A Change of Pace

So after Jiufen, Tenzin and I got an early start to Tainan, about 2/3’s down the west coast of the Island.  It’s still weird, having grown up in California, that you can cross Taiwan in less than two hours via high-speed rail.  Where the north is semi-tropical, the south is full-on postcard tropic.  Bucolic is an excellent way to describe it (see, I still remember some GRE words!).  The sun is out, the pace of life slow, and the vegetation reminds me a lot of Myanmar (fitting as they’re roughly the same latitutde).  The south and east also have a higher concentration of aborigionals and Hakka, who are a bit darker skinned than the Han Chinese who make up the majority of the population in the north.

In Tainan we were taken care of by Tenzin’s friend Loren who was fantastic and played tour guide both there and in Kaohsiung where we went the second day there.  He’s getting his MBA at Cheng Gong University, which is named after some KMT general, whose name in Chinese is literally “success”.  Try pulling that off in English.  Beautiful campus incidentally.

Compared with Taipei, Tainan is waaaaay smaller;  there no skyscrapers to speak of, and everything feels quite small.  Allegedly it takes no more than 20 minutes to bike anywhere in the city.  Such as to this temple built by the Dutch apparently.

Despite that, there’s a good amount of hoity-toity artsy districts that we spent a bit of time at.  Absolutely loving the street art here though, larger scale than what I saw in Hong Kong.  We went by the Confucian temple as well, where Tenzin took some much better quality pictures I may upload if I can get a hold of them.

Last up was the night market which was *packed* as they tend to be, had some tasty treats including this block of garlic bread and tea in a bag, and then went to Kaohsiung the next day.

Interesting thing that this city demonstrates, 高雄 can be Romanized either as Kaohsiung or Gaoxiong, the later being the mainland Pinyin I was trained with, and the former being Taiwan’s own system.  Which system is used for a place’s name is pretty clearly political.  KMT-support heavy areas, which are friendlier with the mainland, will use the second system, while in DPP regions, who are pretty strong independence, you’ll find the first.  Sometimes you’ll find both on the same street which is a bit confusing, but I’m managing.

Anyway, the city used to be the third largest port in the world before China opened up thanks to the sheer amount of electronics that Taiwan exports, but no longer.  It feels way more city-like than Tainan and even Taipei, just urban sprawl as far as the eye can see.   We spent practically the entire day at pier 2, which used to be the train station and is not yet another hoity-toity art district.  Fun times popping in and out of boutiques without buying anything. Food was good too, had some pork-tongue soup and shaved ice for lunch, popped up the local mountain (I use the term broadly) to get a view of the city as a whole, and then more dinner at a night market where I got my first Taiwanese stinky tofu.  Fried, filled with sauce and coleslaw, real tasty actually.  Overall, I like the north better so far, but Kenting may change my mind.  Pictures for days!

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