Today started off a bit hectic as we were busy packing up everything and making sure the apartment wasn’t a mess when we handed it back (Tim: Not sure why that was necessary since we pay a cleaning fee for AirBnB). We left the apartment at 10:30am and made our way to Taipei Main Station to catch the high speed rail train to Zuoying (Kaohsiung).
This was our first time taking the high speed rail (HSR) long distance. We had taken the HSR to Taoyuan (15 minute ride) for the lantern festival but were only taking the normal railway for our loop around Taiwan. Our train left Taipei at 11:24am and was scheduled to arrive in Kaohsiung at 1:00pm. Taipei to Kaohsiung is approximately 360km, so to get there in about an hour and half (Tim: with two stops) is pretty awesome!
As scheduled, we arrived at the Kaohsiung’s Zuoying station at 1:00pm on the dot. We bought our tickets for our return trip back to Taipei and walked around before heading to the hotel shuttle that picks up everyday at 1:50pm. Zuoying Station is very modern with an assortment of food options and even has a Muji and Shin Kong Mitsukoshi attached to it.
The shuttle from Zuoying to our hotel in Kenting took two hours for about 114km (which included a 15 minute rest stop break). If only there was a train connecting Kenting to other cities in Taiwan, it would make traveling here so much easier. Long bus rides are pretty painful, I prefer train rides.
Once we got to the resort, I was pleasantly surprised. We are staying at the Chateau Beach Resort in Kenting. It’s a popular destination because of a movie (Cape No. 7) which was filmed around the area. The hotel and grounds are very nice and our room is quite spacious with very high ceilings (our room is $200 CAD/night for a “Mountain View” family room). The hotel is very family friendly with multiple shallow pools for kids, a playroom, and the hotel’s private beach has super soft and pristine sand. This is the only hotel in Kenting that backs on to its own beach – which was a major selling point for us, especially with Nate.
We were excited to explore the resort once we settled in since it was actually sunny and warm (about 26 degrees celsius). We walked down to the beach and walked along the shore for a bit – the water is a bit too cold to swim in but it’s perfect to wading in. The sun was starting to set so we decided to head out and grab something to eat, since we didn’t really eat much today.
The Kenting night market is located just up the street from the resort – which is a pretty ideal location. We snacked on some green onion pancake, fried milk, sausage, and chicken. For dessert we went to McDonald’s and tried their black sesame sundae (it was really good, and I don’t even love black sesame). The main street in Kenting is very touristy and it reminded Tim and I of Thailand (Tim: Koh Samui) more so than any other place we’ve been to in Taiwan.
We headed back to the hotel and went to the rec room to let Nate play (and Noel and Tim played ping pong).
It’s nice to sleep in comfortable beds for the first time in a week or so. It’s also so quiet here compared to being in the Daan apartment. I know that this part of our trip is a luxury and Tim and I will not be traveling like this for other parts of our trip (unless it’s really cheap), so I’m definitely savouring every moment we have here for the next three days.
Looking forward to doing nothing by lounging and reading by the pool tomorrow. The temperature is supposed to be 28 degrees.
Firstly, Happy Birthday Mom! We love and miss you. Wish we could have spent the day with you.
Today was our last morning in Kaohsiung. We called it an early night yesterday and didn’t get to walk along the Love River, so that was our plan for the morning. We planned to catch the 12:40pm train to Taitung, a small city on the east coast of Taiwan.
On our walk down to the Love River, we stumbled upon a breakfast place that had a long line (out the door, if they had a door). Long line ups have proven to be the most trustworthy source on our trip, so this was a good sign. It looked like their specialities were steamed buns filled with pork and cabbage (it had it’s own separate line) and sao bing (layered flakey flatbread). When we got there, the kitchen was trying their best to keep up with demands of the line.
We ordered a sao bing with egg and one with a Chinese doughnut. After we ate, we got into the other line and got two steamed buns to save for lunch later on the train. In hindsight, we should’ve eaten these buns right away when they were fresh and juicy. You could tell that they would’ve been amazing if we had them fresh, oh well, next time! (Tim: They were still good when we had them on the train, just probably not as good as they could have been)
After a satisfying breakfast, we continued our walk to the river. We passed by a baseball field that had multiple posters of the Taiwanese movie, “Kano”. The movie is based on a true story about a Taiwanese baseball team that goes to the championship tournament in Japan in the 1930s. Tim and I had watched the movie in Vancouver a year ago when they were touring the movie in North America.
As we past by the field, we saw the Korean flag and a flag that said “Doosan Bears Spring Training”. The team was having spring training practice, so we stood there watching the practice for a bit. The Doosan Bears are a professional Korean baseball team from Seoul. It’s funny that they’re a professional team, we saw half the team running along the river after but some were totally slacking and some were even just walking, so we thought they weren’t a professional team.
It was about 10:30am when we finally made it to the Love River, and it was already about 28 degrees in Kaohsiung. At least it was overcast or else it would’ve been more uncomfortable. Walking alongside the river and seeing some of the taller buildings against the water reminded me of Chicago. Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s “second city” after all.
After a sweaty walk back to the hotel, we picked up our bags and headed to catch our train to Taitung. The train was about a 2.5 hour ride (~175 km away). As usual, I fell asleep on the train. The train chairs are comfortable because they recline quite far back, which makes sleeping on the train a bit better! When I woke up, I looked out the window and all I saw was green, then I turned to the right and I saw the Pacific Ocean. It’s too bad it was overcast and very windy out.
We arrived in Taitung to Tim’s aunt and cousin waiting for us at the train station. They took us on a quick tour of some of the Taitung sights and brought us to the B&B we would be staying at. The host is a very friendly Burmese woman who moved to Taiwan for university and ended up staying here. Her place is very nice and super clean, cleaner than the last hotel we stayed at.
Taitung is the smallest city we’ve been to on this trip. Although it is a lot more rural than the rest of the other cities, I’ve noticed that there are a lot more noticeable backpackers (single white males). In looking at restaurants that were recommended on Trip Advisor, there are a lot of western restaurants for tourists – mainly pizza places. It’s only been just over a week of Taiwanese food, and I’m craving western food already. We found a compromise of western food and Taiwanese food that was highly rated on Trip Advisor – it was an American fried chicken place run by Taiwanese people.
The restaurant is called Blue Dragonfly. It’s basically like a local KFC. Tim and I shared a combo. It came with a drumstick, wing, and two “chicken pieces (Tim: Not sure what part of the chicken this was)” and a side of fries (was basically like a sprinkle of fries) and a drink. We got a slushy (“slash shake” on the menu) that tasted like pina colada.
After dinner we walked through the park that was filled with lanterns. It was so pretty. There was a mixture of printed lanterns and some that were painted by elementary school aged children (I assume).
We walked through the park and took our time looking around. The city is so quiet compared to everywhere else we’ve visited. It’s a nice change of pace.
After our walk, we saw a KFC and went to get an egg tart. I’ve been hearing about KFC’s Portugese egg tarts for a while now and finally got to try it. It was really good, perfectly flakey crust and warm egg custard. These egg tarts are only available at Asian KFCs. I would highly recommend them.
We took a longer walk back to the apartment and stopped to get some fruit. Taitung is known for their custard apple, so we decided to try one. We also picked up a passionfruit lime drink from a vendor that is downstairs from where we’re staying. Both were very refreshing and the perfect way to end the day.
Our internet was down so we called the host and she came by and brought us another custard apple! So now we have one for tomorrow.
Tomorrow we’re planning on seeing more of the beach and forest area. The east coast is beautiful with the tall green mountains and the ocean being so close. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow (Tim: And if it’s not, it’s out of our control so it’s silly to let it bother us, right Kait?).
The beds at CityInn were really comfy which felt good after our long night. Today, we planned to head south to Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city and the largest port city. It’s about 200km away from Taichung, and about a 2.5 train ride on the regular Taiwan rail.
Before heading out, we wanted to go back to Miyahara to have ice cream and browse around to buy something for family at home. The store is a couple blocks away from the Taichung Train Station (not the high speed rail stop) which makes it really convenient if you just want to go to Taichung to visit the store from Taipei. Miyahara is actually a former eye hospital built by a Japanese optometrist (Dr. Miyahara) while Taiwan was under Japanese rule. After WWII, the building was turned over to the government then eventually sold to a businessman and became a ice cream/tea/fancy treat store (pretty random). Taichung’s famous pineapple cake brand (actually they’re originally known for their cheesecake) is called “Dawn Cake”, which has made Miyahara their flagship location.
When we were there yesterday, the ice cream parlour had a crazy long line up so today when they opened at 10am, we decided to try their famous sundae before we left Taichung. When we got there, there were only a few people ahead of us.
For the sundae, you pick 3 ice cream flavours and get to pick 4 toppings. There are 54 different flavours of ice cream (18 of them are just chocolate) and they all looked really good. If we stayed in Taichung longer, I would probably go back for a scoop of ice cream each day.
The ice cream sundae was very over the top but we both really enjoyed having it (for our breakfast and lunch). My favourite ice cream was the mango. The chocolate was really good too, especially when eaten with the cheesecake. But I always gravitate towards fruity ice creams/sorbets because they’re more refreshing.
We bought tickets for the 12:17pm train to Kaohsiung and this time Tim and I were able to sit together. The train ride was about 2.5 hours long. This train wasn’t as nice as the last one we were on to Taichung, but it was comfortable enough.
We arrived in Kaohsiung around 3pm and walked to our hotel, which was about 10 minutes away. We booked the “Cloud Hotel” on Expedia ($55 CAD/night), because of the decent reviews on Trip Advisor and mainly because it was a 3 minute walk from the Formosa Boulevard KMRT stop (which connects the two KMRT lines).
Today, we wanted to catch the sunset from the British Consulate Residences (which is on a hill overlooking the ocean) and go to out Cijin Island for seafood for dinner (I read that Cijin has better seafood than Keelung. I haven’t been to Keelung so I have nothing to compare it to) While taking the KMRT, we noticed how quiet the train stations were. It was a bit odd, we have a few pictures of how empty the stations and train cars are.
Kaohsiung is definitely a lot more laid back than Taipei and Taichung. There are way more locals wearing shorts and flip flops and you can feel how easy going things are. I like it!
On our walk, we grabbed pearl milk tea from “Gong Cha”. It was a fairly busy location with a large seating area. We noticed afterwards that they have locations all around the world, even in Canada (Markham). When we got back to the hotel, Tim looked at his expenses and saw we went to one in NYC this summer. I guess I drink too much bubble tea to remember. On a related note, Gong Cha is originally from Kaohsiung.
While walking down the same street as Gong Cha, we came across a place filled with locals eating noodles at 4:45pm. We looked inside and decided to share something since we didn’t have lunch yet. Tim ordered pork hock with noodles and a Sarsaparilla (sort of like Taiwanese root beer). I got some pickled garlic cucumbers as a side. Everything was very tasty and the noodles were perfectly cooked. And in true Taiwanese fashion, they had a container of fresh minced garlic to add to your meal – which Tim did of course.
Here are pictures of some of the interesting places we past by on the way to the viewing point.
After our pit stops, the sun was starting to set (you can see it on its way down while we were at the park) and we didn’t know if we would make it up to the top of the mountain. We found steps up to the British Consulate Residence (which is the recommended viewing point for sunsets) and basically went up as fast as we could. It was a good short work out. But unfortunately, by the time we got up the sun had gone below the horizon.
After walking along the pier and trying to get ahead of the masses of Mainland Chinese tourists (there were over 20 tour busses at the park), we headed to catch a ferry to Cijin Island. Cijin Island is a small island five minutes from Kaohsiung Harbour, known for their seafood and beaches.
The ferry ride there was 25 NT = $1 CAD and the ride was a short one. There were three ferries operating at the same time to and from the island.
Once we got to Cijin Island, we did a quick walk up and down the seafood restaurant row and just picked one. They were all fairly busy so it was a coin toss to see which one we would go to. I did read some reviews on Trip Advisor about one that was top rated by mostly Japanese tourists but I had forgotten the name. (Tim: the one we ended up at was only so-so).
We picked clams, snapper and shrimp at 100 NT per dish. My favourite was the stir-fried clams, they used a lot of garlic and basil. The deep fried shrimp was a bit underwhelming. If we had more people to eat with, we could’ve tried a lot more.
We decided to call it an earlier night and head back to the hotel. We took the KMRT back and again noticed there aren’t that many people using it. Kind of weird, right? Also, the train makes its transfer point announcement in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, English and Japanese.
Tomorrow we’re planning on taking a day trip to Tainan to visit the National Museum of Taiwan History and Tim has some other specific food he wants to try there.
Today we walked 21,000 steps. It helps being close to an MRT (or even having one)
I’m glad we’re spending another night in Kaohsiung, I really like the city so far. I like being close to an ocean and having the mountains close by too (reminds me of home). When we saw the ocean (Tim: straight) for the first time from the view point, it made me really happy. I guess because we’ve been in two land locked cities with a lot of scooter exhaust in the air for the past week; it made me really appreciate being close to water (I’m a spoiled Vancouverite). When we were walking along the waterfront, we sat and just listened to the small waves wash up against the shore. It was nice.