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Kaohsiung (say "gow-shung") is a little off-the-beaten-path, but a gem of a destination for the lucky ones who go. Originally a fishing village, it's now the largest shipping port on Taiwan and full of surprises. Explore the old city on one side of the river, the new downtown on the other side, the park area of Shoushan (Mount Shou) where indigenous monkeys roam free, or the Lotus Lake district where Buddist temples, pavilions and pagodas stand ever tranquil.
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The Love River is a major symbol of rejuvenation for the city and a great place to linger in one of the many coffee houses that line its banks. Riverside parks with biking and walking paths (you'll even find a reflexology path) lead you along a string of cultural sites, including a film archive, history museum, art district, music hall, fine arts museum and cultural museum.
Because Kaohsiung is located south of the Tropic of Cancer, its tropical climate translates into year-round outdoor adventures. Go sailing on the Love River or hit the beach near the university for water sports, beach volleyball and soaking up the sun. Up for a more metaphysical adventure? Venture to Taiwan's largest Buddhist center, Foguangshan, to meet the 131-foot (40-meter) golden Buddha statue and the 480 smaller Buddhas that surround it.
When the sun goes down, the flavor of Kaohsiung comes to life at the Liouhe Night Market, where you can barter for handicrafts, clothes and electronics, and sample authentic Taiwanese delicacies. Feeling mellow? Try pearl milk tea made from tapioca. Feeling adventurous? Follow your nose to find stinky tofu, a fermented and highly aromatic (to put it politely) bean curd. Many say you haven't truly experienced a night market until you've tried it. C'mon. When will you have another opportunity?
Okay, so you're committed to trying the stinky tofu. How about some upscale shopping to round out your yin with your yang? Head to the Chien Chin district to find prime shopping and two of Kaohsiung's most prestigious department stores. For more aromatic bliss, check out the Flower Market and the Garbage Market. Yes, Garbage Market. Despite the name, it's actually a very fresh, high-quality produce market.
The official currency of Taiwan is the New Taiwan Dollar (TWD or NT$). The paper currency comes in five denominations (NT$100, NT$200, NT$500, NT$1,000 and NT$2,000), and you may feel compelled to admire it rather than spend it. The $1,000 bill, for instance, features the theme of elementary education with a picture of children studying a globe.
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Learn more about this port city with these tourist information guides.