Southern Taiwan: Kenting, the sunniest place in Taiwan
I couldn’t wait to see my beloved friend Ann again and before I knew it, I was back in Southern Taiwan and back to Kenting.
Northern Taiwan is no doubt neat, but I prefer the weather in Kenting a hundred times more.
Time in Kenting means spending quality time with Ann.
Her house with the six roommates is literally a party house.
And all of her friends are beyond welcoming and each of them are boasting with their energy and personality. Moreover, the beer and junk food supply is never slim. You guys were making me fat!!
The music plays all night long and nobody complains. Kitten and cats all around you, a heaven for cat lovers.
But I have to add that the location of the house is in Hengchun Township, the entry way to Kenting National Park.
A vibrant city like Hengchun attracts more travelers than locals. Therefore, you will spot lots of foreigners at the night market in Hengchun.
The area is well-known for its warm temperatures throughout the whole year. Even Hengchun means “Eternal Spring” in Chinese. It is no surprise that locals from Taipei would take the high speed train after work on Friday to southern Taiwan. Kenting area has neither a cold winter nor an extremely hot summer.
Instead of going to Kenting Street Night Market, I’d advise you to visit Hengchun might market that is held every Sunday. It is more unique and the vendors sell items and food according to local people’s taste.
At one flea market in Hengchun I saw a terrifying image in front of me:
Men who brandished rhythmically kitchen cleavers on the bodies of their clients like they have been the best butchers nationwide in their earlier life. And now reborn to give the bodies of unknown people a special treatment.
It turns out that the therapy bears the name daoliao and people in China have been undertaking knife massages since thousands of years ago. Those who suffered from diseases, which can’t be treated by traditional Chinese medicine would ask monks to ease their grievances with daoliao.
If you are searching for a relaxing holiday, Kenting is perfect for you. With pristine beaches and delightful weather plus an laid-back environment, you won’t get disappointed if you’ll decide to drop by.
Sheding Nature Park
Instead of paying for Kenting National Park, we decided to plan our trip differently: Visiting Sheding Nature Park and loitering in special food places.The entrance is free for Sheding, merely NTD10 for parking space.
You could trek probably for three hours in this nature park.
Sheding is not suitable for those with pram and wheelchairs.
There are many steps to conquer, so think twice if you plan to take your kids with you.
Nevertheless, my favourite part of Sheding National Forest Recreation Area are the two viewing pavilions: Verdant Pavillion and Skyward Pavillion.
The Verdant Pavilion has great views of the east coast of Kenting, it is unsheltered and very windy up there.
On the contrary the Skyward Pavilion is sheltered with bench seats and tables.
I tried to look up for the place Ann and I visited in Kenting, a stone garden combined with a foodie place, but no results found.
In general there are extraordinary eating places and coffee shops in Kenting with their own unique interior design, you will find them once you take off the beaten path.
Kaohsiung, the industrial center of Southern Taiwan
I have mixed feeling about Kaohsiung.
Eat, pray and love could be placed in the second biggest city of Taiwan with the name Kaohsiung. The other side of the coin: Kaohsiung is very polluted with countless motorcycles overstuffing the streets.
In January and February of 2017 I was bombarded with polluted air. Moreover, smoking is also unrestricted.
Tainan is only 15 minutes far away with Taiwan High Speed Rail. Kaohsiung is cheaper than Taipei, therefore you can eat as much as you desire. Food and transport are good and convenient.
The heart of Kaohsiung beats in the night markets and the Love River.
Like in Ruifeng Night Market, where all the crowds no matter young or old, food and shopping come together.
It is interesting to observe how people are being engrossed by the games offered at the night markets or devour ravenously their food as if they didn’t eat for days. The motto for the Xinjuejiang shopping district is: “Shop ’til you drop”. All the multitudinous choices of fake brand glasses until trendy clothing are limitless. You are more confused by the question “Where the heck should I start?”.
Reverse your fortune at the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas.
Some people believe that you were either born with luck or not.
But for people from Kaohsiung (or Taiwanese people in general?) there is a superstitious custom to reserve one’s fortune from bad to good. The Lotus Pond on the east side of Kaohsiung City has numerous temples around the lake, among them the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas.
To be honest, I didn’t do it and I got to know about the custom just when I left Kaohsiung. As far as I remember, I even did the custom in the reverse way, I walked into the mouth of the tiger and out from the dragon’s mouth. Wait, wait does it mean now I have bad luck until the end of my days?
By the way, don’t omit to drop by the Spring and Autumn Pavilions and the Confucian Temple.
Looking on google maps, it didn’t look so far cycling to Fo Guang Shan.
After visiting the Lotus Pond I decided spontaneously and without thinking to visit Fo Guang Shan. It was a hell of an uphill ride for about 25km (15 miles), it got dark and when I finally arrived the monastery and museum were closed. God damn it and my body was literally like sticky rice. I tried to make the best out of my silly situation and cycled to Cijin Island. Sometimes google maps and I fail if we are bonding together.
Therefore, I cycled in a remote area and tried to get to Cijin Island, but it was impossible. No way I could have made it with the bicycle, perhaps with a scooter but not with my antiquated two-wheeler.
On this day bad luck clung tightly to me. In this dark remote area, I was surrounded by huge fuming factories and started to have a bad cough.
Behind a gate of a factory a dog barked loudly, still relaxed I tried to get deeper into the area with no one around me. From one second to another, the dog jumped out of the gate and chased after me in a high-speed I have never seen a dog run before. My heart was in my mouth and I was nearly to collapse and close to a heart attack. Hell yeah! I never cycled in my life as fast as in this moment of my existence. The dog got really close to my tyre and I was praying I would get out alive. I am even sure he was drooling.
The best of all is yet to come: My battery died on my way back, somehow I managed it to arrive home safely, but needed two cruel freezing hours to get there.
My second time in Kaohsiung
Behold the world’s largest glass installation piece “Dome of Light” at Formosa Boulevard station. The colourful and breathtaking ceiling is made of stained glass and divided into four colours which symbolise the elements of water, earth, light and fire.
Kaohsiung’s art scene can be visited at Pier Two aka Art Pier. Once it was an abandoned warehouse at Kaohsiung harbour. Nowadays, the whole pier representing a huge amount of artworks and is the perfect spot for everyone craving a brief escape from the frantic city life.
Tip: The pineapple cake brand “Sunny Hills” is located at Pier 2 Art Center, you can queue up to get one pineapple cake for free tasting. Who comes to Taiwan and never tried pineapple cake will miss one of the most delicious cakes ever.
During the days I usually dawdle away my time in one of the many parks of Kaohsiung. Or I would claim the cycleway down and up of the Love River and enjoy the picturesque scenery.
Tip: On the large rooftop of the building of Kaohsiung Main Public Library you have a stunning view over the city. The spot for snuggling couples when the sun sets down.
Paris is definitely not the only city of love. The Love River is every bit as captivating as its European counterpart, particularly at night.
Ai He reminiscent of Venetian romance with its baby-blue waters, romantic boat rides, impressive landmarks lining at the river bank and glinting light reflections on the river by night.
The ride admission costs NTW 200.
To put everything on top of kitsch add the Love Pier to your list.
While everyone goes to 85 Sky Tower, I hiked around Ape Hill aka Shoushan National Nature Park. By night a friend and I hiked there for 5 hours and this might be my absolute highlight of Kaohsiung.
The trails are empty and at one secret place we climbed up a vine and got to understand Tarzan’s euphoria to swing between lianas.
During sunset time perhaps this is the best viewpoint in Kaohsiung.
The night view of Kaohsiung with streetlights and headlights is intensely jazzy.
I had the great opportunity to stay with a generous and warm-hearted family, who got a special place in my heart. Their love and friendliness was sparking at our first encounter. The father of my friend Holden even took me to the countryside of Tainan and I am more than grateful for everything they did for me.
In this sleepy seaside city, I found another place in Taiwan where I feel welcome to come back anytime and one or even two families I adore immensely. My experiences are based on connections I made with locals in this country in order to fully comprehend their manners and mentalities.