Kaohsiung is the second largest city in Taiwan, next to Taipei, which is about 300 km to the north and joined by a very fast train line. Like Singapore, it handles a lot of shipping. However, we understand that when the Majestic Princess visited on this cruise, it was the largest ship handled by the port to date. The harbour has a very narrow entrance, but we squeezed through OK. Taiwan is rarely on the must see list of travellers, and we also understand that this is the first time that Princess Cruises visited this city—it usually stops at Taipei.
Princess was very late in promoting tours from Kaohsiung, and had nothing available when we first looked. After attending an information session on the setting, we decided that $20 per head shuttle bus tickets to the centre of town was the best deal. Again, disembarking was easy, and we were welcomed to Kaohsiung by jolly dragons and drummers.
The shuttle buses had two stops—firstly Central Park and then San Duo shopping area. We rode the shuttle to the second stop, but at 9:30 am, it was very quiet. The major shops do not open until 11:00 am. We wandered around a bit aimlessly at first through some back streets.
We walked up the main road back to Central Park. There was lots of traffic, especially scooters, but very little evidence of economic activity. However, when the doors opened onto a building that we were walking past, we saw into a room of poker machines with quite a lot of people playing them. We thought it funny that you could not buy a bottle of milk at 10:00 am, but that the pokies were doing a roaring trade at that time.
Another interesting thing we noticed was that the traffic lights indicated how many seconds you had to cross the road. What an obvious improvement to pedestrian traffic—why don’t we have this at home?
We walked around Central Park, and found interestingly sculptured trees, and a group of senior citizens enjoying a dancing session. There were also squirrels, which are probably regarded as normal in Taiwan, but like useful pedestrian traffic lights, we don’t have them in Australia.
Having exhausted the range of attractions of Central Park, we walked down to the Love River, which flows through Kaohsiung. On the way we tried Gong Cha, which was promoted on the Majestic Princess. This was new to us, and we understand that it is a typically Taiwanese idea. It is a variety of teas, including a bubble tea with tapioca pearls. We tried a cold tea without sugar—interesting and drinkable, and quite refreshing on what was becoming a warm morning. We also tried some sweet tofu milk, with which we were familiar from Asian supermarkets in Australia. This was wonderful!
We were told that there were cafes along the Love River, like along the Seine in Paris. It was certainly pleasant to walk both sides of the river between two bridges. It was clean, with gardens and a clear love theme, but the cafes had not yet opened.
At the second bridge, we sat down to compose ourselves—it was now hot, there had been very little shade, and so we decided to walk back to the ship. However, the map showed that it was shorter to walk back to Central Park and then catch the shuttle. Back to Central Park we went, and we came across a Catholic cathedral. Katie went inside and said a prayer (that Central Park was not far away)!
We had a chance to sit on a grassy knoll in the shade while waiting for the shuttle at Central Park. When it came, we felt much refreshed, and decided to alight at San Duo and find a place for lunch in the large shopping mall there.
On our entry to the food court, we were welcomed by staff of the first restaurant we came to. However, we decided to check it all out, so went for a walk to get a comprehensive look at what was on offer. The food court was characterised by very little writing, but we could tell that some places were clearly offering Japanese cuisine. We settled on the first place we encountered. A couple in the neighbouring table had some interesting food, and they identified it for us on a pictorial menu. We ordered the same, and was surprised by two varieties of tasty, but not too spicy, chicken curry. Ian was also successful in buying a Taiwan beer from a local takeaway shop.
When we had finished our lunch, another couple from the cruise came up to the restaurant and asked us what the food was like. We raved about it, and said it was curry, but tasty and very mild. However, they were looking for something very spicy, so they kept on looking.
We caught the shuttle from San Duo back to the Majestic Princess, and arrived back in time for afternoon tea.
That evening, we had dinner at the Crown Grill and Bar to celebrate Peter and Krystyna’s 39th wedding anniversary. More on that later.
Our day in Kaohsiung was an experiment to see how we would go on our own, exploring a potentially strange new place without a detailed plan, and taking advantage of opportunities that presented themselves. It was a complete success! We saw the heart of Kaohsiung’s central business district and the Love River, and experienced some tasty food.