Touring Kaohsiung by KMART
Touring Kaohsiung by KMART
IT'S TAKEN A WHILE, BUT NOW IT'S UP AND RUNNING. THE KAOHSIUNG MASS RAPID TRANSIT SYSTEM (KMRT), FIRST PROPOSED BACK IN 1987, HAS BEEN MOVING PEOPLE AROUND TAIWAN'S SECOND-LARGEST CITY SINCE MARCH.
Both systems use 1,435-mm-gauge tracks, but the Taipei MRT runs longer trains. The ones on the KMRT are currently limited to three cars each because of the short temporary platforms at Kaohsiung Main Station. The KMRT will eventually operate six-car trains. Three-car trains arriving every ten minutes (every six minutes in peak periods) seem to be enough for current passenger numbers; you should be able to find a seat on every journey.
Compared to road transportation, the KMRT is both faster and smoother. From Zuoying in the city's north to the airport takes around 22 minutes; by bus it's an hour or more. The system's
service hours are 6 am to 11:30 pm.
In recent years, several of Taipei's MRT stations have added screen doors on platforms; every one of the KMRT's 28 underground stations has them. These have been installed not only for the safety of those waiting on the platforms, but also to save energy; screen doors cut station air-conditioning bills by at least 20 percent.
Compared to road transportation,the KMRT is both faster and smoother
Come fall, KMRT riders will also be able to switch from the Red Line to the Orange Line at Formosa Boulevard (O5/R10), ten minutes' walk south of Kaohsiung Main Station.
Most stations are accessed via narrow stairways and escalators beside major roads. At Central Park, however, the concourse — which is 11 meters below street level — is open to the outside world. This allows natural light and fresh air into the underground station.
The stairs to the concourse, flanked by banks of grass with a cascade of water running down the center, are covered by a white aluminum canopy nearly 60 meters long and weighing 220 tons.
Pleasing in the day and striking at night, the canopy stands on four clusters of thin yellow metal beams. These may not look especially robust, but the roof has been engineered to withstand super-typhoons. The canopy not only blocks rain but also captures it: rainwater is channeled to one end, where it is stored for landscaping.
Many of Kaohsiung's department stores are near Central Park, and the teenager-focused shopping/snacking/fashion district of Wunhua Street is just off nearby Wufu 2nd Road.
Another renowned architect has also left his mark on the KMRT. Taiwan-based architect, Shu Chang, came up with the boat-like shape of the World Games Station (R17), inspired by the stop's proximity to the sea and a naval base.
From the platforms of that elevated station, one can gaze inland at the foliage-covered hill called Banpingshan. It's this feature, rather than the ocean, that's reflected in the station's public art, a blue-green film laid over roofing glass. According to the website of design firm Wood Janssen Inc., this "rainforest canopy reclaims the place where it once flourished." KMRT employees say
late morning is the best time to appreciate this work, as sunlight shining through the colors adds a unique glow to the platforms.
Banpingshan bears the scars of decades of quarrying, but in recent years much of the damage has been repaired. The park that has been created here underscores Kaohsiung's transformation from a grimy industrial city to a healthy and highly livable metropolis.
Kaohsiung International Airport Station (R4) is noteworthy, and not only because of Lutz Haufschild's two-piece glasswork called "Emerald Laminata." It's an underground station, but near enough to the surface to have two large skylights. To make life easier for airline passengers with luggage, the corridors are extra-wide and there are elevators.
Which other stations are good for tourists as opposed to commuters? It has to be said, "Ecological District" (R15) sounds much more appealing than "Oil Refinery Elementary School" (R18) or "Nanzih Export Processing Zone" (R19). From the R15 station, you can walk to the Original Botanical Garden, an excellent place to learn about Taiwan's flora.
If art and not botany is your interest, get off at Aozihdi (R13). There, transfer to one of the 20 shuttle-bus routes that have been set up to spread the benefits of the KMRT to neighborhoods far from stations. If you want to get to the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, you'll need bus Red 13. To find out about current and upcoming exhibitions, go to www.kmfa.gov.tw.
You'll also need to board a bus if you want to see one of Kaohsiung's prime attractions, the Love River. Take Red 25 from Central Park.
Getting to the riverside will become much easier once Kaohsiung's light-rail ring link is in operation. This ground-level system will have 32 stations along a circular 19.6 kilometer route. Construction will start in 2009 and is expected to take four years. Transferring to the Orange Line will be possible at Wukuaicuo (O8), and to the Red Line at Aozihdi and Kaisyuan (R6).
The Dream Mall, Taiwan's biggest shopping center (and the sixth-largest in Asia), is a 15-minute walk or a short bus ride from Kaisyuan Station.?
If you want to learn about Taiwan's industrial history, head along the Red Line to Ciaotou Sugar Refinery (R22A). Some experts say this century-old complex is the finest of the 42 sugar refineries built in Taiwan. Declared a heritage site by Kaohsiung County Government in 1998, it includes railway sidings, workers' dormitories, pillboxes, and air-raid shelters, in addition to the refinery itself. The site is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays.
If you're planning to spend all day zipping around on the KMRT, get a day pass. These cost NT$200, including a NT$70 refundable deposit, and can be bought from the service-and-information offices in each station. If you're just making a single journey, use one of the bilingual touch-screen ticket-vending machines.
Many regard the opening of the KMRT as the most important thing to have happened in Kaohsiung since the turn of the century. However, in terms of sheer momentous excitement, it will likely be topped by next year's World Games, which will open here on July 16th, 2009 and last for 11 days.
The World Games are neither as big nor as well-known as the Summer Olympics, but will be, by far, the largest and highest-profile multi-sport event ever held in Taiwan.
The World Games have been celebrated every four years since
1981, when the first edition was hosted by the Californian city of Santa Clara. Host cities are selected by the International World Games Association, a federation of 32 global sports bodies under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee.
Kaohsiung, which was awarded the right to hold the eighth edition in mid-2004, expects to welcome more than 5,000 athletes and officials from 90-plus nations. They will compete for honors in 26 medal sports and five invitational events.
male — that allude to Kaohsiung's maritime history.
KMRT stations will play an important role in shuttling sports fans to and from the various venues. The World Games Station (R17) will serve the almost-complete but yet-to-be-named stadium on Jhonghai Road. The 41,000-seat stadium will be Taiwan's No. 1 soccer and track-and-field venue. During the World Games, it will be filled with fans of rugby sevens and flying disc.
Designed by renowned Japanese architect Toyo Ito, the structure is both visually striking and ecologically friendly. The roof is covered by electricity-generating photovoltaic solar cells, and rain that falls on the site is collected and stored for landscaping, toilet flushing, and fountains.
Kaohsiung Arena Station (R14) is less than five minutes' walk from the "dome" (as many locals call it) and the associated mall. The 15,000-seat indoor arena will host the World Games' gymnastics and dance-sports events. After 2009, it will be the city's premier basketball venue, and a place for concerts and exhibitions.
If you want to see air sports such as skydiving and free-flying parachuting, get off at Metropolitan Park Station (R21). If canoe polo, dragonboat racing, or water-skiing are particular favorites, head for the recently renovated Lotus Lake, best reached by shuttle bus Red 51 from Zuoying Station (R16).