Early January. It has been cold in Taipei over New Year’s and temperatures continue to plummet. Unusually cold, I hear. I don’t mind it so much outside, it reminds me of home. But most buildings here don’t have heating, so it becomes a 24 hour thing. I sleep with a tuque. Oh well, this too shall pass. And luckily, my next adventure is already planned.
It’s raining (again) in Taipei as I take my leave and jump on the HSR to Kaohsiung (1.5 hours) and an Express bus to Kenting (2.25 hours) – easy, comfortable, fast.
Kenting is a small seaside town just a 15 minute scooter ride from the most southern point in Taiwan. I mulled long over hotel choices and in the end decided to spend a little more on a room with Seaview of Big Bay – and what a good choice. I love sitting on my little balcony looking out over the ocean to the far horizon; I love going to sleep and waking up with the sound of the waves (and other sounds of course, too)- there is something eternally soothing and at the same time invigorating being by the sea. Such timeless aliveness. I’ve missed being around it! In Canada, on my island home. one can often find me in a kayak on the ocean or strolling through estuaries in Cowichan Bay. Or driving out to the Wild West Coast to enjoy the beaches of the Juan de Fuca trail. When in Vancouver, I love to take a bicycle ride along the beach, watching amazing sunsets – the ocean has been an important companion in my life for the past 30+ years or so. I just deeply love the ocean and am so happy to be here.
The weather in the first couple of days is delightfully sunny and warm. Lovely sunsets. The Big Bay beach offers itself for long walks, but is unsafe for swimming. However, the surfers are having fun and I have fun watching them.
Little Bay beach is just a 10 minute walk up the road and more sheltered, has a small beach cafe and invites us for a swim. Oh yeah, forgot to say, Kaya joined me early in the morning after taking a night bus from Taipei, crashing on my bed for a nap before checking into her hostel later. She’s come down for a couple of days to spend my birthday with me here. xo
At the beach Cafe, Kaya works away on her computer, and I take my time to look around, take photos, do a little beach combing and bird watching… feeling the sand beneath my feet and squishing between my toes, even rolling around in it. The water is clean and inviting – not warm, but warm enough to enjoy swimming. We splash and float enjoying the waves, the buoyancy, the scenery. Peace. Fun.
During the summer high season, Kenting is known as “people mountain, people sea” (get it?) and also for its lively night market. During my stay, only the Saturday night get’s a wee bit busier. I feel for the vendors… though Taiwan is doing overall very well during the pandemic, many are still economically challenged. There used to be thousands more tourists…
I get a text. “Mum, I have a proposition. Will call u in an hour.” Changes to our plans? Yes. Friends of friends are planning a hike and do I want to do that instead of the easy one we planned? Hmm, let me think. Images from the last big hike we did come to mind (which challenged me a bit more than my liking), but hey, why not. I’m fit now. Let’s do it. So in the morning we get on the scooter to meet them in Hengchun, a 30 minute ride away at Martin’s favourite lunchbox place. It’s a cloudy day. And it’s windy. Very, very windy! The area is known for its wind, but in combination with a cold spell it’s just colder than expected. (Still not that cold if you’re dressed for it.) If you would have been there, you would have heard our screams and howls and whaahoos when an especially strong wind blow pushed us around.
At the buffet we meet Martin and Ting, and their friends who are a colourful group of international travellers stranded here courtesy of the pandemic. I get to celebrate my birthday with a bunch of lovely hippies on a wild mountain hike – what’s not to like?! We get our lunch boxes and take off on another 20 minute scooter ride swerving along in the wind.
After an easy walk in, it does become a somewhat challenging hike, the kind where you have to keep your eyes on the ground, watch your steps, climb over rocks and boulders, hold on to ropes, and sometimes need a helping hand. But it’s mostly fun. Martin hands out wooden walking sticks at the start to chase away snakes or other wildlife. And of course to provide support. And my stick comes in handy many times.
What a colourful group! Some Italians who got stranded on Taiwan sailing from New Zealand to Japan. A Cuban American musician who I get to enjoy another day at his gig. Martin and Ting, Kaya, Swami, another Italian who got stranded in Taiwan. Good conversations as we clamber and climb and sit and talk and dip into an inviting mountain pool – a refreshing birthday dip along with two of the gents. Martin and I share Germany as birthplace, even the same region. So much fun to dive into conversation in our mother tongue. Even his Taiwanese wife Ting speaks German (she studied for a few years in Germany) – how fun!
After sunbathing and swimming at Puppy beach, we move on to White Sand Bay to listen to Alex. It’s cooling off, but I still have to smile how Taiwanese bundle up in what would be just a little cool for us Canadians.
Martin has many stories to tell from his globetrotting life – he spent most of his adulthood travelling and living abroad on just about every continent. As a diving instructor, he has been spending his winters mostly in Thailand; and like most of us, his life and travel plans were upended by the lockdowns. A few days later, we spend time together and I listen to many of his stories. Such interesting lives one can lead travelling on this beautiful planet. His stories aren’t mine to tell, but maybe he’ll write a book sometime!
Kenting beaches are: Big Bay, Little Bay; another little beach in Eluan near Sail Rock. White Sand Bay, Puppy Beach, Mobitou Park, South Bay in the area of the Maanshan Nuclear Power Plant. Yep. Here it is, nicely framed by a couple of wind turbines (zoom in). By the way, the White Sand beach area was a setting for Ang Lee’s film “Life of Pi” in 2012. 🙂
I hear that it gets really busy here in the summer when the cities are sweltering hot and everyone wants to cool off. One of the pleasures travelling during the pandemic in Taiwan has been the lack of tourists. Yes, more Taiwanese are travelling within Taiwan at the moment, but overall the numbers are down.
Another day, I explore Kenting National Park – meandering paths through natural landscapes and botanical gardens, caves and ponds… fun! I forget my camera at my rest spot, realize it when I want to take a photo of a bat in Silver Dragon cave, luckily remember where I left it, and sure enough when I get to the bench the camera is still there. Taiwan is a very safe country. Nowhere else, including my home countries, have I felt as safe about leaving my bag or things of value sitting on a table or bench… The bat had moved to a different location by the time I got back. But I got see one of the wild deer along the path. We just looked at each other for a minute before he wandered off.
Sheding Park, right next to Kenting National Park, is free and a great area to watch butterflies, walk through the natural landscapes, explore several coral rock gorges, enjoy view points of Baisha Straight. It’s different here from the lush mountain jungles.
The most southern point is a point to rest a while and take in the meeting of the Pacific Ocean and Baisha Channel – the waves are wild, crashing and wind-blown, a solemn place, fabulous to just sit and watch…
Though the weather was a mixed bag, to be by the ocean is such a treat!
Last, but not least, here is a little “Beach Trash Gallery…”
Fast forward – it’s early February now and I’m back in Kenting. It’s busier already with Chinese New Year around the corner. I’ve been warned not to be here during CNY next week and am heeding the advice. “People mountain, people sea” is surely coming – I’ll be in Tainan after Sunday. Here are some some recent moments… just for fun!