Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second largest city and main port. It looked like a city where it would be a nice place to live if only the temperatures weren’t in the high ’80’s with 95% humidity ten months a year. Although it has a decent metro and bus system, most folks prefer to get around on scooters, wearing helmets with a maximum of two people on one scooter, unlike India.
Our tour started at the National Soccer Stadium, built for the 2009 World Games in the over the top architecture style that typified the Beijing Olympics. It’s shape is like two arms reaching out for a hug, facing the predominant wind direction and funneling a bit of relief to the players and fans. The guide confessed that this amazing edifice is not used very often, which is often the case with expensive athletic stadiums.
Then we went to Lotus Lake, which looked to me like a Disney version of temples and pagodas closely gathered together along the lake shore. Although they looked old style they were built in the 1970’s. Often in Taiwan it feels like the locals have a need to recreate what they left behind on the mainland. There were people worshipping in the temples, lighting incense sticks and leaving offerings. The color and decor were over the top and we couldn't stop taking photos. Lots of money was spent creating these religious temples. Perhaps god looks more kindly on those who decorate his home... All around vendors sold tourist trinkets and food trucks were doing a brisk business.
Then we took a short ferry ride to Chijin Island, which had a beach resort feel. It was the location of the original Dutch outpost for trade with mainland China. The shoreline was nicely developed with bike paths and vendors sold all manner of fast food like grilled squid and quail eggs. Unfortunately there was no swimming beach there because the rip tides are too strong.
We have to send kudos to the Taiwanese politicians who have managed to maintain independence from their mainland cousins. A low point in their existence was in the 1970’s when they lost their status in the United Nations as the sole representative of China. Our guide said that they made an important move when they continued to call themselves “The Republic of China” rather than Taiwan. This made is unnecessary for the People’s Republic of China to invade them. They could maintain the artifice that they were already part of the rest of China and pretty much be left alone. These days many Taiwanese serve as a bridge between the east and west. Many have gotten filthy rich bringing the two sides together.