The adventure continues in Southern Taiwan, in a famous beach town called Kenting on the southernmost tip, and Tainan, the former capital of Taiwan on the Southwest coast. Kenting is known as sort of a hippie surfer town, and loads of people flock here year round to catch a wave. Although it’s the low season now in January, I ran into one guy from Cali who said the waves are still pretty amazing, and he spent about 10 days riding. I also definitely met some Chinese hippies, complete with a mega tan, long hair, and smelling of patchouli, just living the surf life. But for whatever reason, I didn’t really feel like trying my hand in surfing, so I opted to rent another weed-whacker with 2 wheels to cruise around the coast and see the local sites. You can rent a scooter for about $10 USD for 24 hours, although the scooter’s condition isn’t always the greatest, it should get the job done. And get it done it did. I flew first to the very tip of the Island, the southernmost point, to hit the beach. As it turns out, there’s not a beach there at all, but some pretty cool looking coral that’s been pushed ashore. It resembled the surface of a far off undiscovered planet more than anything else, something akin to Star Trek or Total Recall. Have a look:
While trying to find this confusingly marked place, I ran into a girl who happened to be from Mainland China, studying at a university in Hangzhou, but taking a semester abroad here in Taiwan. If you know your Chinese geography, then you know Hangzhou is just an hour ride on the Gaotie 高铁, or Chinese high speed train from my locale of Shanghai. We were both equally as lost, so we decided to hang out and check out the sites together, which was awesome for me as it allowed me to practice my Chinese ALL DAY LONG!!!
After dark, we’d heard about a site called Chuhuo 出火 where natural gas leaks up through the soil constantly and has been burning for ages, an eternal flame of sorts. I know it sounds sort of stupid, but we were curious so we hopped on the scooter and cruised up to check it out. Admittedly, I had extremely low expectations, but it was actually rather interesting. There are exceptional factors that made this lame sounding site even more exceptional: 1. It was at night, coming during the day would be pointless as you would probably barely notice the flames, and 2. It was during the low season, which apparently means you don’t need to obey any of the site rules. There was a circular chain encompassing the ‘gassy’ area that clearly said “Do Not Enter,” but of course we didn’t see that until afterwards (obviously there to prevent misguided tourists from wandering in and igniting themselves on fire). There was also signs clearly forbidding people from touting things, but the moment we got down there we saw an old hippie guy selling popcorn that you could cook yourself over the open flames. There weren’t many people around, so we just walked in and warmed up after the cool scooter ride. We took a few snapshots, and it turned out to be one of the highlights for me, as it reminded me of cozy spring time (or fall) campfire. Check it oooot!:
The one on the left looks curiously like a horse on its hind legs.
After that, it was back to town to hit up yet another night market (every city has one in Taiwan) for amazingly cheap and even more amazingly tasty treats. The typical routine was followed. Step 1: stuff my face full of as many different foods as I could find. Step 2: Waddle back to the hostel to digest and settle in for the night.
After Kenting, I parted ways with my Chinese friend Jiajia as she had to go back to her university in Taichung and finish up some exams before she headed back to mainland to celebrate CNY (that’s Chinese New Year to the lay person). I decided to skip the 2nd biggest city in Taiwan, Kaoshiung, and instead head to the former Taiwan capital of Tainan for 2 days. There was loads of history in Tainan and more temples than you can shake a stick at.
I met another American traveler, Tom, at the Iris Tower hostel and we hung out and saw the sites together. Since I’ve lived in China for nearly 3 years now, I’ve had my fill of temples and shrines, as well as seen enough preserved brick walls in dirt. Yes there’s lots of history there, but at the end of the day, everybody is standing around a fenced off area staring at old bricks laying in dirt in a hole. The sites didn’t particularly interest me, but if you are really into history, particularly Taiwanese history, then Tainan is a must see. Nonetheless, we saw a good chunk of the city then headed off once more to yes, you guessed it, the night market. Tainan has a couple of really big night markets that were buzzin! Some of the food stall lines were long, and the lanes were packed with both fashion and food shoppers alike. Since I have no fashion sense, and more importantly a huge appetite, I opted to stick to the food vendors, and was greatly rewarded for it. Everything I ate was something new, from a bacon cheese crepe, to a sweet beef burrito, and God knows how many different foods on sticks. I got exceptionally stuffed before retiring back to the hostel, and giving my bipedal appendages a rest. No scooter today boys! Here are some highlights from Tainan:
Boys playing a beach game where each round you lose, you must take one step closer to the water.
Keep posted! More updates to come about Taipei and India!