Apr 5, 2023



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

Random example of what fills the many warehouse slots: shopping.

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.

There was one exhibit tucked several stories up, but it was quite expensive. It was confusing that such an enormous and expensive building existed for seemingly unknown purpose. I wondered if this is what happens when funding the arts goes wrong: you end up building a big center that nobody’s actually sure how to use. (That said, these are just speculations from wandering around the building for twenty minutes.)

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.

Chinese doughnuts inside a sesame seed dough thing dunked in soy milk. This also illustrates one of my favorite Taiwan quirks: nearly all liquids get the bubble tea treatment where they're sealed on top with plastic wrap. Even getting, e.g., coke to go with your fried chicken sandwich.

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.

Looking out to the South China Sea, facing continental Asia.


World Gym has to be some kind of fitness empire, because they were enormous and all across Taiwan. Great branding, I have to give it to them.

This architecture rendering of the future of Kaohsiung Station has, inexplicably, a white guy proudly posing with some plants in the middle.

Speaking of things that are everywhere: Costco. Everybody loves a deal.

See prev. discussion (Alishan) re: not being able to swim in Taiwan. Here they don’t even give you the decency of assuming that swimming doesn’t just immediately involve drowning.

Hipster coffee joint. I can't not first read this as "BRUH" every time.

This next one is a three-parter:

We found a coffee shop to kill time at before our train out of Kaohsiung. (Actually, the whole story is that we got confused and bought the wrong classification of ticket and had to wait four hours for the next train.) The coffee shop was pleasant, guy spoke fantastic English, was more outwardly nice than we were used to. It was called something like "Comflow." A while into our stay, I take a visit to the loo, and pass by this fascinating back room (top photo). A weird realization washes over me as I read the sign (middle photo), which has exactly the same kind of universal healing claims you see in a chiropractor's office. Check out the treatment area (bottom photo), where you'd get heat lamped as thoroughly as the bougiest McDonald's quarter pounder. I paid another visit later and found curtains drawn over the whole area. I wondered whether they'd seen me snapping photos from some inevitable array of security cameras.

The animated walking guy goes into fast motion in addition to blinking when time gets short. You can even see the bicyclist start pedaling frantically if you squint hard enough.

Facing East

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.


  1. 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. ↩︎