Easy Bicycle Routes in Kaohsiung
TEXT & PHOTOS / VISION
Bicycling is a great way to explore a city. Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan, has a number of bike routes ideal for relaxed exploration tours. Let’s hop on a bike and pedal about on perambulations through this harbor city!
Kaohsiung* has some highly favorable conditions for bike outings. While it can be quite hot during the daytime in the summer, for most of the year the weather is perfect for cycling jaunts, with low chances of rain. The city is also mostly flat, there is a growing network of dedicated bikeways, main roads are mostly wide with relative low traffic density, and there are quite a few scenic and cultural attractions easily reached on iron steeds from points throughout the city core. Like other major cities in Taiwan, Kaohsiung also has set up a branch of the immensely popular and fast-growing YouBike public bike-rental system.
* In this article we focus on the city’s urban center, specifically the area close to the harbor.
The harbor is Kaohsiung’s dominant feature, and riding along the city’s bodies of water, including the harbor, the sea, its main river, and a pretty “pond” that is in truth a lake, is the best way to see many of the city’s top attractions. While getting to know this city riding a bicycle, you will discover its ultra-modern side as well as its charming old neighborhoods. Two routes are especially recommended: Qijin Island and Love River, both easy to follow, with many interesting sights to be found along the way. Also high up on the list of must-rides are the routes along the harbor and around Lotus Pond.
The Love River is one of the best known of Kaohsiung’s many tourist attractions. The slow-flowing waterway, in the 1960s and ’70s resembling a smelly sewer more than a river, underwent a decades-long clean-up that lasted until the late 1990s. Since then it has become the venue for the city’s annual Lantern Festival celebrations and exciting dragon-boat races. During the late afternoon and evening, people come to the river to go on long – quite often romantic – walks, fun cruises (electric boats and even “gondolas”; NT$150/25min.) on the river, and rides on the riverside bike paths.
Between Kaohsiung Bridge, close to the harbor, and Bo’ai Bridge, about 6km to the northeast, there are over a dozen YouBike rental stations close to the river, making it easy to start and end a riverside bike ride at locations convenient for you. A good place to begin is at the LRT (Light Rail) Love Pier Station, close to where the river enters Kaohsiung Harbor. From there you can follow the left bank of the river all the way north to Bo’ai Bridge, then return south on the right bank (or do the trip in reverse order). Places of interest you will come across along the way include the Kaohsiung Film Archive, Kaohsiung 228 Peace Memorial Park, Kaohsiung Museum of History, Heart of Love River park, Tower of Light, and Zhongdu Wetlands Park.
Two weeks after the Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year), the city stages the annual Lantern Festival with the banks of the Love River as venue. This year the festival is at the end of February. This is a great time to visit the river, especially during the evening, with lanterns and other lights painting the riversides and the river itself in myriad colors, creating a festive atmosphere.
Qijin Island (often spelled Cijin Island) is a long (8.5km) and narrow (400~500m wide on average) strip of land that acts as a natural buffer between the waters of the Taiwan Strait and Kaohsiung Harbor. The most common way to get to the island is by taking the ferry from the Gushan Ferry Terminal (takes less than 10 minutes; tickets are NT$40; bicycles [NT$10] and even scooters [NT$40] are allowed on the ferry). There is also a ferry service (NT$30) connecting the island with the Banana Pier, which is close to the popular Pier-2 Art Center.
After arriving at the ferry terminal on the island, you won’t have trouble finding bike-rental operations renting out different types of vehicles, from standard bikes to electric four-wheelers with roof seating four. Start your ride by the ferry terminal and head north to the island’s northern tip.
There, you can have a look at the northern entrance of Kaohsiung Harbor, with a high probability of seeing big vessels entering and exiting through the exceedingly narrow mouth. On top of a 48m-high coral-rock hillock (Mt. Qihou) there, you’ll also spot the picturesque Kaohsiung Lighthouse (aka Qihou Lighthouse). After rounding the island’s northern end, head south and you’ll soon enter a long, narrow tunnel, the Qijin Star Tunnel, which has a beautifully lit ceiling with sparkling stars.
After emerging from the tunnel, you’ll soon find yourself riding along a long dark-sand beach. There are a number of interesting installation-art objects to see here, including the Rainbow Church, a giant seashell (Qijin Sea Pearl), and windmills inside the Qijin Windmill Park. The southern part of the island mostly consists of industrial areas, and unless you have a deep interest in container storage facilities you want to end your southbound venturing when you reach the Fuxing Temple and start your ride back up north.
Combining the excellent public transport network of Kaohsiung and the convenient public bike-rental system of the city, there are many more areas you can explore.
Riding along Kaohsiung Harbor you’ll come across a number of piers which have been turned into popular tourist attractions. Start your ride at Xingguang Riverside Park, between the Kaohsiung Exhibition Center and LRT Kaohsiung Exhibition Center Station, and work your way up north along the harborfront. You’ll pass such beautiful spots as the bridge across the Love River, Love Pier, Pier-2 Art Center, and Banana Pier. After passing the Gushan Ferry Terminal, ride around the peninsula at the northern side of the harbor entrance to reach Xizi Bay, known for glorious sunsets.
The cycling path around Lotus Pond is a bit more than 3km long, and you can circle this pretty body of water in less than half an hour. If riding counter-clockwise around the pond starting in the southeast corner you’ll first come to the Zhouzi Wetland Park (a large natural area great for waterbird watching), then to Kaohsiung Confucius Temple (the largest Confucius temple in Taiwan), then to the Zuoying Yuandi Temple (best known for a large statue of Xuanwu, a Daoist deity), then the Spring and Autumn Pavilions (a pair of octagonal 4-story pagodas built over the pond), and finally the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas (two 7-story structures you can enter by walking through a dragon and a tiger, respectively).
If you ride your own bike, note that you can take bikes onto the KMRT (Kaohsiung Metro) trains. Tickets (person+bike) are NT$60 (foldable bikes inside bags can be taken on the trains free of cost). Bikes are only allowed on the first car of each train (max. four bikes).
For more info, visit www.krtc.com.tw.
Before renting a bike at a station, check the condition of the bike. If the seat is turned backwards, it means the bike is in need of repair. Check the brakes and the tire pressure, and see if the seat can be adjusted to the desired height. Note that there is a time limit of 15 minutes between returning a bike and renting a new one.
For information about renting a YouBike, including registering, locations of rental stations, availability of bikes, etc., please refer to the Kaohsiung YouBike website or download the easy-to-use app.