Sunday, July 24, 2011

Taiwan: 2011 Summer Fellows - Kaohsiung

One of the nicest things about Taiwan that I failed to take advantage of until today is the fact that you can take a day trip just about anywhere. The entire island is smaller than my home state of Pennsylvania, and since I don't live at the northern or southern tip, nothing is more than a 5-hour drive away. Except for a weekend trip to Taipei in early June I've barely left the Taichung city limits these past 2 months. Today I finally had nothing important to do so I woke up before dawn and took a bus down to Kaohsiung.

Kaohsiung is like an Osaka, Japan or maybe something like a Philadelphia or Pittsburgh in the US; definitely a big-city feel but not so much of an international atmosphere like the capitol. It's the second-largest city on the island only to Taipei and is substantially bigger than Washington, DC. The city's name translates roughly into English as "Tall Hero" but this is actually the name Japan gave the city when it took over Taiwan in the late 19th century (before this it was called "Dagou," or "Beat the Dog." Naturally). Everybody there seems pretty capable of speaking Mandarin Chinese when I ask a question but they seem to mostly speak Taiwanese with one another.

Here's a dumb thing I'm willing to admit; I didn't look at any books, buy a map, or make any other kind of preparation before I headed down there, so I was armed with nothing but a camera and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I missed nearly all of the touristey sites and didn't get to try any exotic foods but I still had a great time. One thing I did get to see was the Tuntex Sky Tower, a famous skyscraper shaped like a tuning fork. The weirdest thing about the building is that people actually live there among the offices and department stores.

The Central Park also had some great pictures to take as well as the Martial Arts Stadium, although there were no events going on so I was unable to see inside. I also had to view the baseball stadium from the outside but it appears to be slightly better than the one here. The harbor appeared unfortuntely closed to visitors so there was not much to see. Overall, though, I found the city very photogenic, much like Taichung. There were far too many streets and alleyways to explore in the several hours that I was there but I snapped a few great photos.

A friend of mine is coming to visit in two weeks and we're probably going to Tainan since several foreigners told me that is the best place to visit. This time I'll be sure to do some research beforehand so we have a few ideas on what to do, but one thing I figured out today was the only thing really necessary for a meaningful trip is an open mind.

Shawn Lynott
MA International Affairs 2012
Taipei Language Institute
Taichung, Taiwan

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