Kaohsiung Cruise Port
Port of Kaohsiung: An Overview
Known as Taiwan's main export center and largest port, Kaohsiung is located on Taiwan's southwest coast. Once largely industrial, the country's second biggest city (after Taipei) has come a long way in terms of urban renovation and cleaning up one of its star attractions: the Love River. Solar-powered yachts now carry tourists and hometown romantics alike on leisurely rides to marvel at the shore's towering skyscrapers, parks and film-shooting locations.
The Pier-2 Art Center, housed in a repurposed warehouse on the wharf, is characteristic of the harbor's creative boom. Art galleries and trendy music venues vie for attention along with bikeways meandering along the bustling waterfront. The paths are dotted with graffiti-style murals and eye-catching, larger-than-life sculptures adorned in a multitude of colors. Even subway stops sport works of contemporary art, particularly Formosa Boulevard Station with its brilliantly colored glass "Dome of Light."
Fortunately for culture buffs, the city shifts easily between pop culture and old school Asian traditions. Spend the morning enjoying the rooftop amusement park of Taiwan's largest shopping complex, Dream Mall, built in the shape of a whale. To the delight of youngsters, the roof's playground comes complete with a Hello Kitty Ferris wheel, said to be the whale's spout. In the afternoon, check out the equally delightful Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. Here, brightly painted animals and pavilions perch on pilings above Lotus Pond, site of 20 temples of varying sizes.
Fo Guang Shan Monastery: The breathtaking Fo Guang Shan Monastery founded in 1967 is a must-see, roughly an hour by coach from the pier. An immense, 390-foot-tall golden Buddha watches over Taiwan's largest Buddhist monastery set on 52 acres. You'll need to remove your shoes if you wish to step into the temple for a closer look at the dozens of gleaming Buddha figures. For a fascinating glimpse into the Hakka aboriginal culture, visit the village of Meinong. You may learn to make Hakka tea, a blend of sesame seeds, rice, peanuts and green tea eaten with a spoon, like soup. (Dashu, Kaohsiung 84049; 8867-656-1921)
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The official currency is the New Taiwan Dollar (NTD or NT$). Check www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for current conversion rates. You can get money from ATMs in banks and the 7-Eleven shops located on every other block, or so. You'll need small bills or coins for the Liouhe Night Market to barter for handicrafts and snacks.
Mandarin Chinese is the primary language. Some shopkeepers and restaurant workers speak English. For your best chance of finding an English speaker, look for teens or young adults.
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