My cousin’s wife is originally from Kaohsiung, so naturally, she has a preference for Kaohsiung over Taipei. Kaohsiung is the far less traveled to city in Taiwan, down south, known for its seafood, even warmer and more tropical climate, as well as being the major port of Taiwan. In travel forums I’ve read, there seems to be a rivalry between the two cities that mirrors that of Sydney vs. Melbourne or LA vs. San Francisco. It seems a bit silly, but I suppose all of us are a little competitive.

After visiting for over a day now, to me Kaohsiung looks like a more modern and shiny version of Taipei. Taipei isn’t crowded at all by world standards, but Kaohsiung seems to have even less car and foot traffic. The buildings look newer and glittering. But the people seem to speak a lot more Taiwanese than Mandarin from what I’ve been hearing. As we’ve traveled further south, there is far less English known by people, and like I had read, so many older people don’t know or understand the romanization of the Chinese language because that really has not happened in Taiwan until fairly recently, so showing an English address or even saying an English word beyond the basic “hello” or “thank you” completely goes over their heads. Even some of the cab or Uber drivers we’ve met might initially address me in Mandarin, but gradually drift into Taiwanese, and only based on context and the very tiny similarities in the two languages can I make out what they are saying to me. Even when I respond in Mandarin, they still respond back in Taiwanese. I guess this is how one becomes fluent in multiple dialects of Chinese, simply by constantly listening and trying to adapt based on context.

I love both cities now, having visited both. There are far more “tourist” sites in Taipei, but Kaohsiung has its own charm and beauty. The public art here is also so fun and innovative. It doesn’t seem to matter where you go here — people are always friendly and helpful, and the food is delicious everywhere.

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