Honestly speaking, Kaohsiung did not leave with great impression in my mind in comparison with other places in Taiwan that I have been to. Perhaps for the first time during my lone journey around Taiwan, I started feeling in need of a companion. And I have been get acquainted with the nearly Japanese style of Taipei or so overwhelmed with the beauty of Mother Nature of the East side of Taiwan offered in Hualien and then Kaohsiung with its comparatively new and less crowded MRT system (which is too new to feel comfortable) and the city with high frequency of motorbike made me feel uneasy for a little bit. I knew barely anything about the city. I first heard about Kaohsiung more than 13 years ago when an acquaintance of my family left Vietnam for Kaohsiung to work as helper in a Taiwanese family in Kaohsiung. Given my lack of knowledge of the city right at the first place, I just followed the guide on the Internet for must-visit places in Kaohsiung and the leaflets at the reception desk of my hostel. In the first day, I managed to visit destinations on Hamasen Cultural Tour Bus, had a short walk along the Love River, and ended my afternoon with a short visit to Kaohsiung Museum of History before being treated with a delicious Hong Kong style dinner by a friend of mine living in Kaohsiung.
It is worth noting that in comparison with Taipei, tourism in Kaohsiung is not as developed as it is in Taipei. I think the main reason is the less convenient public transportation and the less investment into tourism in comparison to their Taipei’s counterparts. Hamasen Cultural Tour Bus, however, is a great effort of Kaohsiung City to promote the tourism industry there. The Bus is run on a fixed routine via popular destinations of Kaohsiung and the tourists are allowed to get on/ get off at any place where they are interested and of course, there is a tour guide on every bus. There are eight stops on the route: 1. Dagou Railway Museum, 2. Wude Martial Arts Center, 3. Former British Consular Residence at Dagou, 4. Kaohsiung Daitian Temple, 5. Former Banana Warehouse, 6. Kaohsiung Museum of History. You may also have a look at the Cultural Bus for the Old City of Zuoying Line and the Cultural Bus of New Fongshan City for more information.
Coming back to the Hamasen Line, of all the stops as aforementioned, I spent the longest time wandering the Former British Consular Residence at Dagou. As you may remember, there is another British Consular Residence in Taiwan, which is the famous Fort San Domingo, located in Tamsui, Taipei. In comparison with the Fort San Domingo, the Former British Consular Residence at Dagou is a little bit bigger and newer, located at a higher place with greater view to the ocean.
After visiting the Former British Consular Residence at Dagou, I got on the bus of Hamasen Line. It is weird that after half an hour getting off from a bus of Hamasen Line, I got on the same bus that I had got off. I had no idea where the bus had been to while I visited the Former British Consular Residence at Dagou and I just guessed that perhaps the driver just had the bus get around for a while and come back to the stop at the Former British Consular Residence at Dagou to pick us. There were only three guests on the bus that day so I thought my assumption was correct.
Former Banana Warehouse is anything but kind of an old warehouse that was renovated to be a department store that sells the traditional goods. There is, however, another old warehouse renovated to be an art centre that was more worth visiting. Just a 10-minute walk from the Former Banana Warehouse, the Pier-2 Art Center, was once an abandoned and forgotten warehouse buried in history due to the move from an industrial based segment to the service sector. However, with a group of persistent artist who injected waves of creativity and inspiration into the area, the Pier-2 area was re-born making the region a place where tourist and locals can come together to enjoy fine art. I was strongly impressed with the wide space offered here with the old railroads, the cluster of old warehouse utilised to be bookstores, exhibition and many weird yet creative architecture. Actually, such transformation from warehouse to a centre for fine art is not rare to find in Taiwan. Unlike in Vietnam where even the old historical site may be destroyed for commercial purposes, in Taiwan, old buildings, which are not necessarily hundred years old, are quite well preserved. Huashan1914, Songshan, and the National Taiwan Museum – Nanmen Park in Taipei were once the factories and warehouses and utilised for public use. Before walking to the Pier-2 area, a visit to the opposite of the Banana Warehouse, the Hamasen Railway Cultural Park is also worthy.
Love River and the National Museum of History in Kaohsiung marked the end of my day trip. While “Love” is a very popular noun, naming something after “Love” as official name is quite a weird thing that I have ever witnessed. And Love River, as its name suggest, is also a place where couples hang out in Kaohsiung. I walked there in a normal working day in the afternoon so there were not many couples dating there at that time. I just saw a group of students of a secondary school nearby taking a physical education class. As a model student at school, I was amazed when seeing the students there talked to each other, listened to music even when the teacher was teaching them. About being a model student, days in Taiwan made me relentlessly wonder what is called a model student, a model life, wonder about the pride I had taken of being a good one and humiliated me many times for being too proud, “too individualistic”. It took me another half year to figure out a term that perfectly coined that old me – the neo-liberalist – the individualist, who was then aware that her idealism for liberalism, for freedom alienated her from the most down-to-earth thing that she used to treasure: the empathy for disadvantaged groups, sympathy for the weakness inside people.
I came back the hostel at around 6pm. The hostel staff A-wei had a friend passing by the hostel to pick him up. A-wei asked his friend to guess where I was from. His friend thought of every possible place, i.e. Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia and he then gave up guessing. A-wei laughed out loud, saying that: “You cannot guess, can you? She is from Vietnam.” He, then, asked me where I had been all day. I just smiled and said that I just went beating the dog. 😉 (Dagou or Takao is 大狗, which means “beating the dog” in Chinese.)