Second impressions of Kaohsiung

Today I arrived at my new home, Kaohsiung, a city in southern Taiwan. I’ve been here once before—for six hours. Based on excellent first impressions I decided to move here for good…

A human-size Formosan black bear mascot waving at the camera, with Love River and 85 Sky Tower in the background.
A Formosan black bear mascot next to Love River, Kaohsiung. Photo: Zhen-Kang.

After dropping bags at my hotel (which I’ve booked for 10 days while apartment hunting), I went outside for an aimless afternoon walk. It was 24°C and sunny at around 4pm.

Thankfully, given I upended my life for this, my second impressions of Kaohsiung were as good as the first. It felt incredible to be back.

Here are some phone photos from my walk:

A sign that says ‘Original Craftsman Market’, with Chinese lanterns hanging above.
The Original Craftsman Market was operating about 100m from my hotel.
Animatronic animals watched over the crowd. A few stalls appeared to specialize in items for the upcoming Chinese New Year, but they had big crowds so I couldn’t get close for a photo.
A few of these laneways stretched out from the market. This one featured more animatronic animals, atop the entrance to ‘Wooderful life’.
On the other side of the market, trams glide by on tracks embedded in the grass. The trams are battery-powered. They recharge at each station, which means there are no overhead wires or electric third rails.
A triangular road sign depicting a large fish biting a car that is being rowed along a body of water.
The next stop along the line is the Pier 2 Arts Center, which I assume explains this sign.
Air conditioning units outside a warehouse, painted to look like a multi-legged creature.
Pier 2 Arts Center covers multiple blocks alongside the harbor, utilizing leftover industrial buildings.
A sculpture of an octopus-like alien creature, approximately 5 meters tall.
Meet ‘Octopoda’.
Great Harbor Bridge.
Next to Octopoda is Great Harbor Bridge. It pivots 90º around its central column, allowing ships to pass on either side.
Here’s the view back towards the city, from the bridge’s viewing platform…
View from the bridge looking up the empty harbor, with hills in the distance.
…And looking up the harbour, with Pier 2 Arts Center at right. Kaohsiung actually has the busiest port in Taiwan, but you wouldn’t know it if you stuck to the pedestrianized areas.
A Taiwan Coast Guard vessel tied up at port.
On the other side of the bridge, I passed this Taiwan Coast Guard vessel.
Turning to the right I could see silhouettes of palm trees and ship cranes.
A woman walks across short grass in a park, with skyscrapers in the distance.
I cut inland and wandered through this urban park.
A path between two trees in a park, with vines hanging from the branches.
I liked the trees.
Exterior of the Kaohsiung Music Center.
This extraordinary building is the Kaohsiung Music Center.
Skyscrapers reflected in the calm water of the harbor.
Around the corner was this view of the city, from near the mouth of Love River.
A bridge across Love River, Kaohsiung.
I wandered up Love River. (Not a euphemism.)
A human-size Formosan black bear mascot waving at the camera, with Love River and 85 Sky Tower in the background.
Further along the river, I came across this Formosan black bear mascot. The symbol in the middle of its pants is the Kaohsiung city logo, a stylised version of the Chinese character ‘gao’ (高), which means ‘tall’. It’s the first character in the city’s name Kaohsiung (高雄), and also the inspiration for the shape of 85 Sky Tower, seen in the background of this photo.
Two Formosan black bear mascots next to the river, with a large jar labeled ‘honey’.
I crossed a bridge and found two more Formosan black bears, this time with honey.
A city scene with an older, dirtier building at the center, and more modern skyscrapers in the background.
The building at the center of this photo is more typical in Kaohsiung than the shiny towers around Love River. It has businesses on the ground floor and apartments above. In the foreground are more tram tracks embedded in the grass.
Trees supported by bamboo poles, with wedge-shaped concrete buildings in the background.
I wandered to an area called Glory Pier, where I noticed a lot of trees supported by bamboo poles. I saw the same thing during the 30-minute ride from the train station to my hotel. Behind the trees are some buildings with climbable living roofs.
Here’s one of them…
View across the harbor, with a marina in the foreground and skyscrapers in the distance.
…And the view from the top.
Two glass skyscrapers at Glory Pier.
There were some shiny buildings immediately behind me.
85 Sky Tower in the distance, framed by two glass skyscrapers.
Between them, a view of 85 Sky Tower. This was the tallest building in Taiwan until 2004. The observatory has been closed for a few years, but apparently the hotel recently re-opened. It also has offices and apartments.
The cover of the menu from Urban Block cafe in Kaohsiung.
I was hungry, so stopped at Urban Block cafe. Its menu promised “cafe | blockchain | dessert” but, incongruously, they only accepted cash.
Screenshots of two translations of the menu, from Google Translate.
Google Translate told me Urban Block offered a Strawberry Souffle that proposed “let’s make love on the tip of the tongue”, and Strawberry Bubbles where “every mouthful is an ambiguous surprise”. I skipped the souffle but did enjoy the ambiguous bubbles.
Evening photo of Kaohsiung Music Center from across the mouth of Love River.
The sun had set when I left Urban Block. The Kaohsiung Music Center had animated lighting effects.
View across the mouth of Love River, with Argo Yacht Club in front of distant skyscrapers.
This is looking back the other way, over the illuminated roof of Argo Yacht Club (“the first luxury yachting group in Taiwan”). 85 Sky Tower looks ominously dark in the background.
Kaohsiung Music Center at night.
The Kaohsiung Music Center’s just so cool and weird.
Close-up of the Kaohsiung Music Center illuminated at night, taken from a low angle.
I’m really starting to like it.
A scaffold-like structure, about 5 meters tall, brightly illuminated and covered in Chinese-language advertising.
Meanwhile, I don’t even know what this is. The steps don’t lead anywhere except to the neon image of a naked women in a martini glass.
Great Harbour Bridge illuminated at night, with an illuminated outdoor sculpture in the foreground.
To the left of the weird neon thing, Great Harbor Bridge looked beautiful at night.
The Octopoda with multicolored glowing tentacles.
And Octopoda was more colourful in the dark.
Two buskers singing to a crowd, under lights, at the market.
As I approached my hotel, buskers were performing at the entrance to the Original Craftsman Market. Note the wearing of masks—still compulsory in all indoor settings except your own home, and voluntarily worn by perhaps 95% of people outdoors.
Screenshot showing 4% battery status.
I got back with 4% battery left, after rationing usage in case I needed a map. It was a great first outing in Kaohsiung. I feel extremely lucky to be here.