Kaohsiung, port city in southwest Taiwan, capital of art: warehouses, studios, museums, street art, installations, you name it.
Ready to fill our heads with creative splendor, we journeyed from big boulevards near the under-construction station…
… along views of the downtown’s most eccentric highrises and across the impaled swoop pedestrian bridge…
… and finally made our way to the art wharf, marked immediately by this large installation.
And then… that was it?
We looked all around, peeked in countless buildings, surveyed maps, consulted the internet. But art wasn’t to be found. What was to be found, though, were countless clothing and nicknack boutiques and expensive purveyors of bubble tea and beer and pizza. In other words: it had gone corporate.01
I think that a number of the warehouse rooms were active studios, but they weren’t open to the public. Maybe we came on an off day, or maybe we just never found the goods.
Nearby, a hexagonally-themed music center loomed.
Inside, though, again: nothing apart from stairways and bored receptionists.
A bit miffed over the whole thing, we headed across the water to the government building shaped like a glass oyster fork stuck into the ground. There was apparently an observatory at the top from which you could take in the grater waterfront area.
We arrived to find the whole thing closed indefinitely to visitors, debris strewn across the entrance and smudges all over the glass doors.
No problem—sun was setting, might as well just have a beer out in the day’s final rays. We walked a jaunt down towards a rooftop bar called Roof Bar Tide, perched next to a a canal.
… except it turns out this bar was just called Roof Bar, but it’s not actually a rooftop bar. They just thought this was a fun name.
These things happen—can’t blame Kaohsiung. Traveling is like this: you visit a place and randomly sample from the innumerable choices of what to do. Sometimes, you come up with a dud. Sometimes, you come up with five duds in a row. The rest of the visit only got better.
Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts
The museum itself was as much of an art exhibit as the pieces within. Especially the way they used light: funneling, reflecting, diffusing, and clipping.
The National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts building is gorgeous, if a bit confusing to navigate. It swoops and dives. You end up walking under, inside, and on top of it.
You might not expect it from such a generic name, but Arthouse made exquisite drinks in a style that had come to taste quintessentially Taiwanese: forward with vegetable infusions (cauliflower, pumpkin), tea flavors (lemongrass, oolong), and floral ingredients (lavender, violet). A second story loft out out west by the harbor, you can slowly schlam craft potions as the sun starts to set.
This next one is a three-parter:
We had crossed the halfway mark of the journey around Taiwan. Next, we’d start heading back up the east side. First stop, the rural township of Chishang.
We had the same experience visiting many such a spot in Seoul. It’d be advertised as an art collective space and then there’d be a Nike store. ↩︎