| Part 4:
Hotel Good Ground, Tainan. 2540 TWD
for a rather basic room. This hotel is a disappointment,
because the description does not match the description
on the booking.com site. The main problem is that the
room is very small. My estimate is that the room has an
area of about 4m x 3m, i.e. 12 square metres. Even
adding the 3 sqm of the toilet, the total size is far
less than the 30 sqm advertised on the booking.com site.
In addition there is no WLAN in the room, even if the
booking.com site promises otherwise (but there is a
cable Internet connection).
Except for a fridge, a small table, and an LCD TV there
is no other furniture in the room. The
beds consist of mattresses hard like stone on the
Initially there are only two towels in
the room, which makes me think that perhaps the hotel
gave us a double instead of a quadruple room. The hotel
staff however claims that all rooms have the same size.
The toilet is not worth mentioning of - rather basic
with a bathtub shower.
Then the hotel insists that we pay the room in advance
(the entire amount for two days) and adds a 5% surcharge
for paying by credit card. The A/C in the room is only
on/off, i.e. you cannot set a temperature, but at least
the temperature is ok. On the positive side, the
location of the hotel is good. It's in a shopping area,
surrounded by zillions of shops (Shirley could shop all
Weather: sunny with a thin clouds
layer the entire day. The sky varies from a very light
blue to almost white. Quite warm, probably 28°C (I'm
wearing shorts and a T-shirt the whole day). No rain.
We get up at 8:25am, have breakfast, pack our stuff and
check out by 10 something am. We are still a bit
unsure about what to do today. The idea is to spend the
day doing sight-seeing in Kaohsiung, but the fact is that
there are not that many "official" sights in this city.
The various guides I consult (the Rough Guide, the Lonely
Planet, wikitravel) do not agree on what
the highlights of Kaohsiung are.
So we start by taking a taxi to the Lotus pond. It
takes about half an hour to get there from the hotel. The
Lotus pond is a small lake in the north of Kaohsiung which
is surrounded by a number of beautiful Chinese temples. On
a good day, when the sky is nice blue and the lake is
filled with water, it's a very scenic place.
But today the sky is sort of milky-blue. more white than
blue and hazy. The waters in the lake are low and
construction works are ongoing on the dragon-tiger temple.
No great panoramic views, but the temples are still
Lots of people are around on this Saturday morning. A
group of (Buddhist?) nuns wearing black and white robes
are having a function in one of the temples.
We walk a bit along the pond, trying to get to the next
MRT station, Xinzuoying, but realise quite soon that it is
too far away to be reached by foot with a small kid. So,
around 12pm, we take a taxi to this station.
Supposedly the MRT in Kaohsiung is relatively new, having
been inaugurated in 2008. The Xinzuoying station is a
combined train and MRT station. It makes a clean and
functional impression, and lacks fancy decorations or
We take the underground and get off at the Formosa
boulevard station. Here we have a look at the Dome of
Light, a public artwork consisting of glass of different
colours on display in this metro station. Quite nice, and
the area surrounding it is used as a public theatre for
artistic performances (somebody plays the piano while we
It's 12:50pm now and we need to have some lunch. I suggest
to get to the Xinyuejiang shopping mall near Central Park.
This mall exists according to the Rough Guide for Taiwan.
So we take the metro for one more stop and get out at the
Central Park station.
there is no such thing as a Xinyuejiang shopping mall
here. Xinyuejiang is simply the name of the entire area,
which is full of smaller and larger shops according to the
locals. We check a small mall, but find no good place
where to eat. So we ask some people and then walk to the
nearby Talee mall.
The Talee mall consists of a department store with some
basic eating facilities, and a second connected building
(the Star palace if I remember correctly) with upmarket
shops selling luxury goods. In this place we have lunch in
a good Chinese restaurant on the 9th floor. The bill
totals just 1000 TWD, which is good value considering what
we get and the pleasant environment.
Around 2:40pm the restaurant closes, so we leave the place. We then walk to
the entertainment area on the 12th floor of the Talee
building. This is full of games for children, coin
machines, and there is even a small open air fun fair one
level higher on the roof.
There Shirley will spend an hour with the kids, playing
with the various machines. This is an activity we have
done so far almost every day in Taiwan: bringing the kids
to a fun fair/children entertainment area, so that also
the kids enjoy the trip.
It's about 4pm when we finally get out of the mall and get
into a taxi. It has been an intensive day today, but the
day is by far not over yet.
I tell the driver to bring me to a spot along the harbour
from which there is a good view of the skyline of
Kaohsiung with the main skyscrapers. It takes some
guidance (I tell the driver where to go and into which
streets to turn) because the place I want to go is a bit
In the end it appears that the street I found with Google
Maps is deep inside the port area. Here, between anchored
ships, there is a great view of the skyline of Kaohsiung.
Getting in is surprisingly not the problem (in fact the
guard just registers the licence plate of the taxi, then
lets us go through), it's getting out which turns out to
Suddenly when we are about to get out the guard stops the
taxi and wants to see our passports. Some discussion
At one moment, from what I understand, the guard accuses
us to be clandestine immigrants to Taiwan (or something
like that). Wow, how brilliant this guard is. A family of
Germans tries to enter Taiwan as clandestines on a cargo
ship, even if Germans do not need a visa to enter Taiwan.
Shirley almost has a laugh attack and quickly explains
that we are just innocent tourists who were looking for a
good sport a some photos of the skyline of Kaohsiung.
It seems that this explanation is sufficient, because the
guard finally lets us go. So we tell the driver to bring
us to this mall with the Ferris wheel we saw while driving
to the port.
Turns out that this mall is the famous Dream Mall, the
largest shopping mall in East Asia according to the Rough
Guide. We were actually planning to just spend a few
minutes in this place (go up and down the Ferris wheel),
in reality we'll end up spending almost two hours here
(and I'll shoot a total of 186 photos), despite being so
tired after the intensive day. Here is why.
When we arrive at 4:40pm we are immediately overwhelmed by
a huge amount of activity. It appears that today there is
a festival about the Taiwanese aborigines and the entire
area is choking full of people. Countless performers
dressed in colourful, exotic costumes.
Tons of sexy, very
sexy Taiwanese gathered for the celebration. Sort of
Brazil carnival feeling. The costumes are for sure not
original, traditional ones. For instance one guy is
wearing something like a roman helmet with the red crest.
Taiwanese girls dressed in colourful bikini costumes
dancing something similar to the samba. One daring
Taiwanese guy wearing G-string costume, almost like on a
gay parade. Even some Westerners are performing as
We seem to have arrived at the right time, because at 5pm
the show starts. After the show, Shirley spends some time
sampling the open air market set up on the square facing
the mall. There are lots of local Taiwanese products for
sampling. Delicious sweet pineapple for sale, local
We could easily spend the entire afternoon here, but
actually we came only for the Ferris wheel. I have to say
that I'm positively impressed by Kaohsiung so far. Lots to
see and do, and the city itself is quite pleasant.
After a while in the market we enter the mall and proceed
to the Ferris wheel. This is on the roof at the 10th
floor. Again here there is a fun fair for kids. My small
girls immediately forget that today it was a very
intensive day and they are supposed to be tired, and go
into hyperactive mode, checking out all there is to do
After more playing around, we finally get onto the Ferris
wheel at 6:10pm. From here there is a nice panoramic view
At 6:25pm we are done with the Ferris wheel and walk out
of the mall. We take a taxi to the hotel, fetch our bags
and then drive to the train station. It's 7:05pm and we'll
catch the 7:55pm train to Tainan.
At 8:40pm we arrive in Tainan and take a taxi to the
Good Ground hotel, Tainan.
Weather: overcast in the morning. In
the afternoon the sky opens up a little bit, some sun
shines through, then the sky closes again. Temperatures
reach 28-29°C in the afternoon, then cool down in the
evening. No rain.
Whole day spent in Tainan, visiting the major sights and
experiencing the city. Shirley and the kids are still
tired from yesterday, so the entire family gets up quite
late. There is also no urgency to leave the hotel early
because we have two nights here and the overcast sky does
its part in not prompting us to get out. So we leave the
hotel shortly before 12pm.
The first stop is
at the Chikan towers, which we reach by taxi. Alissia
manages to forget her small red bag in the taxi, and
insists that we do something to recover it. But how to
recover her bag if we do not have the phone number of the
The Chikan towers supposedly are one of the top
attractions of Tainan. They are in the historic area of
Tainan and are in a walled compound with a garden. Lots of
people today wanting to visit the towers. The entry costs
50 TWD. The towers were initially built by the Dutch as a
fort and later, after the Chinese take-over, were
converted to Chinese style buildings. Overall they are
kind of pretty in a nice setting, but not that
We spend about half an hour at the Chikan towers, then
shortly after 1pm move to the next place, the Official God
of War temple which lies opposite to the Chikan towers.
The temple is quite nice, old and interesting and dates
back to 1690. Inside lots of people come for praying.
Alissia seizes the opportunity to pray the Chinese gods.
Shirley has taught her in Taipei how to pray in a Chinese
temple and now Alissia is taking the incense sticks, doing
the right movements and placing them into the big tray.
The small sister joins her and now you can see two
European girls in a Chinese temple posting a prayer to the
gods. The locals look interested.
After this temple we walk to the nearby Matsu temple. Also
this is an interesting and old temple with lots of
decorations, rooms, altars, pilgrims etc.
It's 1:45pm when we have had enough of temples and walk
back to the main street. There, near the Chikan towers we
stop in a small roadside restaurant/cafe and have
something. This "something" usually is a dish of noodles,
noodle soup, a rice dish or in this case, Taiwanese
puddings. These dishes are quite delicious and usually
cost in the range of 50-100 TWD, i.e. it is possible to
have a simple lunch for four paying less than 300 TWD (~ 7
After this brief
meal it's shortly after 2pm. I suggest that we visit the
Confucius temple which is in walking distance (1km from
here). We start walking there, but on the way Shirley
spots a big shopping mall, the Far Eastern department
store. Since neither Shirley nor the kids are too
interested in temples and historic things, we split here.
Shirley and the kids will visit this mall, while I will
get to the Confucius temple.
The Chinese drivers make a quite disciplined impression,
especially if compared to the drivers in Sicily. The cars
here have no scratches or bumps and I notice that most
cars do not speed and follow the traffic rules.
I reach the Confucius temple shortly after 2:30pm. This
temple is located in a big walled compound with gardens in
an inner court. Access to this inner court is free, but if
you want to enter the actual Confucius temple you need to
purchase a ticket for 25 TWD.
Please note that most attractions or historic sites we
have so far visited were free or costed a very small
amount (1 Euro or less). Compare that with the 10 Euro you
need to shell out for tourist attractions in Barcelona
The Confucius temple itself is a bit void of decorations
and makes a sterile impression. It's just a big hall with
some sort of altar inside, with wooden doors to close this
I don't spend much time in this place and by 3pm leave
this place. Outside I see an obese dog, fat like a fat
pig. Never seen anything like this. I even wonder if
perhaps somebody has been raising this dog for
slaughtering it later.
I slowly walk to
the Dongyue temple, which I reach at 3:30pm. This temple
is dedicated to the gods of the underworld and in fact
there are statues with black faces. It's quite an
interesting place, with many people coming to pray here.
The people who come here for praying are wearing yellow or
green shirts with inscriptions in Chinese characters on
Around 3:50pm I leave this place and walk to the nearby
City God temple. This is smaller than the Dongyue temple
but also interesting. The interior is richly decorated and
the temple is active, meaning that people come for praying
and giving gifts to the gods. I end up spending half an
hour in this place.
Around 4:20pm I'm "templed-out", i.e. have had enough for
today for what concerns temples. After some time all these
temples start looking all the same. So I walk to the next
place of interest (this time not a temple), the south gate
which according to the guidebook is what is left of the
The south gate is not so far away and in fact I reach this
place at 4:45pm. It's basically just a piece of the old
city wall with the gate and a couple of cannons. There is
not that much else here. I take a few shots, then sit down
and take a rest.
At 5pm I'm told to leave the place, because the gate
apparently closes. So I decide to get back to the hotel. I
wonder if it makes sense to take a taxi, but a quick check
with Google Maps tells me that I'm only 1.3km from the
hotel, i.e. in walking distance.
I'm using heavily the smartphone on this trip and
especially Google Maps. It's extremely convenient because
it tells me where I am, how far away I'm from a certain
place and how I can get there. In fact Google Maps (or any
other online maps system) does much more than that. This
piece of technology really revolutionises travelling.
I slowly walk back to the hotel, making a few stops here
and there, and arriving around 5:30pm. There I meet
Shirley and the kids and take a rest.
We'll leave the
hotel again around 6:40pm. This time we take a taxi to a
large night market, located about 2km north of the hotel
on the site of a large parking near a stadium, between the
Hewei and Hai'an roads. Here there are tons of stalls
selling food of different types, places where to play
games, stalls selling clothes and other merchandise. Lots
of activity, life, lots of people around.
We'll spend a couple of hours in this place, then take a
taxi back to the hotel.