Journey from Taichung to Kenting through the eyes of a local

My host arranged a trip to the southern most point of Taiwan. I am to travel by high speed train to Tainan and meet up with some really gracious friends who will drive the rest of the distance to Kenting.

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Full set of pictures are on my Flickr.

Breakfast was at the fancy Japanese sister to Burger King and McDonalds, Mos Burger. Buns made from rice? Don’t knock it until you try it. Instead of a dozen burgers with varying amounts of meat, cheese, and bacon like in the US burger chains, Mos Burger includes a wide variety of items including soups, side items, main items, and desserts, with unique Asian flavors. Seafood, mushrooms, duck, and the awesome tasting New Zealand natural beef makes some very impressive burger choices. Mos Burger’s philosophy is, “We hope that the intention is sincere, friendly service, delicious, safe and healthy meals for everyone.” Tasting the mushroom, shrimp, bacon, and egg rice burger, I would say the mission is accomplished. This would rock the United States!

Seafood and Mushroom Rice Burger,  Bacom Egg Burger

Shrimp, mushroom, bacon, egg rice burger. Go check out more pictures of Mos Burger at my Flickr.

We embarked on a smaller train to link up with the super fast High Speed Railway. The HSR can go to speeds of 300 km/hr. although, I clocked it at a whopping 290 km/hr. Tickets can be purchased as a pass, reloadable online or at the train stations. There are ticket machines at the stations However, at smaller stations, if you are running late you can get on the train and pay the conductor when they come by to check for tickets. If they don’t come by, guess it is your lucky day.

The rail way runs through a heavy agricultural belt. There are vast open fields of rice cultivation. The evidence of other crops are scattered throughout the area. Manufacturing factories dot the landscape. This area seems less traveled except for the occasional agricultural vehicle.

Tainan High Speed Rail Station is somewhat medium sized as compared to Taichung. Naturally, 7 Eleven graces the station on all levels. The station is located in a quiet area as evidence of less traffic.

The drive from Tainan to Kenting was marked with looming mountains and heavy vegetation. On the freeway, the speed limit is 60 –90 km. Most cars drive a little faster than 90 km, up to 100 km. There is respect for other drivers on the road.

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South Bay Beach Go to my Flickr for more pictures.

Closer to Kenting is marked by the many beaches along Taiwan’s southern coast. Although, these beaches are shelled sand and rocky. There is a nice stretch of white sand on South Bay Beach. Foreign and domestic surfers tend to flock here. There are several little western style eateries and bed and breakfast places. The vibe is cool and laided back as any surfer town.

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Houbihu Marina Go check out the amazing scenery at my Flickr.

Along the way we stopped in at Houbihu Marina. It is located next to the Power Generating station for Southern Taiwan. There are towers with Wind Turbines and a Nuclear Power Plant. Apart from the capacity of being able to handle over 300 vessels at a time, this is a bustling seafood mart. Fresh catch is sold here everyday.

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Maobitou Park Click on my Flickr link for more awesome views.

Further south is the touristy Maobitou Park, with herds of tourist in motor buses. It is a struggle to lumber up to the Look Out with all these people juggling for photo spots. The view is worth the climb, even braving the crowds. The coral rocky seashore breaks the crashing waves with loud pops even from high up in the air. It is breath taking. Just be patient with the swarm of people going up and down.

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Green Sea Bed and Breakfast Warning: Click my Flickr at your own risk. Images may cause you to hop on a plane.

There are several medium and larger hotels, although, the bed and breakfast seems to bustle with activities. Most Bed and Breakfast are very unique in character. We stayed at Green Sea Bed and Breakfast. This area is far removed, serene, and peaceful. It sits on top of a mountain crater with a sprinkling of other Bed and Breakfast places. It is one story with concrete structures sporting various nautical themes. Landscape is lush with greenery, windmill, and cozy outdoor areas. I am told that no two rooms are designed alike.

Our room was well appointed with large walk in tiled shower and a soaking tub. The ceiling and wall art complimented the furnishings. In this remote location, there was Free WI FI available. The front desk provided a password. Around the pool and open air bar area had the best Wireless Hotspot. Breakfast was served at the pool area. However, the gracious host was more than accommodating to bring breakfast around the many seating areas. This is one of the most calming, relaxing, peaceful places I have ever been visited. Oh… the air was pure heaven. Maybe it was heaven on top of that mountain. Be careful, you may not want to leave.

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Myanmar Thai Restaurant Click my Flickr to see the Myanmar Specialty and more pictures.

The hot spot at night is of course a strip on the road with restaurants, bars, night clubs, and the ever present street stands. We noticed a little place with a sign that said “Myanmar Cuisine”. Being the curious traveler, we had to check it out. On a closer look, it was really a Thai restaurant that offered Myanmar specialities. The menu was mostly of regular Thai flare available in most US Thai restaurants. But since the restaurant touts “Myanmar” why not try the specialty? After all there was a gazillion Taiwanese street stand steps away. If watered down, runny curry was a specialty, I am not so sure that “Myanmar” cuisine is what I would go after again. Needless to say the rest of the food was just average and service was nothing to telegram home about.

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Kenting More night images on Flickr.

The night activities here is all about being in the streets. However, since this is more of a tourist area, there is more to do than just street stands. The many bars and night clubs pulsate with music and hipsters impressing each other with their cool factor. I did see a little dog with “17 LIN” cut into his coat. The heavy “stinky tofu” smell filled the air. The night crowd here was a little looser in terms of being louder and having more fun than other parts of Taiwan. Probably because no one here is actually Taiwanese, but visitors. Cool place, nice hang outs.

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Eluanbi Light House at Kenting National Park For more spectacular scenes check out my Flickr.

Next morning saw us visiting Eluanbi Light House and Kenting National Park. Don’t think for once that it was easy to leave Green Sea Bed and Breakfast. If I had it my way, I would have stayed behind and let the others go ahead. But I am glad that I pried away from that mountain top, because the sea was well worth it’s trip in hidden treasures. Eluanbi Light House is in the Kenting National Park. With it’s majestic white presence and nautical museum, It is renowned as “the Light of East Asia” for its strong optical power of light that can reach 20 miles.

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Kenting National Park

The Kenting National Park is humongous. This section touches the sea. There is a walkway that weaves through the various scenic spots ranging from mountainous to sea level. Amazing rock surfaces kisses the coral sea with a very eco friendly constructed gangway that allows visitors close up views. It is amazing how one step you can be in a mountain and the next you are being splashed by sea spray and yet again you can be in an ancient cave. Wear very good hiking shoes, because this is no joke of a walk.

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Komori Buns Do not click if you are hungry Flickr

On the way back to Tainan we made two food stops. Okay, snack stops. First one was at this little steam buns place. They make every part of the buns onsite. From the counter you can see people busy in the back making fillings and buns. Gathering from the roadside line, this place has to be good. Well, it was an amazing little treat of porkiness cradled in pillowy softness.

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Hai Hon Restaurant Go see the little piggy walk Flickr.

Next stop was this seemingly unnoticeable car stop. Well, until you walk into the building. All they sell is pig’s feet. You ever had pig’s feet? Don’t squirm, come back here! You don’t know goodness. Yes, it was all of that and a little piggy tail. Simmered in a soy sauce based concoction, this was one of those things that you make a special trip to eat. Oh yeah, that good.

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Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Cultural Park See history in images here Flickr.

No trip to the south would be complete without going way back in time. I am talking ancient time. A visit to the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Cultural Park is a must stop. The sheer majesty of this place is mesmerizing. As you enter the gates it is evident that you are on mountain territory. There are many trams that drive around the park and make several stops. You can get on and off as you please. The park represents fourteen of Taiwan’s native tribes. Each tribe has it’s own area where history and origin is represented through artifacts, painting, and life size replicas of ancient times. Stunning. Even more amazing is the striking construction of this nod to history. The enormous park is spread over a couple of mountains. As you traverse the road ways it is stunning to watch sceneries and various levels go by. If there was a jaw dropping moment, this was it.

Naturally, there are cultural shows and even a little food stand that allows you to sit in ancient homes and dine. Quite the experience. If you are over 6 ft. I am not so sure you can pass through the door, much less hang in the living room. You might have to dine outside. Be aware that the food is cooked and left out, like the old days. Then, just reheated. Hope your tender stomach can handle it. The souvenir shop is stocked with some great finds.

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Chih-Kan Peddler’s Noodle Caution do not click on an empty stomach. Flickr.

As evening fell we were back in Tainan. Time for a nice sit down meal. Since it was the only meal we were going to have in Tainan, our friends wanted to make sure we got a taste of the entire city. What better place than a small plate street peddler restaurant? From the outside Chih-Kan Peddler’s Noodle looks like a relic from a bygone era. As it turns out, this is actually from the era of expats.

Facing the street is a small balcony with gorgeous cascading flowers. The first floor welcomes weary travelers with plants and wafting aromas that whispers “come in and nourish your soul”. First floor has a tantalizing spread of buffet style small dishes for diners to choose. The second floor is where the real feast happens. Up there you order entire flights or full courses, rather in this case, a ton of small plates. The food is brought up on an old dummy elevator, then placed on a cart and brought to your table. Yes, they need a cart for this spread.

Looking out the second floor balcony window and observing the dining room from that angle, you can feeling the lingering nostalgia that this was a place of history. If only these walls could talk. The old school house furnitures, antique lanterns, old costumes, and scattered artifacts integrated as a place that time has stood still. I am half expecting some sort of important international conversation happening at the next table. Or some kind of mystic happenings in the other room. Maybe it is all of this great food rolling around in my belly.

I had no expectations before the start of this trip. But as the night falls and I am taking the High Speed Train back to Taichung, I reflect on the memories I gained. I humbly declare that I do not possess the skill level to paint the picture I saw and felt. No amount of writing or pictures can translate the feeling, scent, and sense of being that came from this experience. I hope from this post and my blurry pictures you can take away a fraction of my awe. Kenting is a magical place, with a heartbeat all of it’s own. I am forever thankful for the time and patience of my fixers, thank you for showing me your home.

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