Fact: Every pavement in Taiwan has at least one moped on it – most have hundreds. Of course I cannot clarify this to actually be true but it wouldn’t surprise me. The moped is seemingly king of the road here – and the pavement. At first I thought it was one or two cheeky riders taking a short cut but I have found out to my detriment that, no, moped riders have as much right of way on the pavements as pedestrians. Although I haven’t actually been knocked to the ground as of yet I have come close a couple of times when the pesky two wheelers and their owners appear from out of nowhere to scare the living daylights out of me. With over 23 million people crammed on to the island (it’s the second most densely populated country of significant size after Bangladesh), many of whom can’t afford four wheels, it’s no surprise that the moped is such a popular way of getting around. I just wish someone had told me that they don’t have to use the roads! I did manage to navigate my way around the streets of Taichung in one piece though. The high kitsch factor which I witnessed in Taipei continued, as did the nations love of spontaneous street art – a large upside down ice cream anyone? Or a giant goat?!
Taichung is Taiwan’s third largest city and is the hub of the central region of the island focussing on industrial and technological output and is a major contributor to the nation’s economy. Apparently it is considered one of the more ‘pleasant’ cities in Taiwan to live because of the agreeable climate and more down to earth feel. Still, I would prefer Taipei myself as Taichung seems to lack a certain something for me. I am, however, a fan of the huge 27m gold Milefo Buddha statue with a huge grin on its face at the Baojue Temple in northern Taichung.
250km south of Taichung and only 44 minutes later and I find myself in Taiwan’s second largest city. The High Speed Railway here really is rather amazing. The 250km journey cost me just shy of 25 US dollars and the equivalent train journey back home in England would no doubt cost five times as much and be five times less efficient!
When you think of the world’s busiest cargo ports you might think of Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, or even Rotterdam, but few would pipe up and say Kaohsiung! Well, Taiwan’s second city can be included amongst this impressive list. Strategically located close to the busy shipping lanes of the Taiwan Strait the port handles some ten million containers a year. This will increase a further two million once the current construction of a new terminal is completed. For comparison, the largest container port in the USA is Los Angeles which handles a mere eight million containers a year! Kaohsiung’s importance grew during Japanese occupation before and during World War II and developed rapidly after the war under Chinese administration and today it is Taiwan’s fastest growing city. It is also home to the one of my favourite skyscrapers – the Tuntex Sky Tower.
The city is not really on the radar of the average tourist but for those who do make it here there are a couple of gems which few people outside of Taiwan have heard of. Although I haven’t visited them on this trip I did back in 2007 when I was first in the city. I’ll just say that if you are ever in the area you must visit Lotus Lake with its rather bizarre and over-the-top collection of waterside temples and pavilions. Also, the Fo Guang Shan Monastery is a must see sight for its endless golden Buddha statues. Be sure to check out my photos in the blog slideshow.
Next up I’m off to Hanoi in Vietnam where Tropical Storm Mangkhut has been wreaking havoc.
Before I go, though, I’ll leave you with this poser – What has the town of Filadelfia in Paraguay got to do with the city of Kaohsiung? I’ll reveal all in my next post but for now I’m off to buy some waterproof footwear for Vietnam.