Monday, 1 September 2014

Day 3: Exploring Kaoshiung 高雄, Cijin 旗津島, Dream Mall 夢時代購物中心, Kai Xuan Night Market 凯旋夜市

Having bid sunny Kenting farewell, we travelled to our next destination and spent 14-15 July 2014 in

What good is it to travel to the Southern Taiwan without spending a few days in this 2nd largest city in Taiwan? Besides, we had to by-pass Kaoshiung to go to other areas (from Kenting).

BUT first, I must wish myself a  

Yet another 14th July, my favouritest day of the year and I am spending it in Kaoshiung!

Now, what is there to do in Kaoshiung?


Google and you will see.

Here are some to-go places (some of them, I only found out about when I was there!):

1. Love River (Ai He, 愛河)  
- Somewhat like a small river where one could take a leisurely stroll, featuring boat rides along the river.(Quite similar to the feeling of Singapore River)

2. Lotus Lake / Dragon & Tiger Pagodas
- As its name suggests, scenic landmarks in Kaoshiung

3. Cijin / Qijin (旗津島)  
- A little island just 10-min ferry-ride away from the port, featuring a seaside, cycling trail and seafood! 

4. Xiziwan / Xizi Bay (西子湾)

5. Lover's Wharf

6. Fisherman's Wharf
- (My guess for) These "bays / wharfs" location meant they were more focused on ambiance (being near some sort of river/ sea) I suppose

7. Night Markets - there are 4 awesome night markets! 
     a. NEWLY OPENED in 2013: 
         - Jin Zuan Night Market, 钻夜
         - Kai Xuan Night Market, 凯旋夜

     b. REGULAR ones (older):
         - Rui Feng Night Market, 瑞豐夜市 
         - Liu He Night Market, 六合夜

According to the hotel reception, she mentioned Rui Feng being a huge market with a lot more things other than food. 
So if there was only 1 market we could go, she suggested Rui Feng.

Liu He on the other hand, was more focused on food and they opened til 2am (if my memory don't fail me), recommended for people who wanted to go for late night supper!

8. Eda World (義大世界) 
A Greek-inspired Shopping Mall & Amusement Theme Park. 

9. Dream Mall, (夢時代購物中心)
Aka Taiwan's biggest Shopping Mall.

Quite obviously, I couldn't have visited EVERY LOCATION listed in the above, but I did cover the ones I was especially interested in.
In summary, here are some footnotes I jotted in my travel book to make it easier for travel plans.

Hence my itinerary for the 2 days in Kaoshiung:

1st Day:

Cijin 旗津島, 
Xiziwan 西子湾, 
both Cijin and Xiziwan are accessible via the Xiziwan station.

Dream Mall 夢時代購物中心,
Kai Xuan Night Market 凯旋夜市, 
both Dream Mall and Kai Xuan are accessible via Kai Xuan station.

2nd Day:

Eda World 義大世界,  
accessible via Zuoying Station BUT requires a 15-min shuttle bus ride provided by Eda World

Love River 愛河, 
accessible via Shi Yi Hui Station (1 stop before Xiziwan)

Rui Feng Night Market 瑞豐夜市, 
accessible via Ju Dan Station (is that the right pinyin? -_-)

First thing first,
Travelling to Kaoshiung

Kaoshiung is in the South of Taiwan, and the HSR station is known as Zuoying Station (左營)
I wonder why they don't name it Kaoshiung Station since it IS the station for Kaoshiung, that got me confused as I was looking out for a station called Kaoshiung, but there was none.

Zuoying HSR is connected to Zuoying KRT (Kaoshiung Rapid Transport) so it is really easy and fuss-free exploring Kaoshiung since many places are accessible via KRT.

Now, if you are coming from Taoyuan - Kaoshiung
Simple! Take the HSR from Taoyuan Airport and alight at the destination stop - Zuoying. 

We travelled from Kenting - Kaoshiung
For us, we travelled upwards from Kenting back to Kaoshiung - the only way was via bus, or private van transfer (both option were about the same price at 350 NT per head thereabout).

We opted for the less-hassle van transfer but it still took us yet another 3 hours drive to arrive at Zuoying. 
This is a shot of the van from the last seat in the van - it was fully "utilised" with 9 people at the back, hence, no extra room space for us. 

Because there were a total of 3 other groups of people in the van, we had to make detours to pick them up from the various hotels in Kenting before we started the journey.

Upon arriving at Kaoshiung, the driver had to drop the rest at their choiced accommodation and sadly, we were the last to be dropped off, hence we only got to our hotel slightly before 1pm.(Half a day spent on travelling)

Farewell Kenting!

The skies are just lovely.


Our choiced hotel in Kaoshiung is known as ICON Hotel.

$81 SGD per night for 2 pax on Agoda

Seems pretty good as well - between Central Park (Zhong Yang Gong Yuan) & Formosa Boulevard (Meili Dao), relatively accessible to wherever spots we were planning to go.

As expected, we didn't get to check into the hotel since the usual check in time was 2pm. 

So the reception recommended we have some food and come back, she'll try to check us in ASAP.

In fact, this receptionist did give pretty good service, sharing with us the hotel's self-designed map and included also voluntarily showed us where we could go for some local & well-known Taiwanese food.

I cannot remember the name of this place and I can't even read this signboard. 

Is that "Bo Yi Shi Shao Ro Fan"?

Anyways, it is in one of the little obscure-looking lanes and we almost missed it!

The smell of roasted meat made us really hungry!

It seems like a happening lunch place for locals cause we spotted many people in office-wear eating there. 

Quite surprisingly, there didn't seem to be tourists hanging out there. We were the only ones.

A copy of the menu!
We spent less than $100 NT (about $4 SGD) there! And for 2 people!

Food portion was just enough for me, but I can't say the same for Mr Chan.

It was the size of our regular rice bowl (served in Chinese Restaurants).

I guess people do order more side dishes to accompany these rice bowls for a fuller meal. But it was sufficient for me! And really yummy too! 

Come to think of it, that was the 1st time we had a decent Taiwanese food since the day we arrived!

And being in Taiwan, what else to drink apart from those street bubble tea?

The cups looked like lucky charms!

Toast to a selfie on a hot afternoon in Kaoshiung!

So, by the time we were done with food and roaming the streets nearby, it was time to head back to check-in so we can proceed with the day's itinerary. We didn't have too much time!

This hotel is a boutique hotel with different themes in every room. 

The lobby was small, but it was really clean and sleek in design, so it looked pretty decent!

As each room had its own design and theme, we were given a choice to select the room design we wanted, from whatever rooms available - unfortunately we only had 2 options.

So room 505 was it. It was the simpler of the 2. The other one had a scary skull head painted on the wall (too artistic for my liking!).

Philosophical as I am, these words made me confused!

hmmm... -_- very deep.

This room had a full-length window facing the room and it made the stay bright and shiny (I just forgot to take a picture of that side of the room!) 

Not bad for a $81 SGD / night room isn't it?

The bathroom was pretty clean too.

(If not for the white tiles, I would say it is "very clean" but white just has a way of amplifying all sorts of imperfections!)

 See those yellow-stained tiles on the floor? That's why it is only "pretty" clean.

I thought it was quite a quirky hotel since it had all those wall paintings in the room as well as at the corridors on each level.

And we sneaked a few shots of the rooms next to ours whilst the hotel was doing room cleaning.

This one was non-occupied but it didn't have a window, so it is "out!".

Cijin 旗津島
Xiziwan 西子湾

Right after we checked-in, we did some reading on the tourist map and websites and were set that we HAD TO visit Cijin 旗津島.

It wasn't part of the initial plan because I thought it was just a seafood port, but upon finding out from the receptionist and also the maps etc. I realised it was an island! 

(For some reason, I love visiting islands!)

Cijin, as I have came to realise, is a destination that many locals head to for a fun day out. 

You'd spot families, friends, couples hanging out in the area and on the contrary, not many tourists were spotted.

It is an island located merely 10-min ferry ride away from the main city and offers a relaxing "off-the-beaten-track" atmosphere with the sea in the backdrop, seafood vendors displaying their fresh catch in the front of their restaurants to entice you for a sumptuous seafood feast and old-school shop houses that line the roads of Cijin peddling all sorts of goods from BBQ food to souvenirs, post cards and random items akin those you'd find in Singapore's Chinatown.

As much as people head there for their family activities, there are actually residents staying in the island so some parts of the island had this rustic "old-world" charm.

People call these the "old-streets" 老街 experience.

Take the KRT to Xiziwan Station
Follow the directional signs to Gushan Ferry Pier (10-15 min walk) 

(if you want, you could also rent a bike right from the exit of the station, bicycle vendors are plentiful right from the station exit!)

10-minute Ferry ride from Gushan Ferry Pier (NT 30 for 2-way ticket)

There are a few things one could do in Cijin:
1. Take a swim (there is a decent beach located in Cijin, and also some water sports)

2. Ride a bicycle (Majority people seem to ride a bike around the island to explore further, and it was safe because there were bicycle trails for one to follow)

3. Just hang around and soak up the old-street ambiance and feast on fresh seafood!

And not to forget, spam the SPF / sunblock and bring a brolly! You are definitely gonna need them!

So we walked base on the directional signs and spotted this cute Japanese-looking hut on the way to the Pier.

How could I resist a soft-serve ice-cream on a hot day like this?

But it melted within minutes and I had no choice but to have it melt all over my hands whilst I savor it since there was no point cleaning up the mess until it was finished!

Left: 1 minute before 
Right: 1 minute after

The heat.... argh...

So there it was - Gushan Ferry Pier!

 Walking to the end of the Q, when there was none?

The ferry arrives/depart every 10-15 minutes, so no fear even if you miss 1.

Hmm... there wasn't much of a scenery to speak of as it was just a short ride. Almost like going to Sentosa? Or perhaps Pulau Ubin? (Ubin definitely more rustic!)

1 shot of Kaoshiung from the island. Quite nearby actually.

It was probably 3 / 4 plus in the afternoon by the time we got there and there were plenty of people in the area. Some were headed there, some were heading back.

The first thing I noticed were bicycle kiosks . They were everywhere!

And because there was no information counter in sight, I just approached a random bicycle provider who willingly shared some information about what we could do here - of course, he "hard-sold" the fact that the best thing to do was to ride a bicycle, but I didn't buy that at first and stubbornly wanted to walk around on my own.

And then after some walking - and some more, I was finally convinced that I needed the bicycle to take me further!

There was no bus nor taxi - to explore the island. Either you walk, ride a bicycle or ride a scooter.

I ended up renting a bicycle for  $100 NT for 2 hours (slightly more than $4 SGD?)

As recommended by the bike rental shop, they told us we could cycle to the end and there would be a beach, we could hang around near there - or we could also go to the light house which was located uphill.

So with these 2 goals in mind - we started our voyage!

I absolutely detest these worm-looking thing! Ewwww.

The atmosphere did bring me into a laid-back mode - back to yester-years! Kinda rustic.

And we passed a very striking temple with all those red lanterns hanging from the top!

No lack of food on this small island as well! 

If you are a seafood lover - you are definitely in for a feast here!

Raw. Or cooked. Take your pick!

And then, we arrived at the beach!

Since we came from Kenting, this beach pales in comparison.

I cannot say for sure if the water was clear since I was not close enough to step into the sea, but the sand did look a tad dirty - it looked greyish, black.

Nevertheless, there were people lazing on their beach mats and just absorbing nature surrounding this beach.

Running parallel to the beach was a couple of lanes where people could cycle (somewhat resembling Singapore's East Coast Park, actually, but on a smaller scale.).

There were these mobile tricycle stalls selling fruit juices, finger food, swim suits, hats, and other beach accessories like sand castle making "equipments". They made the otherwise "pale" looking beach alot more colorful.

In fact, there was a hotel located right opposite this stretch, but I wonder if tourists do stay here for the night?

At first, we ignored the sign boards and decided to cycle on parallel to the beach, opposite the suggested bike trail only to realise that the journey never seem to end, and there was almost nothing to see except for the pale grey sand, so we aborted the plan to cycle further in that direction and decided to be good and follow the bike trail.

Ultimately, we arrived at this dark entrance to a tunnel, known as the Star Tunnel - part of the bicycle trail, but was hesitant to enter because I took a peek into the tunnel and saw that it was all dark with green florescent lights shinning from the ceiling as if there were some map markings? 

I wonder how some people actually managed to walk to this point? I was already tired from the cycling!
Also, I never understood the concept of the "stars" in the star tunnel - in my imagination, I just saw lizards running all across the ceilings even though they weren't there! 

My determination to conquer was stronger than those imaginary lizards and so we entered, pushing our bikes along, taking caution not to run over anyone since it was really dark in there. 

I had the other hand up on my head for the fear of any falling imaginary lizards!

Alas, we exit the tunnel and found that the tunnel actually cut through this huge cliff of what-seemed-to-be natural landscape of rocks? (Look at the background)

I was literally frowning in the picture, as the sun reflected its almighty rays on my face which radiated with glory - thanks to all that perspiration and sebum! 

I loved how the blue sky was a perfect contrast to the cliff but didn't have enough time to take more holistic photos as I was losing energy from all that "glorious radiation".

And there was even more shots of the sea at this point.

Well, as we go on to discover...

the path that led to the lighthouse was an upward AND winding one. Argh!

Yet, my stubborn will to conquer the light house was greater than the fatigue of my aching muscles and melting make-up.

And also grateful to Mr Chan for being supportive to let me have it my way despite being exhausted and heat-intolerant.

So, we pressed on and half-cycled and half-pushed our bikes up that long-winding road.

(No photos because we were simply too shagged for that! Like. Seriously.)


The light house was actually closed!

I cannot explain how absurd it was to have went up there with the bicycles only to find it closed!




However, I composed myself while we rested under a huge tree and caught sight of this amazing view of Cijin!
The awesome contrasts of colors and landscape of the sky, the sea and the buildings made me feel like it was part of a painting.

Undeniably, this was the uglier side. haha

By the time I was done mulling over how the experience in the light house would have been, the sky seemed to get slightly dimmer and we'd better hurry along as we had other places to conquer!

Needless to say, the journey down was alot easier and again, we digressed into other routes which were not indicated as part of the bike trail.

This time, it was a big win because we cycled down nostalgic lanes which were quiet and serene. Soulful and just the way I like it!

And though they were a tad messy, THIS is the lifestyle of the residents there and it was homely.

We even spotted wall paintings and could imagine village folks sitting in those benches just hanging around and chatting - like a scene from a Taiwanese movie.

Finally, we returned to the main street and there, they have a church too!

So, we rewarded ourselves with a dish of mango crushed ice before heading off!

Mission accomplished!

After a couple of hours spent cycling and roaming in Cijin, we felt the exhaustion kick in whilst riding the ferry back to the city.

A picture of us: Before (top) & After (below)

Since the Xiziwan port looked less interesting than Cijin, we didn't really roam the area and headed straight to the KRT station as we had much to accomplish that night!

The walk back to the station was a calm and quiet one. Even though it was a "peak" hour at 6 plus, the streets were relatively quiet, without much traffic, and little people.

This must be one key difference between Kaoshiung and Taipei.

And we couldn't help but got ourselves this random snack by the road. My intuition says the store is pretty popular!

Ah-ma Ji-dan su?

(Grandma's Egg Bun? - doesn't sound accurate, haha)


See the un-cluttered and relatively empty street?
Very peaceful indeed!

So the next stop was Kai Xuan Station (down southwards) where we'd planned to visit the largest mall in Taiwan - DREAM MALL, followed by Kai Xuan Night Market.

Dream Mall

Going to Dream Mall was merely for the sake of being able to claim that "I have been to the biggest mall in Taiwan!" and also for the sake of taking Taiwan's "tallest" Ferris Wheel which stands at 336ft tall (including the height of the building), taller than that located in Miramar Entertainment Park located in Taipei.

Cliché - I know, but what to do? That's what I like to do when I am on holiday. :P

So upon exit from the Kaixuan KRT, we managed to catch the shuttle bus that ferries us to the door step of Dream Mall - grateful for that actually - because we are really too shag to look for directions by now.

As highlighted earlier - Kaoshiung, as far as I have observed seems alot calmer, unlike the usual bustling city even though this is considered the 2nd biggest city in Taiwan.

I wonder if it is just quiet because it was a Monday?

Or it is quiet because it is just that way in Kaoshiung.

It was barely 8 but the mall was relatively almost empty.

I must say that this mall offers merchandise from A to Z and the shops were all brightly-lit, and looked welcoming.

Even the sales people looked ready-to-serve despite the not-so-forthcoming crowd. (Unlike the local rowdy sales people we sometimes face on the sales floor here in Singapore.)

Taiwan's overall service-standard has always been known to be ranked amongst the top (closely taking after Japan's standard). Or so I felt. 

Upon entry to the mall, one would easily spot a huge information counter that looks more like a reception area where service staff looked ready to "check-in" for you, with their warm smiles and approachable expressions; and the 1 thing I spotted was the many child-prams that were parked within the information counter area ready for "rental" (in fact, I don't think you need to pay for it at all!). Really child-friendly!

Here's 1 shot of the main entrance. Seriously, too big to capture a nice shot of the ferris wheel (hidden in the background -_-).

Being a kid whenever I go on a vacation, we didn't spend too much time hanging around the shopping mall cause I had no intention of buying anything. 

I just wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel!

So the roof top of the building featured quite a few activities for children, ranging from machine-operated viking for kids to those fun-fair game booths where kids "fished" for prizes. Finally we spotted more people!

I mean... a Ferries Wheel is a ferris wheel. 

And despite having taken many such rides before, I always find myself wanting to take it again and again, and it is not even a thrill-ride!

Maybe I like the idea of "rising to the top of the world" - lame as it may sound.

Everything looks so small from the top. Like nothing (situations) can be too big that we can't rise above them.

And I am glad to have been able to celebrate my birthday at the "top of the world". haha

Our short visit to Dream Mall ended with the ride on the Ferris Wheel before we took the shuttle bus provided from the mall to the KRT station, headed for the last stop of the day.

Kai Xuan Night Market


Our intention was to take the KRT to Ju Dan and head to Rui Feng Night Market, but when we arrived at the KRT station, we caught sight of another bus that featured a particular night market.

Curiosity got the better of me and we decided to just go with the flow and took that bus instead (aborting the thought to going to Ruifeng!) - not exactly sure where it'll lead us!

We were quite impressed with the marketing stunts actually. No only did this nigt market provide a shuttle bus from the KRT, they had people distributing flyers, featuring different food stores / gadgets at the KRT station as well. We were hijacked to Kai Xuan Night market. 

Definitely alot more crowded and lively than the atmosphere in Dream Mall.

So, this was where everyone in Kaoshiung gathered!


My dish of fresh clams! Cost me $800 NT (abt $8 SGD). 
Wasn't that cheap but it was really tasty and fresh!

1 sausage and 1 steak cost only $115 NT (slightly more than $4 SGD?!)

While Kai Xuan was a new market with a great variety of food - I thought Rui Feng was a more holistic night market! Will be writing on that the next entry.

Closing with a picture of my ultra-cute puffy fish birthday cake!


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