A Journey through Marvelous Kaohsiung／充滿探險歷程的獵奇高雄之旅
A Journey through Marvelous Kaohsiung
◎English translation: Hou Ya-ting
Yanchengpu and Hamasen, neighborhoods situated in today's Yancheng District, enjoyed years of prosperity during the Japanese colonial period and after World War II. Back then, they were part of Kaohsiung's bustling downtown. The Port of Kaohsiung has long been a crucial trade hub, and its success facilitated the modernization of adjacent urban areas such as Yanchengpu and Hamasen.
The port attracted various trades and professions, including administrators, entertainers, and others. Booming business led to the appearance of theaters, bars, bookstores, and department stores. However, the more recent development of alternative commercial centers seemed to spell doom for Yanchengpu and Hamasen. Nevertheless the bygone stories and glories of these places embody a distinct cultural ambiance, and these neighborhoods have evolved into living, breathing historical areas where young people linger between landmark buildings while relishing hidden gems.
Does the idea of a journey to Kaohsiung entice you to take a day out from the rat race? Getting to Yanchengpu is convenient, thanks to the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit System. Get off at Yanchengpu Station on the Orange Line, then leave via Exit 2. Very near the station you will find Rensheng Bookstore, an independent bookstore known for six decades of publishing and selling obscure books. Browsers should not be put off by the piles of secondhand Buddhist tomes in the pedestrian arcade, as searching here is sure to uncover some intriguing publications. One recent find was a 1984 back issue of Kaohsiung Pictorial, published by the Information Bureau of Kaohsiung City Government. The magazine reported on the completion of the Kaohsiung Cross-Harbor Tunnel with a series of photographs.
The bookstore's elderly proprietor, Li Ping-fong, often publishes and shares stories about his military service, and speaks in Holo (the local language also known as Minnanhua or Taiwanese) with enthusiasm about the Japanese colonial period. He welcomes visitors to chat with him, then stroll through Kuchan Shopping Area, where delicious Taiwanese snacks attract both local residents and outsiders. This shopping area derives its name from the fact it runs south to north, and it built over ditches. This area was famous for selling goods from abroad back when imported goods were scarce. Nowadays, its clientele is mostly older people. They are used to shopping here and at Cifu Shopping Area, as well as the local market on nearby Dagong Road for cheaper imported cigarettes, wines, accessories, dresses, and necessities. Evidence of the area's former prosperity are ubiquitous. Visitors who look up will notice old shop signs which differ from modern ones in terms of fonts, colors, and layouts.
Proceeding along Gushan 1st Road up to Cianguang Road, on the right of Hejhih Badminton Court and surrounded by trees, there is a stone path toward what used to be Takao Shrine. (During the Japanese colonial era, Kaohsiung was known as Takao; earlier, it was called Dagou.) This Shinto place of worship was established by the Japanese colonial authorities. After 1945, when the ROC government took control of Taiwan, it was renamed Kaohsiung Martyrs' Shrine. Excursionists fascinated by nostalgia and relics will not want to miss the hiking trail to the Martyrs' Shrine, where they can see Japanese-built lamps, old stone lanterns, and a renovated torii gate.
On the way down, a detour via Lane 32 of Dengshan Street to Lane 60 of the same street leads to a gentle slope with two small paths. These access what remains of the 19th-century Foreigners' Cemetery. This site was assigned to the UK government during the Japanese colonial period, but was built over following World War II. Both the remnants of the cemetery and the Former British Consulate at Dagou are evidence of how the British influenced the city. The old consulate has become a popular landmark, often crowded with visitors, whereas the cemetery has blended into local life.
Bidding farewell to Hamasen, visitors can walk along Shaochuan Street, then turn a corner to reach Anhai Street. Most overlook the small Kaitai Fude Temple, where a statuette of the Taoist land god is housed. In Mandarin, this deity is variously called Tudi Gong or Fude Zheng Shen. But the gigantic statue of Ji Gong a minor deity in the Taoist pantheon is unmissable. Legend has it that Kaitai Fude Temple is the oldest land-god shrine in Taiwan, and that residents have been showing their respect here since 1551. The original stone statuette unfortunately no longer exists, but the temple has preserved many other effigies that are worth scrutinizing.
A leisurely stroll through what used to be the fishermen's settlement of Shaochuantou, via maze-like lanes, may bring you to the entrance of National Sun Yat-sen University. Ringed by mountains and ocean, the gorgeous sunset that can be enjoyed from the campus is regarded as one of the city's eight scenic wonders. Sizihwan Sunset Beach Resort is located within the university, and attracts those who wish to enjoy relaxing ocean scenery in a less crowded environment. Around here, there are several spots where visitors can sip beer while watching the endless expanse of ocean, the gigantic container ships sailing to the port, and the iconic setting sun. This journey provides adventures and impresses travelers, who the city hopes will soon return.