Ha, ha, ha! Bow before my powerful Chinese magic!
This weekend I went to Kenting with eleven other people. Kenting is a resort area at the southern tip of Taiwan. Our group consisted of Ken (my exchange buddy), his girlfriend, his friend Tomi (a Taiwanese guy born in Canada who has lived in Taiwan for the past ten years), Bao, Sophie, Marjorie, Stephanie (all from France), Steve (the only other American exchange student here), Jumpei (from Japan), Neils (from Holland), Adi (from Israel), and me. It was a great trip and I will try to fill in most of the details without rambling too much, but no promises.
We left on Friday afternoon. We decided to save a little money by renting cars as we heard there was almost no public transportation within Kenting. They gave us a student discount, so it was cheaper for us to rent two cars than to take the bus and rent scooters in Kenting. I got to drive the large car all weekend! It was my first experience driving in a foreign country, and it was a blast! I have to admit I was a bit nervous at first, but I quickly got the hang of it. A word of warning to all those who plan on driving in Taiwan: watch out for busses, trucks, and scooters! The scooters seem to come out of nowhere and their drivers have no fear. Trucks drivers, and especially bus drivers, are really aggressive. They drive fast and will cut you off in a second. It’s best to give them plenty of room. Aside from these concerns, however, it’s not too bad. The roads are fairly wide and the speed limits are pretty low (at least compared to the U.S.). There seems to be a lot of road construction going on all over the country, though, so keep your eyes open.
We took a wrong turn at some point, so it took us about three hours to get there. We went straight to our hotel. It was an interesting little place called the “Cactus Café”, which Lonely Planet had recommended as one of the best places to stay at a reasonable price. The first floor held a bar/café with a small outdoor deck. They played a good mix of blues, classic rock, and reggae. The bartender was a Canadian ex-pat who could have easily been an extra in a Cheech and Chong movie. The owner was a laid-back Taiwanese surfer with tattoos and a solid command of English. They also gave us a discount because we were taking two rooms for two nights. The Cactus Café is in an excellent location – just a three minute walk to the main street and a 10 minute walk to the nearest beach. The rooms were really clean and the place definitely had some character. We had a girls’ room and a guys’ room, but Ken stayed in the girls’ room with his girlfriend. Our room had two bunk-beds with queen-sized mattresses, so two of us got our own beds and the other four had to share. I managed to get my own mattress for the whole weekend, which only sweetened the whole stay. Unfortunately, if you are planning on going to Kenting, this place will be closed after October 20, so go soon if you can!
We arrived just in time to check in, change, and go to the nearest beach for a quick swim before the lifeguards told us to come in because it was getting dark. After a shower and another change of clothes, we went to Smokey Joe’s for dinner. This western restaurant easily could be mistaken for a cheesy American chain (and maybe it is), but most of us were ready and willing to pay a little extra for a taste of home. Chinese food is good, but you can get tired of it pretty quickly. My fajitas were excellent and more than even I could eat (after a ton of appetizers, I must admit).
We walked around the main street night market after dinner. It was okay, but not as good as the main night market here in Kaohsiung. Our night market has more food stalls, while Kenting’s consists mostly of cheesy tourist souvenirs that are sold at beach resorts all over the world. I tried to find gifts here, but it was slim pickings.
After this, we hit up the Chuhuo natural fires. This is a place where natural gas seeps out of the ground and ignites when it mixes with the oxygen in the atmosphere. It’s not a breathtaking natural wonder, but it’s still pretty neat. Some of the locals and tourists like to cook potatoes and popcorn in the fire, which we didn’t really have the patience to try. We took a lot of pictures and said “ooo… ah…” a few times, set off some fireworks we bought nearby, and headed back. We thought about going out after this, but we wanted to enjoy the day on Saturday, so we called it a night pretty early.