After spending 2 nights in Hualien, in the morning of the next day, I left Hualien for Kaohsiung. I did not fall in love with Hualien right at the first sight. My very first sight of Hualien was the quiet street in front of Hualien Station, which was made quieter by the dim street lights. It just made my nostalgia for Taipei, which had already hovered in my mind during my four-hour trip from Taipei to Hualien greater and deep inside my mind, I just thought of fleeing away from this little town to seek for the city light in Kaohsiung. But slowly, when walking through the quiet street, letting my body and my soul get along with the quiet yet lively atmosphere of this city, I started to feel better again. And of course, when it was time to say goodbye to this city, I felt pity for not having enough time to discover more about this city.
It took me around 5 hours to travel from Hualien to Kaohsiung. When it comes to the transportation in Taiwan, I observe that the transportation system of the West Coast is somehow better than that of the East Coast for its diverse offering of means of transportation. When I searched for bus/coach from Hualien to Kaohsiung, it seemed that there were not many options available other than travelling by train. It cost me 684NTD to travel from Hualien to Kaohsiung on TzeChiang Express Train. Luckily, I was arranged to sit by the window so that I would not be bored for sitting on the train for 5 hours.
Five-hour travel from Hualien to Kaohsiung means that you are given with opportunities to travel for 334 kilometre, considering that it was around 900 kilometre to have a trip around Taiwan. A little bit off the topic, I think it is quite interesting to understand how a travel lover sets his travel goal depending on his nationality. A Vietnamese travel lover’s dream is to travel from the farthest North to the farthest South of Vietnam for Vietnam’s long geographic shape (In Vietnamese, we call it “Xuyên Việt” or “Travel through Vietnam” or “穿越”). A Taiwanese travel lover’s dream is to travel around the Taiwan Island for Taiwan’s little round shape. (In Taiwan, they call it “環島”(“Hoàn Đảo”) or “Travel around the island”). Every Taiwanese friend of mine once heard about my plan of travelling around Taiwan after finishing my Chinese course always feels surprised for they felt it a little bit adventurous and somehow uneasy to travel around Taiwan (Actually, I felt it far easier than travelling around the North of Vietnam, let alone travelling through Vietnam.) Coming back to our story, that travelling by train from Hualien to Kaohsiung means that you have covered a third of “Travel around the island” journey. From Hualien, we have to travel through Taitung County and Pingtung County before reaching Kaohsiung. The Counties of the East Coast are both bigger than those on the West Coast and it took me like nearly two hours on the train finding out that I had not actually left Hualien. The scenery viewed from the train varies from the paddy field, the river, the wood in Hualien, Taitung to the beautiful beach and the forest of Pingtung. There were also several peaceful moments when the train stopped at several stations in Taitung or Pingtung and I saw the platform with only few passengers waiting for the train or getting off the train. I was curious about who these passengers were, what they did in this little train station, how their life would be in this remote area of this county.
(Please refer to the grey route in the map)
The train reached Kaohsiung at around half past five in the afternoon. After days and hours spending in the countryside, I felt a little bit strange when reaching the busy Kaohsiung. But it only took me a few minutes to get acquainted back to the city life. I started to learn about the MRT system there and reached the Formosa Boulevard Station, which was 3-minute walk from my hostel.
My first impression of Kaohsiung is that its atmosphere was somehow the same as that of Vietnam’s Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) but the city was far cleaner and more orderly. Perhaps due to its less-developed MRT system in comparison with that of Taipei, more people traveled by motorbike on the street in Kaohsiung, which made me associate such atmosphere with that of Ho Chi Minh City. However, when I entered the MRT Station, I realized that there were only few people traveling by MRT. Unlike Taipei where there are lots of people walking in and out the MRT Station, even at the rush hour at Formosa Boulevard Station (the intersection of the two-line MRT system of Kaohsiung) of the, hardly could I see any flux of people walking into the MRT Station in Kaohsiung.
When I reached the hostel, named Casual Way (隨緣小) at 40 Xinghua Street (興華路40號), there was a guy, who was the hostel staff waiting right at the door of the Hostel. There is something interesting about the hostel in Taiwan is that they seem to trust everybody and let any traveler know the password of the entrance and the hostel owner often leaves the hostel. It is quite understandable when knowing that Taiwan is ranked among the safest countries in the world. A Wei, the hostel staff, was a friendly guy, perhaps the friendliest hostel staff I knew in my limited experience dealing with hostel. I felt totally comfortable to have a quick chat with him about my nationality (Yeah he could not guess that I was Vietnamese. He asked me if I were from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and then Indonesia – seriously I was mistaken to be Indonesian for three times in Taiwan), my Chinese learning experience. After check-in procedures, it was already 7pm so I decided to take a short walk around the place I stayed, visiting Wunan Bookstore (yeah, I checked in Wunan Bookstore in Taipei, Taichung and finally Kaohsiung) before coming back to the hostel to get ready for the city tour in the following days.