. Will stay again next time”.
Book It Now: Green Light A
Kaohsiung Taiwan Hotel – Fullon Hotel Kaohsiung
Labelled as one of the superior accommodation choices in Kaohsiung, the prices of the Fullon Hotel are (again) ridiculously affordable that you have got to be wondering what the catch is. Well, rest-assured, there is none – it’s a fact that you can book a 4-star hotel in Kaohsiung which offers generous-sized rooms, flat-screen TVs, a fitness room, a seasonal outdoor pool, harbor views, a sauna room, 24-hour front desk, an in-house restaurant, a convenient location near a station, and buffet breakfast (some guests may need to add this on) for a fraction of the price you would pay in most other countries. If you’re after a luxury stay without the luxury price tag to go with it, this is your answer.
Why Guests Love It: “Very smooth and excellent-value stay. Centrally located with convenience stores and other attractions close-by. Staff were proficient with English and very accommodation to any requests”, “Located was good, close to river and port, free buffet breakfast had a very large variety of options”, “The hotel has a swimming pool and hot spring bath, ideal to relax after a day of tourism or work”.
Book It Now: Fullon Hotel Kaohsiung
Night Markets in Kaohsiung Taiwan – Where and What To Look Out For
Like many cities around Taiwan, night markets rule the attractions as the number one place tourists go to when visiting. Kaohsiung is no less different, with a plethora of night markets popping up at night, some which close a few nights a week, and others which slug through the seven-day grind.
Below we’ve listed two of the most popular night markets that are visited in Kaohsiung, and what you need to look out for when you’re there. Both are within the city, and have a nearby train station which is within walking distance.
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Ruifeng Night Market
Easily the busiest night market in Kaohsiung, prepare yourselves to be pushed and shoved whilst fighting with hundreds of others for a chicken skewer. We’re kidding. It’s not that bad, but we’re definitely standing by our notion that it is one of the busiest markets, and thus might be harder to navigate than you think. However, that’s all part of its charm. Old-school vibes dictate the look and feel of this place, with stalls looking like they were hastily set up 40-years ago and haven’t been maintained since, but the moment you enter the alleys and begin your food adventure, you’ll only have eyes for the food, and trust us, there is plenty.
Below we’ve listed some of the stand-out dishes of Ruifeng, but by all means try as many different things as you can!
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Octopus Takoyaki
Whilst takoyaki is traditonaly a Japanese snack from Osaka, the Taiwanese take on dish is surprisingly delicious. Large pieces of octopus can be tasted as you take a big bite into the freshly cooked takoyaki balls, but be careful as they come out piping hot! You can choose from a selection of different flavoured toppings (our favourite was the seaweed flavor – highly recommended!
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Wok-Fried Noodles
You will no doubt see a line at this wok-fried noodle stand. For such a small establishment, they will always have at least three workers to manage the steady flow of customers they receive every night that Ruifeng is open. One portion of noodles costs around 90 TWD, and comes with pork and seafood. There is space nearby for you to sit and enjoy your meal, which we recommend you do, as there are bins and free sriracha sauce for you to use. IT may look like any old wok-fried noodle dish, but it’s all in the taste – one bite and you’ll be hooked.
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Roasted Chicken Skewers
These chicken skewers may sound as though you can purchase them anywhere, but trust us when we say – these will blow your mind. We’re not exactly sure how they pack the amount of flavor and smokiness in them that they do, but the flavor explosion after one bite is really something. We’re going to go ahead and recommend that everyone in your party get a skewer each, because they’re not huge, and you’ll really appreciate having your own.
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Taro Milk Tea
Situated towards the end, this brightly lit store selling freshly blended drinks is a welcomed change to the abundance of food you’ll no doubt consume. We highly recommend trying the taro milk tea here as a refresher – the freshly cut taro pieces are blended with some ice and milk to a perfectly thick consistency. The watermelon juice is also cheap and super fresh.
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Mochi Jelly
These adorable looking sweets are a must! They may look like flavoured candy encased in ice, or regular jelly pieces with flavouring inside, but they’re actually small jelly sweets with the consistently between regular jelly and thick mochi, with smaller flavoured mochi pieces inside. They will definitely catch your eye as you amble past, and the mother and daughter team who run the business are super friendly.
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Bubble Tea Toast
The latest and greatest craze in Asia is the bubble tea toast, a concoction consisting of cooked tapioca pearls, toasted between two slices of a bread, almost like a dessert sandwich. It comes across as a little gimmicky, but once you take your first bite, we can guarantee you’ll be hooked. The consistency is unusual enough to keep you coming back for another bite, but the taste is quite addictive.
Ruifeng Night Market Details
Access: It is a few minute’s walk from Kaohsiung Arena Station. If in doubt, follow the crowds.
Hours: 6:00pm – 1:00am (open every day except Mondays and Wednesdays)
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Liuhe Night Market
Liuhe Night Market is much smaller in size than Ruifeng Night Market, however, it’s also a lot cleaner and less packed, meaning that if you are after laid-back night of sampling various food wares without being jostled around by an enormously thick crowd, and still want an authentic night market experience, Liuhe is your option.
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is an absolute staple in Taiwan, and along the main strip of Liuhe Night Market, you will come across a few different stalls. However, we recommend that you stop at the one at the beginning of the market, located on the right, and go for their original chicken pieces. Super crispy, super tasty, and super fresh.
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Pork Noodles
One of the BEST dishes to come out of Liuhe Market is the pork noodles from the cart run by an elderly man at the entrance of the market. The moment he opens, locals will be getting their orders across and you’ll probably need to wait in line. There’s no English here, so either dabble in some broken Chinese, or use sign language – whichever it is, make sure you get a portion of the original pork noodles, because they are insane! Freshly cooked in a simple Chinese gravy with minimal ingredients, it’s like a flavor explosion in your mouth, and being served in a plastic bag (if you’re getting takeaway) is always fun!
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Garlic and Chilli Fried Seafood
Just TRY and walk past the stands which display all their freshly fried seafood without stopping and ordering a portion of their crabs, lightly wok-fried with garlic and spices. Just try. We know we did, and we failed, and we’re glad, because the crunch you get from these is unlike any chip, crisp, or cracker you’ve ever had before. They’re also ridiculously cheap, so we recommend getting a small portion of whatever catches your eye and sharing it, because even the small size packs a load in.
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Meat Skewers
Liuhe offers some of the cheapest prices of skewers that we’ve come across, so stop by one of the carts selling pre-cooked skewers of meat and vegetables (starting at $0.30USD for one skewer), and load up one of the provided bowls with one of everything (or whatever catches your eye, whichever floats your boat), hand it over for reheating, and walk away a happy customer munching on chicken wing and drumsticks, grilled mushroom, pork belly, and maybe even giblet if you’re brave enough!
Liuhe Night Market Details
Access: It is a few minute’s walk from Formosa Boulevard Station. Why not head to the station first to capture some pictures of the gorgeous interior before grabbing a bite at the market?
Hours: 6:00pm – Late
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Visit the Lotus Pond
Aside from the abundance of food markets in Kaohsiung, the Lotus Pond is one of the premier attractions of Kaohsiung, with tourists making their way there mainly to see the Dragon and the Tiger Pagoda, and subsequently to visit the surrounding temples as well.
Opened in 1951 as a manmade lake, the Lotus Pond now encompasses more than a dozen temples (some surrounding ones of which are more than two centuries old), pavilions, and pagodas. They’re all within walkable distance to each other, and each present a unique and beautiful viewpoint of the lake.
The Dragon and the Tiger Pagoda is situated right at the beginning of the pond when you first enter. It’s quite difficult to miss, as the two towering pagodas behind each of the animal statues stand out in stark contrast to the flat lake. When you arrive, one of the superstitions is that you should enter from the dragon’s mouth and exit from the tiger’s mouth, as this gets rid of all your bad luck, and increases your chances of good luck. Whilst you’re inside the bodies, take in the detailing of the artworks on the walls. You can also climb to the top of the pagodas where sweeping views of the pond await.
The colourful structure against the often grey skies and blue waters presents a gorgeous picture opportunity, but it’s often full of tourists, so to make the opportunity, we recommend heading there bright and early to appreciate it all in peace and quiet before the tour buses arrive.
Access: From Zuoying Station, head outside and catch one of the red line buses to the Lotus Pond for $12 TWD. If you’re unsure, simply pull out a pic and ask the bus driver if it’s heading to that destination.
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Visit the Most Beautiful Station in The World
Not many stations around the world can come close to the level of beauty of the Formosa Boulevard Station – in fact, many claim it to be the most beautiful station in the world. Rather than it being an exhibition of some sort, it is literally the two main pillars and the ceiling of the station when you exit the station.
It’s such a spectacle that there are even seats around for people to rest whilst they admire the artwork, and quite often, during the day, you’ll see small groups of youth and tourists sitting down and leaning against the smaller outer pillars of the station, simply staring at the ceiling.
The bright and colourful Dome of Light is a glass mural created by the American-Italian Artist Narcissus Quagliata, and is the largest glass installation in the entire world. This is an impressive feat in itself. Even if you don’t have any reason to use the Formosa Boulevard station (which might be hard, as it’s one of the main stations on the main line), we urge you to make some time to drop by to experience this beauty – you won’t find it anywhere else in the world.
Kaohsiung Taiwan – An Original Franchise: Dan-Dan Burgers
Just like how KFC originated from Kentucky, and Jollibee is a Filipino invention through and through, you might have had a passing thought before as to whether Taiwan, given its heavy emphasis on street food in its culture and extraordinary level of food markets throughout the country, has developed a taste for fast food.
The simple answer is: yes. More specifically, Kaohsiung has found a niche market in fusing together the westernised notion of standardized production and output of food with modernized takes on traditional dishes that have been a part of Taiwanese culture since the beginning. Imagine a menu with a likes of rice congee, sticky rice cakes, and noodle soups alongside a plethora of burger options, with sides of fries and fried bread.
That’s exactly the menu you see when you order at Dan-Dan Burger, and we have to say, it’s definitely different. The burgers are made following the original western style, and yet taste as though they’ve been produced for an Asian palate (no complaints here though). There are very few franchises throughout Taiwan (only in Kaohsiung, Tainan, and Pintung, all in southern Taiwan), so if you get the chance, pop in and check out a burger or two. They’re super cheap, and not so big that you’ll ruin your appetite for the day.
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Visit Central Park in the Morning for Exercising and at Night for Live Music
Central Park, located in the middle of the city, is a unique area that offers large spaces for outdoor activities and a small eatery within its confines, attracting both people of the youth as well as the elderly, and is like a slice of oasis in the middle of a city of skyscrapers and flashing billboard signs.
It’s not a place that you would go out of your way to spend a few hours exploring, as it’s really just a park in the end, but if you’re passing through, or you really enjoy people watching, this is the prime spot in the entire Kaohsiung for that.
Early in the hours of the morning (we’re talking around 6:00am), the elderlies will already be up in their groups, claiming a portion of the park to practice their martial arts and tai chi, and it’s really a wonderful sight to see. How they continuously wake up as such hours everyday to practice is beyond us, but catching a glimpse into this obviously important part of their daily routine feels like you’ve somewhat peaked into their kitchen window and can’t look away.
If you’re the type to appreciate local talents, then at night, the landing area just outside Central Park Station is a hot spot for buskers and those just looking for perform. On most weekends, and every other weekday, someone will plonk themselves outside the station, and before they know it, a small crowd will settle down on the stairs to listen long into the night. This is a great way to wind down the night, especially if you’re living nearby.
Kaohsiung Taiwan – Try the working man’s lunch box at ‘Simon Salary Stew with Rice’
We know that food has been mentioned multiple times, yet we can’t help but keep raving on about it. Kaohsiung is an absolute beast when it comes to food offerings, and quite honestly, you can spend weeks and weeks here and still have an exhaustive list to explore.
One special mention we’d like to give is to ‘Simon Salary Stew with Rice’, a small and bustling yet unassuming restaurant located in the Gushan district of Kaohsiung, a walking distance to Aozihdi Station. It appears to be aimed at the work-class group, however, you will see various types of diners here, all with a simple goal: an affordable meal that’s both rich in flavor and and large in portion.
You can select a main meal from the menu, followed by three types of sides for a mere few dollars. Sweet tea is provided for free. It really can’t get much better than this.
We hope that by covering some of the more popular (and in our opinion more fun) activities of Kaohsiung, you’ve enlightened yourself in some way and filled out that Taiwan itinerary of yours just a bit more. If you have time, we strongly suggest you spend a few down south in Taiwan’s food mecca, because the foods that you will taste and the food markets that you will experience are each unique in their own way. Even if you’re not a foodie, exploring Kaohsiung City will present you with some sights you won’t be able to see anywhere else, and that itself is worth your time and dedication.
And for more info about destinations in Taiwan, feel free to check these articles too: Taiwan Travel Blog.