48 hours in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

01:43, Jan 31 2009
WEEKEND DESTINATION: Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city and the world's sixth busiest port, is slowly transforming from a grimy industrial metropolis into a tourism and shopping hub.

Got 48 hours to explore Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city and one of the world's busiest ports? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors make the most of the city, a center of traditional Taiwanese culture.


5pm - You're going to be doing a lot of shopping, so start on a high at the new Dream Mall. Large, not crowded and easy to navigate, it stands out for being the only place in metropolitan Kaohsiung to get your hands on clothes made by ultra-cool Taiwanese designers Booday.

7pm - Dinner at New Tainan Tan-tzai Noodles in the mall's basement. The interior is supposed to look like a Taiwanese school from the 1950s or 1960s, with lots of retro cinema posters and adverts from the era plastered on the walls. The stewed pork on rice, with fish-ball soup and blanched Taiwanese-style greens topped with minced garlic, are recommended.


8am - Begin the day with breakfast on the street, Taiwanese style. Typical fare includes fried radish cake with a sweetish sauce, egg pancakes and soy bean milk.


9am - If you only have time to go to one part of Kaohsiung make sure it is Yancheng. Once salt fields, today Yancheng is full of funky little shops, cafes and temples. The Kaohsiung Museum of History is a must see, to trace the city's rise from swamp to metropolis.

11am - Just round the corner from the museum is Bag, otherwise known in Chinese as "King of Satchels" (33 Da-ren Rd). This shop is famous nationwide for the old-style school bags it sells emblazoned on the side with the names of various schools in large Chinese characters, and which are now worn as a stylish accessory.

11:30am - Not far from Bag is Shanghai Wan-long Sauce Garden (137 Sin-Sing St). Opened in 1948, this family-run business is still cranking out high quality soy, chilli, sesame sauces and pretty much any other sauce-like condiment that can accompany Chinese cuisine.

Midday - Lunch at Old Song's Beef Noodles (32 Wu-fu 4th Rd). Boss Mr. Lin proudly says that he only uses the highest quality Taiwanese beef, and has a special recipe for the tangy soup base. To get the most out of your bowl, Lin recommends eating the noodles first, then the beef and finally drinking the soup.

1pm - Jump in a cab and head to the old British consulate. Built in 1866 and standing on a headland overlooking the harbor, the building has been beautifully preserved. There is a lovely little cafe out the back on a wooden deck where you can enjoy a cold Taiwan Beer and watch the comings and goings in the port below.

2.30pm - If you time it right, the naval base in the harbor has open days and all are welcome, including foreigners. You might be lucky enough to get a tour of one of Taiwan's still fully operational submarines that date from World War Two.

4pm - Cijin island is a five-minute ferry ride from the navy base. There is a long beach -- far from Taiwan's finest -- but the beautiful fort on the headland is the real reason to come here. The main town is full of seafood restaurants, should you wish to stay for dinner. Expect high quality, tasty food and very reasonable prices.

7pm - Taiwanese love their night markets. There are several in Kaohsiung, and you could do worse than trying the Liou-ho night market. Must-try food includes oyster pancakes, squid broth and stinky beancurd. Wash it all down with fresh papaya or mango blended with shaved ice, milk and a little syrup.


9am - Jump on Kaohsiung's wonderful new subway line to the Ciaotou Sugar Refinery station and the old Chiao Ah Tou Sugar Factory. Set in the lush Taiwanese countryside, the plant closed over a decade ago, but reopened as a museum-park-gallery about two years ago. Ride the old sugar train and then enjoy a TaiSugar ice cream made of unrefined cane sugar and fruit juice. (www.tscleisure.com.tw/museum/index.htm)

Midday - Zip across on the train, a five-minute or so ride, to Kaohsiung's rather rough-and-ready neighbor Fongshan. Grab a quick lunch of delicious fried meat buns at Fongshan Old Shop Fried Buns (corner of Wei-sin Rd and Jhong-shan Rd), and then go to "beating iron street". Here, they have been handmaking fine steel knives since the start of the last century. Owner Huang Wen-nan of the Hsin-hsing Iron Store will be happy to help you choose the knife that best meets your cooking needs. (San-min St, Alley 44, No. 7).

3pm - One of the joys of Taiwan is the Eslite chain of bookstores. Larger branches have a good selection of English books, but if you can read Chinese you are in for a treat as the range is massive. Attached to some outlets, such as the one at the President Department Store, are CD shops. Recommended buys are albums by alternative Taiwanese groups like Tizzy Bac, Bad Girl and The Tube.

5pm - The President Department Store's 10th floor is also home to Chang-Yi-Fang Taiwan Puppet Creations. Don't be fooled by the name, for they sell funky aprons, bags, purses and table mats with gorgeous traditional patterns.

7pm - For a final dinner in Kaohsiung, take the ferry back to Cijian island and La Mambo. It's hard to believe there could be somewhere so cool in such an otherwise uninspiring part of the city. The interior is minimalist, the food quasi-fusion and the view over the harbor unbeatable.


Language - English is not widely spoken, though many young people do speak enough to help out in a pinch. Many of the older generation speak little or no Mandarin and only Taiwanese, which is broadly similar to Hokkien.

Getting around - The new subway is cheap, clean, fast and efficient. Only the north-south line is open at the moment, which connects to the airport, and the east-west line will open by the end of the year. Otherwise, taxis are cheap and plentiful.

Getting there - Either take the recently-opened high speed rail line from Taipei, or fly into Kaohsiung's modern and unhurried airport.