Monday, February 7, 2011

Kaohsiung Redux: Pier 2

On our first day mooching around Kaohsiung, we decided to check out the newly hip Yancheng district (so new that its main point of interest is not in any of our guidebooks but will hopefully be in new ones). Urban renewal is the order of the day in Yancheng, and it's a great area in which to spend one of Kaohsiung's many enviably sunny days.

We started off at Gong Cha, famous for its Cream Green Tea (it's the first thing on the menu an the most famous - you can't miss it). Gong Cha is across the street from Yanchengpu MRT Exit 1.

The label on top recommends taking a mouthful of cream, then moving your straw down to get some tea and mixing it in your mouth as you swallow. It was delicious, cooling and unhealthy - WIN!

We then walked over to Pier 2, a Post-Industrial area of train tracks and 1920s warehouse buildings, recently refurbished to be a walking, shopping, biking and indoor/outdoor art exhibition and museum area. Over several sunny days during the Chinese New Year vacation, it was people mountain people sea as locals and people from other parts of Taiwan in town to visit relatives crammed into the various exhibits.

Indoors, you can shop, check out several modern art exhibits or visit the Labor Museum.

When we visited, the main exhibit seemed to be rows upon rows of women and men in exaggerated gendered forms, painted in several different ways (reminiscent of the "donkey and elephant" outdoor art in Washington DC years ago - yes, in a former incarnation I was a student in DC).

Outdoors, there is wall and ground art, as well as installations that are often extensions of the exhibits inside. I'd go so far as to say that the outdoor exhibits were as or more interesting than those inside. One thing I love about the outdoor art is that while clearly some of it is commissioned and carefully placed:

...a lot of it seems off-the-cuff, unplanned, and unsanctioned:

Almost all of it, though, has a "too cool for school" industrial hip vibe that I love. I personally am far from "cool" or "hip" but I love the art.

Another building houses an exhibit - I am not sure whether it's temporary or permanent - of 3D art. It earned a feature in the Taipei Times back when it opened. (I can't find it online so you'll have to make do with this link).

Pier 2 is also a fairly frequent live music venue.

Outside, you can walk, admire the scenery from the Love River, or ride a bike down the nearby bike trail. It's a great spot for people watching:

Across the river are two old Chinese-style floating barges that used to be restaurants. While they look stylishly and intriguingly decrepit, I can only hope that they'll be refurbished in the future:

In other parts of Yancheng, you can visit temples, shop and eat in the nearby market and temple area. We didn't get to try the famous "Old Tsai's Milkfish" (closed for New Year) but we did try "City of Glutinous Steamed Rice" and it was delicious:

(#107 Daren Street - you can find it in Rough Guide Taiwan)

We also passed a place that we were itching to try, not in any guide - a 50 year old almond tea with youtiao (油條杏仁茶) shop that was, unfortunately, also closed for New Year. It's not far from the City God temple, down a side street.

For the New Year, the market along Sinle Street (also in Rough Guide) was roughly triple its usual size and crowds: many different markets seemed to converge here both during the day and at night. We had soup dumplings there but otherwise tried to avoid the crowds on such a hot day. It is well-worth a look though, and don't forget to raise your eyes now and again to catch glimpses of old turn of the century shophouses, crumbling ever so slightly at the edges.

While the covered "Yancheng Old Street" market can be missed for now (though it is nice enough to wander through for a taste of everyday shopping in this area), don't miss the Sanshan (三山) and City God (城隍廟) temples in this district.

Neither temple, nor the nearby Sha Duo temple (沙多宮) is large, but all are very old-school and very much worth a look. Sha Duo is where I snapped this picture of miniature dangki-style tools. As you may remember, I am fascinated by dangki ("jitong") culture and mythos - especially by the relative lack of such practices in China, but their presence (however hidden) in India. My interest is always piqued when I come across any signs of it.

I'm not sure what or who this goat-headed "tall god" from the City God temple is meant to represent, but I am mighty curious!

In short - Kaohsiung is sunny, warm and not as polluted as it used to be. Get thee there, and be sure to pay a visit to Yancheng and Pier 2!


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David said...

Awesome Pictures Jenna, especially the close up of the ladies face in the Labor Museum.


K. Gill said...

Great photos and descriptions. That was very helpful, especially the part about Pier 2.