Even though it’s only a few counties down the coast, Kaohsiung feels a world away from our farming life in Miaoli!
After our train ride, Peter, the brother of Erin’s school friend, picked us up from the train station and quickly whisked us off into the city, before we even had time to get our bearings. After a lunch of steamed dumplings, Peter and his girlfriend Rosa took us to the Fo Guang Shan Budda Museum, a huge, spectacular temple and museum of Taiwanese culture and its long history of Buddhism. We could have spent a week exploring the expansive grounds, but after just an hour or so, we headed out to meet the family for a hot pot dinner.
Somehow, after almost a month in the country, we had yet to try one of the most quintessential Taiwanese dishes, but not was the wait worth it. Served buffet style, we had dozens of leafy greens to choose from as well as plates full of shrimp, fish, eggs, and more to toss into our pots. We both agreed it was some of the best food we’d had all month, and it was wonderful getting to know the family a little better!
After dinner, we were treated to a river boat ride on the famous Love River, and though we couldn’t understand a word from the tour guide, the nighttime city views were spectacular, and we loved getting to sit back and take in a whole new city.
The night ended with, you guessed it, a night market, and by far the biggest one we’ve seen yet! Peter tells us that the Kaohsiung night market is very famous, and from the sheer amount of people and booths packed into every corner, we believe it!
As if that wasn’t a busy enough day, we hit the ground running the next morning with a drive to Tainan, also called the Old City, just north of Kaohsiung. We both felt immediately comfortable there, as it felt calmer and more relaxed compared to Kaohsiung’s hectic, contemporary vibe, but still had plenty of sights to see and lots for curious tourists to do.
We started at the Tainan Confucian Temple, an ancient school where the teachings of Confucius were taught and ceremonies in his honor were held. After wandering the grounds and writing wishes to Confucius for our success, we stopped for an icy treat.
We tried ice once while in Miaoli, but we had been told that the ice on the southern side of the island was famously delicious. With the intensity of the heat down south, it’s no wonder their frozen deserts are so good! Refreshed and full of watermelon and mango, we did some more wandering and found ourselves at a Tainan landmark: a giant ball machine that offers prizes ranging from fidget spinners to flights to Japan! Our prizes, sadly, were closer to the former in value.
After stopping for a bowl of Tainan’s famous fish soup for lunch, we headed over to the old street, a long, winding market full of traditional food, trinkets, and grocery stores. We could have spent hours picking through the stalls, buying handicrafts and trying fried and dried snacks, but before we knew it, it was time for dinner.
We finished off the day in Pingtung, a beachside town just south of Kaohsiung, where Peter and his family kindly took us out to eat the best seafood we had ever had in our lives! You could taste how fresh the fish was (and not just because it was served whole on the plate) and we even tried a few brand new dishes, like sea snail and fish heart. No time like a trip around the world to put American sensibilities aside! And the snails, at least, were pretty tasty too!
Even though we hardly traveled the distance from Los Angeles to San Diego, we can’t get over how different these two parts of the country are. Miaoli felt quieter, calmer, a more peaceful corner of the world, but Kaohsiung reminds us of home in some ways, with all the noise and fast paced living that we’re used to in Los Angeles.
Only a few days left of our journey now and we want to make the most of all our time here! But the longer we stay, the more we realize how much more time we need to see everything we want to see and do everything we want to do. We’ll come back one day and try to fit even more into our trip, but for now, we’re savoring every moment we have here.