Adorned with huge public artworks and thrumming night markets, Kaohsiung is the perfect introduction to energetic Taiwan. The busy harbour of the country's third-biggest city fuelled rapid growth here, and while it's vast in scale, Kaohsiung has wide and airy boulevards - interspersed with parks where fountains fire water high into the sky. Filled with cultural splendour – you can visit soaring temples lit by softly glowing lanterns, and taste exotic street foods as you fall for this city, which is dissected by the Love River.
The vividly coloured Dragon and Tiger Pagodas soar into the sky above the blooming flowers of Lotus Lake, promising visitors good luck – on the proviso that they enter through the dragon's mouth and leave via the tiger. The good fortune kicks in instantly, as you emerge to see the zigzagging path that leads to the Pei Chi Pavilion. Rows of long fishing rods lean out over the walls of Cijin Island, while the fruits of the ocean are served up amid a sensory overload of neon lights, and swells of people, in Liuhe night market. Try sea snails and lobster, before cooling off from Taiwan's heat with some shaved ice - flavoured with a sweet banana kick.
Central Park is a green and spacious escape in the heart of Kaohsiung, while primates scamper through the airy forested mountain trails of Shou-Shan Mountain behind the city. Elsewhere, you can take the short hop out of the city to Fo Guang Shan Monastery, where a troupe of eight pagodas will lead you on the walk up to the humungous buddha which glints on top of the striking temple.