If you have Taipei on your travel agenda, pencil in Kaohsiung as well. Hop on the high-speed rail in Taipei and exactly 2 hours and 15 minutes later, you’re in southern Taiwan, in Taiwan’s second largest city. The contrast between Kaohsiung and Taipei is significant, and Taiwan’s south should not be overlooked for this reason.
The south of Taiwan has more of a homey feel to it, and locals will more often than not use Taiwanese, Taiwan’s own language, which is unintelligible from Mandarin Chinese.
My favorite scenic spot in Kaohsiung is the magnificent Lotus Pond, which has over twenty temples surrounding its perimeter. Take the metro to the Tsoying metro station, and rent a bicycle from the bike share program just steps away from the metro’s exit. It’s a quick ride around the perimeter of Lotus Pond, depending on how often you stop. Lotus Pond is quite possibility the most unique, colorful temple I’ve been to, and even if you’ve traveled all throughout Asia and been to hundreds of temples, you’ll still be taken back.
It’s also enjoyable walking along Love River at dusk; the city has invested significantly in urban renewal. I recommend jumping onto the ferry and heading over to Qi Jin Island, where you can literally pick and choose fresh seafood and have it served to you within minutes. A feast for three people costs about $25 US.
Meinong is a great day trip outside of Kaohsiung. It takes about 30 minutes by public bus, and Meinong’s scenery is some of the island’s most beautiful. About 90% of the residents of Meinong are Hakka, or aboriginals. I recommend the Hakka Museum, as well as the savory Hakka rice noodles known as dan tiao. Additionally, Meinong is known for producing exquisite paper parasols, which make excellent gifts.