We were walking through Kaohsiung’s Central Park at night, the park mostly empty but for a few young couples strolling through and the constant hum of cars and motorbikes on the surrounding streets. Alice and I were talking about her last couple months since moving from the U.S. to Taiwan, and she brought up an idea that would linger with me over the next couple days– how different our lives would have been if we had grown up in Taiwan instead of America. Indeed, we were so close to having such different experiences than the ones we’ve come to know, had our parents made just slightly different choices. I am grateful for the privilege that being an American has given me, and I also find such pride, love, and humility in my heritage of being Taiwanese. Nowhere did I feel these pulls more than in Taiwan itself.
We pick up where I had left off on my round-the-island tour– from Taipei to Chiayi to Alishan, and now down to Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan. It was a low- key night and morning of food, food, and more food.
Taiwan is famous for its night markets– stand after stand of street foood and also clothing and goods geared toward youth. My friend Alice is from St. Louis but had recently moved to Kaohsiung, and she took me around to two night markets, a shopping district, and the park. Some of the things we ate: fried mushroom poppers; papaya milk & watermelon juice; big hot dog in a small hot dog (the big one is actually a rice sausage cut down the middle like the bun); cherry tomatoes on a stick; and of course, a gua bao, which is meat and delicious toppings on a bun.
Inside the Formosa MRT station.
The next morning, we headed to 85C (which also has a location in Irvine, California that I love).
Alice also picked up some Taiwanese breakfast, and we walked by some fresh colorful noodles and three of my favorite words: beef noodle soup.
And then we met back up with my friend Charlie near the train station and had some lunch.
Veggies! I always loved this veggie growing up (kong xin cai) because of its hollow stems that can act like a straw.
Then Charlie and I hopped on our next train, an extremely beautiful and scenic ride from Kaohsiung across to the eastern city of Hualien.
These were just some of the many moments that I got to sit back and sigh in sheer appreciation for just how beautiful Taiwan is– shot from the train window.
After we arrived in Hualien, we checked into our hotel at Hotel Bayview on the ocean (highly recommend!), and then we took a taxi back into the city to go exploring and find more food.
Grabbed from a street cart: a red bean-filled pancake.
Next, a famous wonton place in Hualien; a sample of a taro-sweet potato treat, and some shaved ice.
There was a small festival celebrating Lunar New Year (which was conveniently the weekend I was in Taiwan).
We turned in for the night in our hotel room, which happened to be numbered San Francisco’s area code. And then woke up early again the next morning for sunrise over the ocean.
Absolutely gorgeous, serene, breathtaking. I waved to California from across the Pacific.
Breakfast was a quick buffet in the hotel.
And then we met our tour guide Will Ho from RoundTaiwanRound, which I also very highly recommend to anyone who wants to visit Taiwan (they do tours all over, take beautiful photographs for you, and speak English). But I will elaborate more on that in the next post as well. Our first stop with Will was just further down the Hualien coast, with a beautiful view and a small lighthouse too.
Charlie spotted a fighter jet from the nearby military base.
And then we began our tour of Taroko Gorge– the full Taroko post will be the next and final one in my Taiwan series, but here are just a couple teasers to give you a taste.
I have just so, so much love for Taiwan, and this trip has only deepened my appreciation for this island that I somehow, incredibly, have ties to. Thank you to Alice for hosting me in Kaohsiung, Charlie again for being my travel companion and the one who was actually competent in reading and speaking Chinese, and Will from RoundTaiwanRound, whom you’ll see more of in part 3. So stay tuned!
Anna is proud to be Taiwanese American and currently serves as the Editorial Director of TaiwaneseAmerican.org. She is a wedding and portrait photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, but she’ll take any excuse to travel. Follow her photography on facebook or bookmark her blog at annawu.com/blog.