The Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Cultural Park in Machia Township of Pingtung is a large area in southern Taiwan that has traditional aboriginal villages, museums, exhibitions, live performances, artwork, and indigenous cuisine, as well as amazing mountain scenery. If Taiwan's biggest tourism draw is indigenous culture, then this place is a must stop on your trip to Taiwan.
Taiwan Indigenous peoples have inhabited Taiwan for over 10,000 years. After Chinese and Japanese colonialism, they were pushed back mainly to the mountains. There are currently 16 officially recognized tribes, and a population of over 500,000 people, making about 2.5% of Taiwan's population.
The Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Cultural Park was established in 1987, and is 82.65 hectares. It includes museums, live shows, and shops showcasing Taiwan Indigenous culture. The park is located in Machia Township of Pingtung, and is nearby Sandimen, a township also know for its indigenous culture.
How to Get There:
Bus: From Pingtung you can take bus 8232, 8337, or 8233 toward Sandimen but it is about a 20 minute walk from the bus stop.
By Car/scooter: From Pingtung City, take provincial highway 24 toward Sandimen and then turn on to Fengjing Lane. There is parking in front of the entrance.
150 NT per person
8:30 AM to 5 PM, closed Mondays.
Map: Please see below:
Checheng Zhenan Temple is an important place for Taiwanese fold religion and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Checheng Township of Pingtung. It is dedicated to Guanyu, a deified military general from the Eastern Han Dynasty of China. It is the most prominent landmark on highway 199 from Taitung to Pingtung.
Settlements in Checheng date back to the Kingdom of Tungming, when it was originally called Chaicheng or "firewood city." During the Qing Dynasty the name was changed to Checheng or "cart city."
The earliest recorded temple on this site dates back to 1897, with renovations later in 1915 and 1984.
The temple is dedicated to Guanyu, a deified military general from the Eastern Han Dynasty of China. He is known as the Guan Holy Emperor. The temple also has deities of Mazu, Jigong, and the Lords of the Three Mountains. Overall this temple can be considered a Taiwan folk religion or Taoist temple.
The temple features two parts, one normal looking two storey temple, and another four storey temple with a giant statue of Guanyu on top.
8:30 AM to 9:30 PM (open late so you can see it with lights)
50 NT per person.
How to get there:
By Car/Scooter: You can either take the 199 from Taitung or provincial highway 26 south and then turn left on highway 199. IT is hard to miss because it is the highest building around surrounded by farmland.
By Bus: From Hengchun, take bus 201 to Nandahai Road, after which the temple is only a six minute walk.
Please see below:
People often don’t realize that Kaohsiung has a lot to offer to tourists. There are many amazing historical and natural sites to see, as well as amazing food, shopping, and an interesting culture. Many of the places down south aren’t represented as well in English as other sites in Taipei, which is why we want to help everyone realize what a great place it is. I lived in Kaohsiung for three years and it was like living in paradise every day (I wish I still lived there).
Below I will list out some of the best places in Kaohsiung that I have visited. I will be sure to update this blog as I visit more places (and take more photos) later.
How to get around in Kaohsiung?
As always, we recommend renting a scooter as the best way to see Taiwan. Getting around in a car is also a convenient option as there is plenty of parking pretty much everywhere in this less crowded county. However, you can also a great deal of Kaohsiung by taking the MRT, light rail, train, inter city bus, local bus, taxi, or bicycle (U-bike rental).
When to go?
Kaohsiung is great year round, but it can get a little hot in the summer, and Typhoon season and heavy rain season lasts from about May to October. If you are afraid of the heat and rain then you can visit during winter when the temperatures are mild and the climate is dryer.
Fo Guang Shan (aka Buddah Light Mountain, Buddah's Light Mountain, or Buddha Memorial Center) is a Buddhist sect based in Dashu District of Kaohsiung. The headquarters in Dashu feature the largest Buddhist monastery in the country along with a 8 pagodas, a large pyramid, huge sitting buddha statue, and Buddha museum. The massive complex can fill a tourists itinerary for more than a day, and is TripAdvisor's top ten tourist landmarks in Taiwan.
The Fo Guang Shan religion was established by Hsing Yun in 1967, begning with the development of the monastery in Dashu. The religion is focused on Humanistic Buddhism, with an emphasis on technology.
Fo Guang Shan has since grown to be one of the largest charitable organizations in Taiwan. Currently it has established medical programs, several colleges, one university, and has presence in 173 countries.
The Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum started construction in 2008 and was completed in 2011.
One of the most precious artifacts in the museum is the tooth of Sakyamuni Buddha. The grounds feature eight pagodas, hundreds of statues, 4 different museums, an auditorium, Jade and Golden Buddha Statues, and 48 underground palaces (time capsules).
How to get there:
From Kaohsiung, take provincial highway 29 north to Dashu, and it will be right in front of the National Highway 3 bridge. You can also travel there via public buses.
9 AM to 8 PM
Please see below:
The Kaohsiung 85 Sky Tower is the tallest and most recognizable building in southern Taiwan. The tower is shaped like the character "高" (as in 高雄 aka Kaoh siung or gao xiong), to represent the city of Kaohsiung and show Chinese symbolism through architecture. The observatory level open to visitors provides excellent views of the city. The tower can also been seen most anywhere in Kaohsiung, making it truly the symbol of the city.
The 85 was began construction in 1994 and was completed in 1997. It stood as the tallest building in Taiwan at 347 meters (1,140 feet) until 2004 when the Taipei 101 was built. It was also previously known as the T & C Tower and the Tunex Sky Tower. The tower was designed by C.Y. Lee who also designed the Taipei 101. It also featured the world's highest atrium. The tower gets its name because it is 85 stories tall (actually it's only 83, but they rounded up to make it sound better). For more information you can check out the Wikipedia article on the tower here.
In 2020 the main hotel 85 Sky Tower Hotel 君鴻國際酒店 closed its doors, partly due to the effects of the Coronavirus. The 75th story observatory was also closed. Later, the real estate was bought by the HPW comglomerate (海霸王) and the hotel and observatory are currently undergoing rennovations.
How to Get There:
By MRT: Take the Kaohsiung MRT red line to Sanduo Shopping District Station. The tower is right in your face to the west as you come out of exit 4.
By light rail: Take the light rail to Kaohsiung Exhibition Center Station. The tower will be right in your face to the East.
By car/scooter: Take Sanduo 4th Road all the way west, you can't miss it. There is underground parking with the entrance on the south side.
74-75 Floor Observatory Price: 150 NT per person (currently closed for renovations)
74-75 Floor Observatory Hours: 9:00 AM - 12:00 midnight (currently closed for renovations)
Hotels in the 85:
85 Sky Tower Hotel 君鴻國際酒店: 3000-5000 NT per night, floors 37-85 (currently closed to be taken over by a new hotel group soon)
Mingli Hotel 明麗飯店: 1500-3000 NT per night, floors 7-11
Airbnb type rooms: 900-2000 NT per night
Map: Please see below:
Maolin District of Kaohsiung City is an amazing outdoor paradise and my favorite place in Taiwan. In this mountainous district of Kaohsiung, you can find waterfalls, streams, hot springs, butterflies, aboriginal culture, and great views, all by the roadside! Popular activities include swimming, hot spring bathing, river tracing, camping, and hiking.
Please note I have also finished blogs about Maolin Village, Wanshan Village, Duona Suspension Bridge, and Duona Village (click the links to see each individual blog).
During the Japanese occupation, some of the original inhabitants of Maolin Village live in the mountains behind Wanshan Village. However later these aboriginals were forcibly moved to the current village. Many of the inhabitants were originally located elsewhere, but had to relocate their home or village due to typhoons or unsafe terrain. There are a few abandoned villages above the current village that you can still hike to.
The villages have about 2000 total inhabitants, mostly aboriginals from the Rukai (魯凱族) Wulu Bunun (布農) and Paiwan (排灣) tribes, as well as some Han Chinese people. The district also has Maolin Middle school, the only middle school, and three elementary schools.
Wanshan has the smallest population of any village in Taiwan according to the government website here, with a population of just 450 people. 95% of the people are aborigines from the Rukai Tribe (魯凱族), and the rest are either from the Wulu Bunun Tribe (布農) or Han Chinese.
Originally the people of Wanshan village lived at the base of Mali Mountain (麻里山), but were moved by the government in 1956 to their current location.
Many of the inhabitants of Maolin were originally located elsewhere, but had to relocate their home or village due to typhoons or unsafe terrain. There are a few abandoned villages around Maolin that you can still hike to.
Typhoon Morakot brought record floods to Taiwan because it slowly moved over the island delivering torrential rain. Nearly 700 people were killed during the disaster (to see what Maolin looked like right after the flooding, check out this blog here).
Basically all the bridges in Maolin were destroyed during Typhoon Morakot in 2009 except Duona Suspension bridge which is built so high that it would never be affected by floodwater.
Most all the bridges currently in Maolin were reconstructed after the 2009 floods.
Duona is the most remote village in Maolin District of Kaohsiung City, and is said to harbor the most complete version of the Rukai Aborigine culture.
The Rukai People first began to move into the area now known as Duona about 300 years ago (1700s), making it one of the oldest aborigine villages in Taiwan.
Most of the people live in traditional stone houses made from nearby plentiful shale rock, which are characteristic of the Rukai Tribe. The stone houses are warm in the winter and stay cool during the summer.
Near the village is a small plain which is said to be the home of Taiwan's indigenous species of black rice. The village was almost completely cut off from the outside world until the Japanese built the Duona Suspension Bridge, which helped to link it to the rest of Taiwan as well as better control the native population.
The actual Distrcit boundaries extend to Pingtung County and Taitung County, and include largely untouched and "virgin" forests and mountain wilderness areas such as Shuang-guei Lake, providing precious wildlife habitat for many of Taiwan's indigenous animals and plants.
When to go:
I recommend going in the summer time when the waterfalls have plenty of water and warm temperatures make it a great time to go swimming. In winter it will be cold and the waterfalls can dry up.
On the other hand if you want to go just for hiking, winter would be a better time to go.
If there is a Typhoon, the inhabitants of Maolin will be evacuated, and you should not try to go in for your own safety.
If you are coming to see butterflies, the butterfly migration is in the fall and ends roughly in November.
How to get there:
By Car: Maolin can be reached via provincial highway 27 from Pingtung or Liugui. Once you come to Dajin Bridge, go straight up the mountain.
By Bus: You can take a bus there but I don't recommend it. It's a 3 hour bus ride from Pingtung Bus Station. If you can rent a car or scooter it is about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Kaohsiung.
Please see a map below marked with all the destinations we will visit in this blog:
The Xingda Seafood Market (aka Xingda Tourist Fish Market, Hsinta Harbor Fish Market or Qieding Fish Market) is a large seafood market in Qieding District of Kaohsiung. You can find just about any kind of fresh seafood here, including sashimi, whole fish, shellfish, squid, etc., along with other traditional Taiwanese snacks. Also, the market is known for high quality knives. It is definitely worth a trip if you are in the area.
Xingda Seafood is often called Qieding Fish Market because it is located in Qieding District of Kaohsiung, which is not very large and only covers a small area near the harbor. This area has been a delta for rivers and since the Qing Dynasty has served as the border between Tainan and Kaohsiung, which has changed with the Erren River.
Xingda Harbor was built in 1997 and consists of four parts: a yacht tourism and business area, ocean business development zone, Fuli harbor living zone, and themed relaxation zone. There is also a fish market here. In the future, there are plans to expand capacity for the harbor.
11 AM to 6 PM (opens one hour earlier and closes one hour later on weekends)
How to get there:
By car/scooter: Take provincial highway 17 north from Kaohsiung or South from Tainan and stop at Xingda Harbor. There is free parking on the side of the road.
By bus: From Tainan Train Station, you can take Tainan bus 1 south to Xingda Harbor Station. The whole trip will take about an hour and a half.
Please see below:
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.