高雄 is the second most populated city in Taiwan. Located in the southeastern corner of the island, this city of nearly 1.5 million inhabitants serves as Taiwan’s major trading port. The port of Kaohsiung is the 6th biggest seaport in the world.
A new city-wide MRT opened in March 2008, just in time for the World Games which Kaohsiung hosted a year later. In the city center the MRT trains run underground and then gradually progress above ground as they move toward outlying areas.
The cities heavy reliance on industry and sea trade has not just had positive effects on the region. This focus on industrialization has led to high contents of air pollution, which the city has made strides in recent years to curb. Today Kaohsiung has made active pledges to use green space while expanding the city proper.
Over a dozen water taxis serve locals and tourists alike as they connect to different parts of the island harbor. The top deck is for pedestrians on foot to congregate, while the lower level is filled with scooters. When the boat pulls in to its destination a mad dash of bikes race out when the gate is let down.
Unlike the capital city of Taipei, Kaohsiung has a wide streets centered on a western grid system. This urban planning allows those with cars the luxury of less traffic to navigate in. For the backpacker, this city is easy to get around.
Compared to many Asian cities Kaohsiung sees less tourists than other metro areas of similar size because of its location. Now that the High Speed Rail connects Taipei with Kaohsiung, (3 hr ride) this is slowly changing.
Be be prepared for a joyful welcome to westerners from locals, espcially from smaller children. During my time walking through the tight city streets and markets, several childern would follow close by, say hello in english, and watch with a unique inquiry, every move we made.