海角七號之旅 III – Kenting Journey (Updated)

We spent 3 relaxing days at Kenting. This was the place where the box-office movie “Cape No. 7” was shot. There were so many things to do and places to explore. Our hotel was exceptionally beautiful with all the 5-star facilities. We stayed just 10min-walk away from the Kenting Night Market and the “Small Bay” beach.

We hired a local driver  to bring us to all the key attractions. The 7-seater MPV cost us NT3,000/day. It took us 2 full days to explore Kenting. The weather was great (clear blue sky in the day and cooling at night) for all our day and night activities. Kenting is stunning. It reminded us a bit of South Africa, Australia, Phuket, Goa and Bali. During our trip, we saw road crabs and mountain goats dashing crossing the road. In total, we covered a total of 180km – from rocky mountain to cold underwater. Our driver was very good and he planned our our trips very well. He spoke about how the popularity of the movie “Cape No. 7” improved the tourism in Kenting.

See our tracks here: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=918722


Here are our Top 12 favorite Moments in Kenting:

NUMBER 1 – SHEDING NATURE PARK (社頂自然公園)
This is a free park where we saw dozens of limestone caves, stalactites, stalagmites, stone pillars and other limestone erosion. We spent about 1.12 hr here, hiking 2.2km exploring the deep narrow limestone valleys.



NUMBER 2 – HOUBIHU WATER ACTIVITES (後壁湖)

We did both dry and wet underwater tour. On our first day, we scouted the seabed in a glass-bottom boat. It was a 40min-ride and it cost NT600/person. The next day, we went snorkeling in our wet suits and took a hell-ride on the banana boat out in the wavy sea. The water was very cold and the dry suit barely kept us warm. The banana boat ride was the best! The sea was very choppy and the waves were quite big. The ride was pretty rough and poor Harshad lost his grip and flew out of the boat. In the end, the boat did a U-turn to recover our lost friend. Seeing our poor buddy floating alone helpless in the open sea was quite a hilarious sight. For a minute, our fun ride became a rescue mission.



NUMBER 3 – MOUNTAIN MOTORBIKING & ARCHERY

For NT1,000/bike, we had our first mountain motorbiking. It was very exciting and fun! We attended a 15min-crash course at the foot of the mountain where the instructors taught us how to handle our bikes. After a couple of rounds in the circuits, we followed the instructors up to the mountains where we rode on narrow hilly paths. Do not underestimate this little motorbike, it can hit up to 80km. As we were new and unfamiliar with the mountain tracks, we kept our speed below 40km. Going up and down the slopes was very fun! (How I wish I can knock my other 2 buddies off the track!) We also tried archery but we kinda suck in this. For NT100, we got 12 arrows. It was strenuous and difficult to aim. We stick to our wheels and dumped the arrows and bows.




NUMBER 4 – JIALESHUI
(佳樂水)

This was where we saw many rock formations along the eastern coastal of Kenting. We paid NT80/person and rode on a tour cart. The entire tour took less than 30 minutes. Along the coastal road, the tour guide made several stops and introduced some of their famous rocks. Many of these nature rock formations resembles animals, goddess and even the map of Taiwan! (Tip: It is best to sit on the right of the cart so you get a clear view of the coast.)



NUMBER 5 – SOUTHERN MOST POINT OF TAIWAN (臺灣最南點)

There was nothing much here except it was more for the “feel-good” reason to be here. We just want to leave our mark here – so we can come back and tell our friends that we have been to the southern most point of the Taiwan island. Same like what we have in Singapore – Asia’s Southern Most Point can be found in Sentosa Island.


NUMBER 6 – ELUANBI LIGHTHOUSE (鵝鑾鼻燈塔)

The Eluanbi Lighthouse is one of the popular tourism icons of Kenting and it is just within 1km walk away from Taiwan’s Southern Most Point. “Eluanbi” is a Taiwanese Aborigines name meaning “Sail-Nose”, describing the cape. According to Wiki, the Eluanbi Lighthouse was built during the Qing Dynasty in 1888. Accidents in the area were quite often due to hidden reefs. In 1888, an English architect W. F. Spindey, a member of Royal Geographical Society, was hired to construct this lighthouse as a guide for nearby ships. The lighthouse is the only armed lighthouse in the world, with a trench surrounding it and many gun holes on the wall. The extra fortifications were required at the time it was built because of frequent raids by local aboriginal tribes.


NUMBER 7 – NUCLEAR PLANT WATER DRAINAGE DOCKS – CHUSHUI
(出水)
We went to the beaches in Kenting and realized the waters were all very clear and blue. However, the driver told us those were still not the lightest blue. He drove us to a dock near Nanwan Bay where we saw the discharge of very light blue sea waters. These weren’t normal stream waters from the mountain. This hot discharge sea waters was used to cool the reactors at the nearby Nuclear Plant. It could be due to the different water temperature that caused the water looked lighter than usual. There are many articles on the internet citing that these discharge water (also known as Thermal Pollution) caused bleaching and destruction of the coral reefs in Kenting.



NUMBER 8 – CHUHUO NATURE FIRE PARK
(出火)
Also known as the Eternal Fire. This is one special space where natural gas leaks out from the mud-stone ground and when lighted up the fire never stops. However, not to fret, it will not cause any combustion or explosion. Though, the signage says, no cooking or camping, we saw many people came here to cook pop-corns. Many lighted up fireworks up in the sky. It was a beautiful sight with fire sparks splashing around and when u look up high, the pitch dark sky was similarly filled with shimmering, sparkling stars – very pretty.


NUMBER 9 – HENGCHUN ANCIE
NT CITY (恆春古城)

This an old town in Hengchun, which used to be coastal defense during the Qing Dynasty, with huge tall brick walls and North, South, East and West gates. It is now Taiwan’s most retained ancient city. Despite taking some damages during the last earthquake in 2006, most of these old architectures were restored. There wasn’t many tourists around when we were there, pretty quiet town, possibly it was a weekday. However, we were told that it’s popularity has increased since 2007 after Cape No. 7 (海角七號) was filmed there. We even went to check out Ah Ga’s house (character from the movie). You can visit “his house” during the day at a small entry of NT50.


We loitered around the old street for a while, had lunch and tried to look for interesting shops. Then after passing by some souvenirs and famous pork noodle stores, we found a unique Glass (琉璃) store, which says “DIY your own glass”. Harshad and Tracy spent a good one hour in the store, getting their glass molded to a unique accessory for themselves. Sadly, that was the only interesting store we found in the old street, but still it’s a cool place for photography with the brick walls.


NUMBER 10 – EAT, SHOP, CLUB AT KENTING NIGHT MARKET (墾丁大街夜市)

The Kenting Night Market is unlike other night markets we have visited in Taiwan. It reminded me of the Kuta Shopping Street of Bali. As Kenting is a beach holiday destination, we saw branded stores like Havanas, Billabong and Rip Curl. Beside the usual Taiwanese street delicacies, there are a lot of other Asian restaurants (Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese). Starbuck, MacDonald and KFC are also there. There are at least 4 convenience stores (7-Eleven, Family Mart) on the same street.

On our last night, we paid NT200/person and visited a pole-dancing bar of scantily dressed transvestites and hot bods. You can never imagine how wild the night went! Harshad demanded me not to blog any of the details here as it would be too scandalous for him. Well, in short, Tracy and Harshad were stars of the night. A “near-naked” handsome male dancer came up to Tracy and allowed her to run her hands all over his chiseled body. She shyly complied and grabbed a handful of his tight firm chest! I can’t say much for Harshad. He went on stage with 3 sexy girls and they “did something” to him which got the whole audience wolfing, screaming and clapping. It was a good thing that the bar forbid any photography during the session. If not, I could blackmail my buddy for a million dollars.


NUMBER 11 – SUNSET AT GUANSHAN (關山)

Not your usual “romantic” sunset spot – join hundreds of people (busloads of tourists) watching the famous sunset at Guanshan. Be there early to get a good spot. Many were there to catch the last sunset of 2010.


NUMBER 12 – WIND BLOW SAND
(風吹沙)

When I was there, it was extremely painful to stand in the way of the “raining sand”. The very fine sand hit me like little needles all over my body – in the ears, mouth, eyes and hair. The strong ocean wind blow up the sand 10m up the cliff, deposit the sand on the road. Over a short period of time, a sizable sand dune was formed, covering and blocking the entire road. Never underestimate the forces of nature.

海角七號之旅 II – Maolin and QiShan Journey


On our 2nd day, we left Kaohsiung city and traveled south to meet a very good business friend of mine, Mr Chen. He has instructed us to meet him at a remote Folk Village somewhere in MeiNong Town (美濃民俗村). We were so touched by his kind and sincere gesture. Mr Chen rushed back from China just to meet us in Southern Taiwan. It was a tiring 5-hour journey for him – he flew 2-hour from Shenzhen to Taoyuan Airport, took a 2-hour speed train to Tainan and drove another 1 hour to meet us at remote Hakka Town – MeiNong Town. He insisted driving us to Kenting. Without him, our journey will be very different. He showed us the “personal sides” of Taiwan.

On our way to MeiNong, we stopped by Maolin (茂林) Country Park to check out the impressive Dona Suspension Bridge (多納吊橋) and the world’s 2nd largest butterfly sanctuary – Purple Butterfly Valley (紫蝶幽谷). We also drove through the area where the recent 8-8 typhoon destroyed. We saw workers repairing broken bridges and landslide sites. The destruction was massive and the slopes looked pretty unstable. I was quite nervous when our car drove through the narrow mountain road.

DONA SUSPENSION BRIDGE (多納吊橋)
Built during the 50-year Japanese Occupation, the Dona Suspension Bridge is 103m high and 232m long. It connects 2 valleys of the Dona Dragon Head Mountains. This is certainly not for those who have height-phobia. (Even Tracy was terrified to walk on it – Mind you, she did bungee off the mountains back in South Africa!) The bridge is not accessible via the main road. To go up there, we took a 10-minute hike up the rocky slopes. The view on the bridge was stunning.


PURPLE BUTTERFLY VALLEY (紫蝶幽谷)
Every winter, millions of rare migratory Purple Crow Butterflies migrated from the northern cold terrains to the warmer forests of these valleys. The best way to see these butterflies is to get a private appointment with the park rangers as they know where are the “good spots” to find the butterflies. The best time to see these butterflies is between day break to noon (8am-11am). Unfortunately, we arrived late and missed the butterflies. We only managed to see hundreds of them flying at the entrance of the forest along the main road.

MEINONG FOLK VILLAGE (美濃民俗村)
We finally arrived at MeiNong Folk Village (our meeting point with Mr Chen). MeiNong is a Hakka town (95% of the population here are Hakkas) It was once a thriving tobacco farming village and it is now transforming itself into Eco-Tourism destination. The locals were extremely friendly and chatty. We saw many betel nuts and banana plantations around here. This folk village is a popular tourist stop-over – there is a restaurant (serves delicious local dishes) and many souvenir shops (key local souvenir is the Hakka paper umbrella). We saw bus-loads of tourists from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore (yes, I can hear the familiar “lahs” and mixed English-Chinese dialogues).


Mr Chen finally arrived at 4pm. He drove us to the place where he grew up, QiShan (旗山區) – a small town of 40,000 people. We had a brief drive through the town’s main streets, visited the old railway station and took a photo outside his Alma Mater. At 5:30pm, we watched sunset on a hilltop where there was a grand Confucius temple. By nightfall, Mr Chen drove us to Kenting (1.5-hour ride). We stopped by PingTung where he bought us dinner at a locally famous stewed pig’s trotter restaurant. (It was so delicious that we tried to persuade Tracy to try the tasty pork meat that night!)



At 10pm, we finally arrived at our final destination – the famous “Cape No. 7″ (海角七號) sea-town, Kenting (墾丁). We parked ourselves at one of the major holiday resorts of Kenting – the Caesar Park Hotel. And we got ourselves a big family villa – with 2 double beds and a back garden with our own private hot jacuzzi! This was the reward of a long tiring day trip! Mr Chen bought Harshad the local brewed beer “Taiwan Beer”. All of us chilled outside in the jacuzzi garden. It was cold that night but the warm water of the jacuzzi was too tempting to resist. Harshad and I striped off all our clothing and took a long dip in the hot pool! Ah….so so relaxing! Lovely!


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