Saturday, May 16, 2009

Thus Began the Whirlwind City Tour...

1/30/09 After getting back to the hotel, friend B already woke up. We went down to the hotel restaurant to the inclusive breakfast buffet. I was expecting nothing spectacular, and to my amazement, the hotel cafe was not just a cafe. It was the banquet room of the hotel converted into the breakfast buffet room. The buffet was in grand style also. There were at least 10 different food stations. Anything that one can think of--Chinese style breakfast items, Japanese and Korean style breakfast items, Western style breakfast items, coffee of different kinds, tea of different kinds, salad bar, pastry shop, and the list goes on. We ended up having this completely luxurious meal in this atrium banquet hall. That's Kaohsiung right there, everything is uh, bigger and better!! It would make my brother-in-law Jim, a son of Kaohsiung, very proud!!

After the breakfast, we checked out of the hotel. I quite liked the stay and would definitely recommend the hotel to anyone visting Kaohsiung. Upon checking out, Friend B got in touch with her friend Sophie, who moved with her family from Taipei to Kaohsiung some years ago. Sophie said she would come and get us, and spend some time with us. We didn't purchase the return leg of High Speed Railway ticket in advance, but we thought the trip would be but a few hours. How wrong we were. Little did we know we were about to go on THE day trip of Kaohsiung.

Sophie, her boyfriend P and his daughter Z arrived in this very nice SUV. That's another thing--one hardly sees an SUV in Taipei; the roads are narrower, and the cars are smaller. However, in the South of Taiwan, it seems every other car is an SUV. After happy exchanges of greetings, we hopped into the SUV and off we started the tour around Kaohsiung.

The first stop of the tour was the Fisherman's Wharf. Kaohsiung is a port city. In fact the Port of Kaohsiung is the largest port in Taiwan and to date the Port is still one of the largest in East Asia. Along the harbour there's the Fisherman's Wharf, which is a long strip of nice waterfront cafes. We took pictures and walked about. Here I saw some bicycles (which I don't yet know how to ride...) for public use. This is a new thing here in Taiwan but Taiwan boasts one of the world's highest density of cyclists, and it seems everyone on the island rides a bicycle. More and more there are free bicycles all around the island especially at major scenic spots available for public use. I have never seen it before and am glad to see such good ideas taking off in Taiwan.

The Love River

1/30/09 Every famous city is associated with a famous river, it seems. When one thinks of Rome, it is the Tiber River; Paris is not Paris without the Seine. Kaohsiung has its river, too--it is the Love River.

The Love River used to be very extremely polluted during the 70s and 80s, with raw sewage and industrial wastewater flowing directly into the river (yiew.) Today it is one of the most successful examples of pollution reversal, with more than a dozen species of fish swimming happily (or they seem so...) in the Love River.
I woke up quite early despite the beer consumption the previous night. For my morning walk, I decided to walk to and along the Love River.
As I obtained the map and checked direction with the front desk, the gentleman was very surprised I would walk it. He advised that the preferred way to travel in Kaohsiung is by motorcycle or scooter. Since I had no access to either and can operate neither, I thanked him and embarked on my journey on foot.

Just a short 10 minutes down the road I came across the Central Park of Kaohsiung. I must say it is of no particular significance to me, since I do see a lot more nice city parks either in Taipei or elsewhere in the world. I later learned that the Park is most beautiful at night and is known as the Light Corridor of Kaohsiung City, since the Park is nicely illuminated at night. I suppose that makes up for during the day.
After walking through the park, I went for another 20 minutes by foot and I arrived at the Love River. It is beautiful ineed, very serene, not too many people walking despite the fact that the paths along the bank is nicely paved. On the other hand there were quite a lot of scooters on the streets --as the hotel staff correctly advised.
I walked along the river and realized there were many people there busy putting some kind of festival together. A closer look revealed that the city and its people are preparing for the upcoming Lantern Festival. It is afterall still the Chinese New Year. The Lantern Festival is the last day of the Chinese New Year, the 15th of the month of January on the Lunar Calendar, and there will be lanterns displayed all the way along the river bank.
While walking, I encountered a middle-aged couple asking for directions from me. I apologetically told them I am not a local, and then during the next 30 seconds of conversation while walking down the road together, we found that we were all "from" California!! What a small world!!