The Creative & Wonderful World of Kaohsiung

If this hazy daze of misty drizzle is making you blue, why not venture on down to Kaohsiung (高雄) for some color in your life? If the thought of visiting strikes up an image of an industrial harbor city, gritty around the edges and not quite as hip as it’s big sister Taipei, well, you’d be wrong. Kaohsiung is very cool, but very underrated, and although it might not have as much of a variety as Taipei does, the gems that it does contain are amazing. This year, it’s all about the quality, so forget quantity and shimmy on down to the city that’s sunny everyday. Not only can you indulge in a little dose of much-needed vitamin D, you can also bask in the beauty of epic original art splashed across walls and stored in old warehouses, as well as taking a relaxing cycle wherever your feet may fancy. Here’s our guide to making the most of kooky cool Kaohsiung. 

 

Pier 2 Art District

It’s becoming increasingly popular these days to maximize the use of old dilapidated warehouses by transforming them into spaces for showing experimental art, and Pier 2 is no stranger to this. Situated alongside the river, also known as the “Love River”, and nestled amongst the old railway tracks is this eclectic district, the epi-centre of art in Southern Taiwan. There is something very charming about wandering along a train track, whilst snapping photos of old ship containers covered in every color and design imaginable. And it’s not just a few splats of graffiti on display here, almost every object could be called “art” here. Out of the corner of your eye, you might notice little metal fish attached to what you assumed was just another ordinary fence, or how about that bench, unlike any you’ve ever seen before?

A lot of thought has clearly gone into every detail and it’s developing and changing everyday to ensure there’s always an ever-changing assortment of visual delight. There are new exhibitions every month and plenty of impromptu performances to keep every soul smiling. If art doesn’t really float your boat, it’s worth going to Pier 2 if even just to catch a stunning sunset slipping under the ships. And once the moon has risen there’s still plenty going on. Why not grab a pizza from Pasadena before heading on over to Pier 2 to catch one of Taiwan’s up-and-coming live acts. In March every year, there is a music festival in Kaohsiung Pier 2 called Mega Port Festival. If Kenting’s Spring Scream is a little too crazy for you, then this might be the fest for you.

If you have even one creative bone in your body, make sure you get yourself to Pier 2 so you can appreciate all that this wonderful island has to offer in the elements of art in it’s most exciting form.

You can read more about Pier 2 and it’s goings on here, and find out what upcoming gigs are on at Pier 2 here.

 

  

Dog Pig Art Cafe

Dog Pig Art Cafe is another special spot to visit in Kaohsiung —  part cafe, bar, gallery, and performance space, Dog Pig should not be skipped. It’s not hard to miss, seeing as the logo for the cafe is a dog mounting a pig, ahem, but don’t let that put you off. It’s part of the eccentricity of the place, and it’s certainly attention-grabbing. The pig actually represents artists who are creatively motivated and the dog is the symbol for the entrepreneurs who cultivate the opportunities. As you enter, the hand-made bottle-top beaded curtain greets you with its chimes, and after carefully climbing the staircase you walk into a space reminiscent of a loft from days gone by. Imagine jazzy beats and open white-washed concrete walls and columns. Boxes of collectible bottle-tops for sale and postcards and quirky art books cover the area surrounding the bar. The vast wall space almost always has an exhibition of some sort. It feels cozy without being claustrophobic, and with their wide selection of fruity Belgian beers and their delicious nibbles, it’s quite the sensory treat. You can snuggle up on one of their chairs next to the large windows and gaze out onto the lively bar street below. You might even be lucky enough to catch a live performance. If you love stumbling upon secret spots, you’re guaranteed to enjoy the quiet, but artistic ambience that positively oozes from Dog Pig.

 

 

Dome of Light

MRT stations aren’t typically thought of as beautiful, but the Formosa Boulevard station is just that. The ‘Dome of Light’, designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata, is the largest glass work in the world, and was voted the world’s second most beautiful MRT station. It truly is magnificent, and there’s something awesome about not just using an MRT station to get from A to B, but as a place to enjoy a piece of art and to embrace the fact that yes, you are going to be a tourist inside an underground metro station. There is always a crowd of people taking photos, and there was even a grand piano set up with a row of chairs for some spontaneous concerts. It can be quite the experience, and when you’re done admiring, hop on the MRT to your next destination. 

 

Cyclerama

Kaohsiung is yet another city that’s hopped on the cycle-trend bandwagon and what better way to spend a day than seeing a city by bicycle. In Kaohsiung you can rent bikes at 49 different locations and you can even use a credit card. Just swipe and go! Checking out Pier 2 by bicycle can be very cool, as there is a great bike path located alongside the district. You can start next to the Love River and make your way along the harbor, before continuing all the way along the river towards Kaohsiung’s Lotus Lake in the northern part of the city. It’s a good 45 minutes – 1 hour ride, but it’s beautiful. Stick to the river side so as to avoid the crazy scooters and cars and also to enjoy the pretty flowers and tree than grow next to the water. The actual Lotus Lake is surrounded by masses of Temples, so a suggestion would be to do a lap or two of the lake before heading south back to Pier 2. Of course, you could also grab a map and make your own plan, or play a game of improvisation and go wherever your wheels take you. Lotus Lake has some gigantic pagodas, which are worth checking out, if only for a chuckle at how close it is to being a Chinese Disneyland. Huge tigers and dragons swooping out of a pagoda next a lake is quite something! It’s also cool to cycle back alongside the old city walls which slowly give way to even more abandoned warehouses, which in a few years time will hopefully be made into more epic art centers.

Visit the rental bike site here.

If you still have some time on your hands, you can also check out Kaohsiung Film Archive, located right next to the Love River, where you can see the history of Taiwan cinema, as well as the rest of the world, unfold before your eyes. You can get a screening card, just like a library card, and sit back and leave the rest up to cinematic magic.

So you see, Kaohsiung doesn’t just provide a sunny chilled-out vibe, it’s also of huge importance to the creative catalyst that is booming in Taiwan right now. Grab your shades, your camera and take advantage of all that this talented island is producing. The future of this island is really quite exciting!

 

Have you been to Kaohsiung before? What visual treats did you stumble across? Or if you’ve visited any of the sites mentioned above, what did you think? We’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment below!

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