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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Southernmost Tip of Taiwan

This is the last time I apologize for a super long post.  It's just how I write!  Oh well!!

As mentioned in the previous post, Tom and I recently took a trip to Kenting, which lies all the way at the bottom of Taiwan.  It's a National Park and very popular vacation spot for Taiwanese and foreigners alike.  About half way through this post you're probably going to be thinking we're crazy.  Anyway, we had planned to go a few weeks in advance and had taken the day off and everything when we learned that there was possibly going to be a typhoon coming in on the day we had planned to leave!  We, of course, did not want to go if there was going to be a typhoon, but we were really disappointed and the news about the typhoon was a bit inconsistent.  One person would say, "definitely Typhoon" and another would say, "I'm pretty sure it has changed it's course."

With the ambiguity + our anxiousness to go, we probably would have just decided to go anyway had it not been for the fact that we were planning on driving there....on our scooter, a huge target for the elements, instead of taking a bus or something.  

We checked the weather any way we could and continued to be undecided even until after breakfast, the Friday we had planned to leave.  The night before we'd said, "let just see how the weather is when we wake up."  Of course, when we woke up the sky was cloudy but not ominous - ever ambiguous.  So we said, "let's go to breakfast and see if it clears up."  Of course, it didn't, so we said, "let's pack everything up and start driving and if a typhoon comes we can always pull over and take shelter."  So that's what we did.

Here was our plan.  We had a map, but we had to drive south for a while before it would start covering our route and we had to get almost all the way to Kenting before it started covering it well enough for us to use only the map.  So, I plugged the route into google maps (yes, it works in Taiwan) and since we don't have a printer and since google maps directions were in Chinese I zoomed in on the google maps map where at least some of the roads were in Chinese and hand wrote directions for the whole way.  Luckily you can choose to not use highways on GMs because scooters aren't allowed on highways.  Sound complicated yet?  Think we're crazy yet?  

On top of that, our planned form of accommodation was....camping.  Yup.  And let's not forget that you need gear for camping and scooters are, well, small.  So, that leads us to the picture below.  As you can see, Tom is sporting my large backpacking bag, which also had a tent inside of it (we pack light).  Draped over his shoulder is a long sleeved shirt - his only protection if it were to rain.  In his hands are his helmet and our food bag, which we hooked on the front of the scooter.  And of, course, headphones coming out of his shirt for the long drive.  Actually, you can't tell, but he also has two sleeping bags draped over his shoulder.

The big bag was placed where the driver's feet usually go and the sleeping bags were tied to the back.  It was quite the scene.  There is a picture of the scooter farther down that you may use to visualize this.

The first real disaster of the trip was that before we'd even been out for an hour and before we even got to the area our map covers, we...lost the directions.  Yeah, they flew away.  Whoops!  We decided to keep going.  It's a miracle that we figured out where to go seeing as how only some signs have English on them.  We got lost several times.  We also had to take frequent breaks, like when we stopped at the park shown below for some stretching.

Google maps estimated that the drive would take us 4 hours and 15 minutes.  We finally limped our way into the campsite after about 7.  It takes about 20 minutes on the back of a scooter for your rear to go completely numb, your back to start hurting and your ankles to get sore.  It....was...miserable.  

On a positive note, campsites in Taiwan are quite posh.  The bathrooms resemble real bathrooms, the areas are landscaped nicely and tents go on platforms instead of the ground.  As you can see below, this one even had a nice frame around it.  These photos were taken in the morning.

The campsite next to this huge field.  It was so green and just gorgeous!  We had brought along our baseball mits and ended up playing lots of catch on this grass.  

Anyway, after we arrived and set everything up we went out to the city's main road and had some dinner.  See the previous post.  If you've read that post, you know that dinner only made the day worse.  Finally, we went to sleep - or at least tried to.  While there was no typhoon, it was VERY windy and the walls of our tent shook like you cannot imagine.  It really felt like we were in a typhoon.  To make matters worse, it started to rain in the middle of the night and when we stumbled out to try to attach the rain tarp we found that the one in the bag was for a much larger tent (we were borrowing from a friend). That only made the wind worse because then there was double flapping.  Plus, it didn't completely block the rain.  On TOP of all this, I got a massive migraine in the middle of the night.  Plus, the heat was stifling.

By the time Tom woke up I was DONE and ready to GO.  As soon as the rain died down we headed into town and miraculously found some tylenol.  We had breakfast at McDonalds while I waited for the meds to kick in and went to the visitor's center.  Things pretty much went uphill from there.

The headache disappeared and we decided to try to find a hike our friend had told us about that purportedly had 7 waterfalls.  It was a bit tricky to find, but we did and it was great!  It was very jungle-like and beautiful and we felt like Indiana Jones because you had to hold onto ropes the whole way up because it was so steep and slippery.  See below.

At one point we met this little fella who was chillin on the rope.  He was NOT shy.  He'd let us get as close as we wanted, which is very unusual for a lizard.  Sweet yellow stripe too.

While I was taking photos of the lizard we were surprised to hear someone from behind us ask, "see any waterfalls, yet?"  English is always unexpected.  The voice turned out to be from a guy who was from Taiwan but had been living in Vancouver for most of his life.  His wife was with him too.  Not too much further and the trail ended with a sign that just said not to keep going.  So, we chatted with the couple for quite a while.  It was nice to talk to some new people in English.  

While we chatted we soaked our feet in an icy pond and, to our left we noticed this little guy:

Actually, he was pretty big.  Also, I think he was eating another crab.  Gross!

Here's Tom headed back down:

I've mentioned this in previous posts, but Taiwan had these otherworldly huge spiders.  You see them all over the place when you hike.  I am not a spider person, so I'm always freaking out inside when we hike.  We saw this one on the hike down and it may have been the biggest one yet.  The body, alone, is significantly bigger than my thumb.  The legs are thicker than toothpicks.  They...are...sinister.  Plus, every time we moved it would make sudden movements too.  Scared the living daylights out of me!  Can you find the babies?

On a happier note, check out the beautiful beach scenery!

That night we just took it easy.  Every night the main street in lined with food and souvenirs stalls for at least a mile or longer.  Tons of people shuffle along on the sides of the street and it's so crowded that it's hard for cars to get through and if you're not careful you'll get run over by a bus.  We headed there every night for dinner.  This night we ate at a lovely Thai place.  The food was delicious!  We got a green curry and a pineapple, coconut curry.  For desert I had this coconut + jelly + fruit thing that I hadn't had in years.  Mmmm.

That night, I slept alright, but Tom kept waking, sitting bolt upright and yelling, "typhoon!"  I'd assure him it was only wind or he'd stumble out to see for himself.  At one point he also couldn't handle the heat and went outside for a while.  We each had our night of misery.  

The campsite was also home to a flock (?) of turkeys.  They would wander all over the place and even walked right by our tent at one point.  I love their goofy sound.

We had McDonald's for breakfast again, then headed to a beach we'd heard was nice that was a bit farther away.  It's called Baisha.  I was expecting a bit more deserted beach, but we ended up having a great time anyway.  We played in the clear water, made a sandcastle, took a nap and read ("Treasure Island" for me).  But, hands down the best part of both the beach and the trip was our inner tube ride.  

All of the area beaches offer rides on various inner tubes, pulled by a seadoo.  We chose one that was rather small and triangle shaped, with a hole for your bum in each corner.  I'm pretty sure the seadoo driver took one look at us and thought, "foreigners - I'll show them!"  One second we had just sat down and barely gotten our hand around the handles and the next we were hanging on for DEAR LIFE.  Anyone who knows me well knows I have a killer grip, but even I was really struggling.  We both couldn't help but laugh this nervous, uncontrollable laughter.   The reason why it was so difficult is because the guy just went around in circle after circle.  Centrifugal forces are STRONG.  It was terrifying, but the most fun I've had in a long time.

At one point, we went over a bump and as soon as we did I knew Tom was done.  Sure enough, I looked over just in time to see his whole body, stiff as a board, fly into the air and skid across the water.  He said it was fun.  I didn't fall the whole time. In fact, when we got out and walked back past the other inner tubes and workers, one of the lady employees gave me a big thumbs up and said, "yeah!  Good job!"  I've never been more proud.

Below is our sandcastle.

Here is Hank (the scooter):

A few photos of the beach:

When we left, we headed to another close by town and booked a hostel room for our last night.  We were DONE with camping.  I really do love camping most of the time, but not this time.  It was such a relief to walk into this humble, but nice sunlit room.  And even moreso to sink into this glorious bed - the first bed to actually "give" when I lay on it for almost a year now.  We took a delicious nap before heading back out to the main street again for dinner.

This time we ate at food stand that sold thin crust, California style pizzas with an actual stone oven right there on the side of the road.  It was fabulous.  I also found some beautiful shells for my hermit crabs in another shop.

That night we slept like dead men, then woke up early for the drive back.  Somehow, this time it only took us 4 hours.  We were back in time to take showers, eat and nap before heading to work that evening.



  1. Jeez, I'm exhausted just reading about it!! It's cool that you guys go on so many little adventures though. You aren't a boring couple like us. ;-)

  2. Your blog is totally one of my most favorites to read, I am sort of living vicariously through it. What an awesome experience that you will always look back on and laugh about! I wish you we lived near you guys so we could do exploring together! Someday...........right?!

  3. Oh, and where does your blog title quote come from?

  4. It's really good to hear that you enjoy reading it, because most of the time I feel like it's just me talking to myself (which is alright too). What's ironic is that I love both of you girls' blogs and, in many ways, live through you guys with your babies and houses and stable lives! Em - do you think you guys will ever move out of Indiana? Or is convincing Tom to move there the only solution? The quote under the blog title comes from an Ingrid Michaelson son called, "Keep Breathing." The title was inspired from the quote.