When you think about a four hour plane ride what comes to mind? “Doable” rolls off the tongue. And perhaps you already begin to consider which inflight film you’ll watch and the order in which you’ll take your cocktails. In the four hours it takes to get from Singapore to Kaohsiung City you’ll have crossed the South China Sea, bypassing six neighbouring countries. Those “four hours” become pretty magical when put in a different perspective, don’t you think? With the largest international airport in Southern Taiwan, the city of Kaohsiung is the ideal destination to start and end your trip to Southern Taiwan.
The Taiwanese are known for their hospitality and laid back approach to life. Hostels in Taiwan emulate these characteristics and are thus some of the best in the world. Cheap, clean, and each one more unique than the other, Taiwan is paradise when it comes to budget accommodation, with plenty of hostels to choose from. At Kaohsiung City’s With Inn Hostel you get to stay in a traditional, ‘60s era house situated in a quiet lane that’s right next to the Central Park.
I forgot to mention a third thing the Taiwanese are known for: their food. Like the country’s hostels, Taiwan’s street food has one of the most positive reputations globally and is in high demand. Taiwan’s most famous dish, Gua-bao (braised pork-belly filled, steamed white bun) is a must have. This, Xian dou-jiang (savoury soy milk soup, eaten with youtiao), and more can be found within a 15 minute walking distance from With Inn Hostel at the Liuhe Tourist Night Market.
Venture into the wild at least once during your journey and see why the country was named Formosa or “beautiful island” in Portuguese. Visit Kaohsiung’s geopark, Tianliao Moon World, named for its likeness to Moon’s surface. While the interest in space tourism increased following the success of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, not many can afford such a trip. So take advantage of this DIY moon-venture!
Tip: If you have a valid driver’s license, rent a scooter! Driving a scooter is by far the most affordable mode of transportation around the island, unless of course you’re super fit and can go at 25 mph on a bike.
From Kaohsiung City, travel north to Tainan City. Trains are frequent and will get you there in under two hours. When traveling the West Coast of Taiwan, the high-speed train is the favoured mode of transportation.
If you have a sweet tooth, brace yourself for an electrifying sugar rush as Tainan cuisine is literally “sugar coated”. Well, it’s more sweet-and-sour. Two of Tainan’s specialties are Ta-a noodles and Ba-wan (shrimp and pork dumplings). Besides its regional cuisine, you’ll find any Taiwanese dish in Tainan – Taiwan’s food capital.
Keep with tradition on your journey around Southern Taiwan by staying in another traditional house at Fuqi Hostel. After few days in to any holiday, the feeling of comfort is either sorely missed or enjoyed as never before depending on your budget. Comfort is associated with luxury hotels but not with backpacker hostels. This connection doesn’t hold ground at Fuqi Hostel as its decorated as ardently as one would decorate their own home.
Cycle around the city on a rental from the hostel. Visit the Anping Treehouse and witness what it means to revert to nature. From the hostel, take a leisurely cycle east along the scenic Anping Canal and you’ll reach the Old Tait & Co. Merchant House in under half an hour. Be on the lookout as you might pass by without noticing it as it’s entwined in a banyan tree!
Tip: Buy a train pass! Choose between a 3 or 5 day TR-Pass, issued by the Taiwan Railway Administration.
87 miles southeast of Tainan is Kenting National Park. Hengchun Township is surrounded by the Kenting National Park and so the entire area is popularly referred to as Kenting. Stay at Fun Space Inn, located in between Cape Eluanbi and Sail Rock (Chuanfanshih).
Kenting is famous for its seafood. While “seafood” is ambiguous, as there are many different ways to prepare fish and shellfish, all your cravings will be tickled in Kenting. From bluefin tuna sashimi to crustaceans fried with ginger and garlic, the wide flavour variety of Taiwanese cuisine is attributed to influences from Japan, China, and Indigenous Taiwan.
Tip: Get a metro card! You can activate your smartcard (EasyCard) online and use it to rent a city bike (YouBike).
With the affordable price tags on everything from transportation to friendliness (don’t worry, that’s free) Southern Taiwan is ideal for “in depth” travel. Immerse yourself into the island’s culture, a combination of multiple East Asian traditions with our tips above.