We get to Kaohsiung in around 40 minutes and hop a cab into town. Fairly big city with a river running through it. The layout kind of reminds me of Cuenca last year. We get to a hostel we’d looked up back in Taichung called Bobo. This is the first time Queenie has ever stayed in a hostel so I’m hoping for a good experience. There is a small little arch with cutesy characters drawn all over it and also up the stairs to a glass door. Getz rings the buzzer and a cute little tune plays. No one comes. Cute tune round two? Nothing. There is a number on the glass for a guy named Ricky. Queenie gives it a ring and the Hostel dude on the other end gives us the code for the door, says he’ll be there in 20 minutes. We chill and wait.
Ricky shows up and he’s a super friendly and hospitable guy. Talks talks talks our ears off. Well mostly Queenie’s ears. Giving us details on everything to do in the area, multiple maps, gives us a tour of his little place, shows us all the paintings around the hostel (all done by him), and photos of people that stayed here previously. He’s super nice. Uses sound effects for things, which I like. You can always trust people that spice things up with sound effects. At one point Jamie mentions “well, we could talk to Ricky all day or go see the city”. It’s true, daylight is fading and I’m excited to get out there too. Ricky says it’s a holiday today and the night market will be really good tonight.
We hit the streets and start to explore following a little foodie map that Ricky gave us down to the Pier 2 art district which I’d read was a cool area here in Kaohsiung. Major understatement. The area is loaded with cool sculptures, art installations, and neat little niche shops. We catch a sweet double rainbow too!
There are a ton of people around and many of them seem to be dressed up. What’s happening down here? People dressed in all different colorful and goth outfits, carrying weapons around, one looks like the buster sword. Is there a comic con going on or something? There is! It’s an anime festival. Lots of cool cosplay going on. We get some pics of them.
We even found someone dressed as Queenie’s favorite character, Harley Quinn
There’s a large open area which used to be a train yard that is littered with all sorts of sweet art installations. There are a dozen kites in the air. We mosey around taking pics.
We decide it’s time to explore another part of the city. We find a subway station and catch the next one to Formosa station, the central center where the two subway lines meet.
The subway is super clean with a cast of cute anime subway characters telling you the dos and don’ts of subway travel. Everything in Taiwan is vibrantly colorful and cute. Every billboard and company logo has an adorably cute mascot doing something funny and…cute. Taiwan is so damned cute! Visiting is really explaining a lot about Queenie’s character.
We get to Formosa station and step off the pleasantly air conditioned subway back into the muggy humidity. We follow signs towards the center of the station which has something called the Light Dome that’d I’d read about somewhere. It ends up being a lit dome area with interesting art illuminated on the ceiling and 2 large pillars of light in the middle. Pretty cool. Snaaaaap!
I thought this would be a good spot for a twirly, so I hold the phone and video the three of us, arm in arm, spinning around in a circle under the colorful Light Dome. Jamie breaks off from the centrifuge and leaving us unbalanced and Queenie’s face gets smashed off the phone leaving me cackling at the whole debacle. Great video.
It’s starting to get dark so we decide to start heading towards the night market. We switch to the other subway line and follow it to the R14 station and hop back off. It’s still a little early and we’d been walking around for hours so we unanimously decide that it’s time for drinks. We spot a cool looking spot called Sojourner across the street and decide to investigate.
Sojourner ends up being exactly perfect for what we wanted. They have a great specialty cocktail list, a handful of good Belgian beers, and a very chill kind of speakeasy vibe. It’s all wood, metal, and Edison bulbs with cool art design and a decent food menu. The plan is to eat weird shit at the night market though so we just grab a sojourner combo to tie us over til then. Queenie orders a Bailey’s and coffee and it comes in this killer mug with a polar bear on it. It says ‘Careful of the marine wildlife’ on the back. We just really liked the design, it’s by a company called Emalco, I’ll have to look into them when I get back.
We spend over an hour in Sojourner and get a decent buzz off of the strong Belgian ales. The staff is really really nice and when we tell one of them that we’ll be in Kenting the next day she offers up a cool restaurant recommendation for a place called Piccolo Polo Bistro.
We head down to the night market. Queenie pops into the 7-11 for a little quick and Jamie and I are still on the street. Ok, before I continue let me explain something. There are open grates on a lot of the streets that are basically venting the underground sewer lines into the street. They smell fucking terrible and it’s a shocking wall of stench that nails you in the face sometimes, causing your face to contort in ways you never thought possible and a tirade of explicit comments to pour out of your mouth like… well, like diarrhea. So a gust of wind whips up while we’re standing there and wafts a close by vent into Jamie’s unsuspecting beak. He stumbles backwards waving his hands in the air and starts gagging. I don’t smell it so I’m just laughing my ass off at this sudden explosion of gestures and coughing. ‘What the hell, man?”
At that moment, Queenie comes out of the 7-11 and we start walking. But the stench is too overwhelming and Jamie has to bring a hand up to his mouth. When he brings it back down it’s dripping with some sort of frothy mess. Queenie notices “Oh, what’s happening?” Then his other hand goes up to his mouth. Comes back down and is dripping too. Down into the sunglasses he’s holding. It drips down the arm of the glasses into the left lens and then off of that and is a long sickening string of goo swinging back and forth with his arm movement as he’s walking. I’m fucking cracking up, “Dude did you just barf in your hands? Please tell me the sewer smell made you barf in your hands”. Jamie explains “It’s not barf, it’s like frothy, like the head of those beers.” I can’t stop laughing. He’s so uncomfortable, holding two fist fulls of frothy goo and we’ve just gotten to the night market that is packed full of people. I keep bagging on him cuz it’s just too funny. I bend down to pet this fluffy white dog, “Hey man, you wanna pet this cute dog with me?”.
Queenie suggests we find a 7-11 and get Drisdelle cleaned up before heading into the crowds of the night market. We find a Family Mart that does the job. It’s beside a wedding themed restaurant. That’s the other thing Taiwanese people love is themed restaurants. Whether it’s weddings, restrooms, hello kitty, etc… you find themed restaurants here and there around big cities.
Spic and span we hit the night market. People everywhere, the place is bustling. Odd foods and smells coming from all angles. Carnival style games and sounds. Vendor booths selling all manner of things. We sit and play something that resembles plinko. I take what looks like a paint stirrer and flick a ball up like a pinball machine and then it falls down, bouncing off of a board studded with metal pins until it comes to rest at the bottom in one of several scoring slots. I don’t even know how to score points in this game. I just continue firing the balls up the side until they’re all done. And for this I received a pack of grape mentos.
Next up were the claw machines. We tried our hand at several enticingly cute stuffed toys but none of us succeeded. So close.
After that we hit the balloon table where you toss darts at water balloons. I think you have to hit 3 to get a prize. Queenie and Jamie only hit two a piece though. I managed to get 3 and picked out a lovely little hello kitty dish rag for Queenie.
Now it’s food time. Queenie wants me to investigate some stinky tofu. We find a spot that looks legit and take a seat. Jamie’s friend, Ed, is also living here in Kaohsiung and he’s gonna come meet us. The tofu smells like shit. The smell is obnoxiously bad. But the taste is pretty good. Queenie tells me that this guy is good, that sometimes it’s slimy, or soft and gooey, but this is good stuff. I like it. I put some hot sauce on it and we cleaned the plate up quickly.
Ed finds us sitting there among the throng of people. He’s tall and skinny with a short military style coif of red hair. “Wow, how’d you find us.” “You’re the only white guys here. And look at his hair.” Fair enough.
Ed is from Amherst, Nova Scotia. He described himself to me as a military brat growing up. His dad was in the navy and they moved around a lot: Halifax, Dartmouth, Sackville New Brunswick, St John’s NFLD etc… Moved around the Maritimes at least anyways. He’s known Jamie since college and moved here after Paul and Jamie came, nearly 10 years ago.
He and Jamie start talking shop. Ed is working an ESL job but only 20 hours a week right now. He’s got 2 kids and a wife here and is looking to score a coveted kindergarten position and up the hours. He describes his kids thusly, “They’re fucking elk! Always in the water or on the beach. Always running around.”
We make another round of the market scouting out more weird stuff to eat. Chicken feet? Nah I’ve eaten lots of chicken feet. Pigs blood? Nah, eaten lots of that too thanks to somewhat regular Dim Sum Sundays back in SoCal. I see something called a pickle pizza that piques my interest. Take one of those and then hit the baker for a sweet bun thing with meat and cheese. All good.
We head to 7-11 to grab some beers and sit outside at a table on the sidewalk to eat the pickle pizza and chat. 7-11 redefines ‘convenience’ store here. You can get anything at any time, they’re incredible.
Meanwhile, Google is sending Jamie some sort of location based air quality warnings on my unlocked phone. Maybe we’ll get some stylish pollution masks at the next night market before we hit Taipei next week.
We ask Ed if there’s any cool bars around where we can sit and grab some drinks and he suggests a place called Fosters that’s not too far away. We walk over there and on the outside it kind of looks like an Irish pub. But wait.. is that a Canadian flag? Yep. It’s a Canadian bar. Can’t say I’ve ever been to one before. We walk in and it’s nice inside with mahogany walls, tables, and bar. The walls are adorned with paraphernalia from Toronto. Hockey jerseys, a shot of Niagara Falls, some old timey pics of buildings back in the day. We sit down and do what Maritimers do: ordered a round of dark and stormys. Apparently the bar is doing so well they’ve recently opened up Fosters 2 in another area of Kaohsiung.
We shoot the shit in Fosters for a few rounds and were getting fairly tipsy. The bartender hooked us up with some complimentary vodka based shot at one point. But we were also tired too, and Ed had to get back to the fam, so we shut her down early (for us) and cabbed it back to Bobo knowing we had lots more of Kaohsiung to explore tomorrow.