Sunday, August 22, 2010

In the Palm of the Bike Gods: Kenting

After three weeks of traveling around the island working, I was itching for a little vacation time. What better place than the playground of Taiwan, Kenting? My friend Jeff Miller came down to Kaohsiung to keep me company for a couple of days of absolutely glorious light and sun.

Jeff and I planned to meet in Pingtung county just across the Kaoping Bridge, at the junction of 189 and 1, to take 189 through Pingtung. On the way out of town I met this bird at the hardware store where I attempted to purchase some hex wrenches.

Threading one's way through Fengshan to Pingtung is always a hair-raising experience.

The new bridge.

Jeff meets up at 1 pm. We turned down 189 for Chaozhou and points south.

Pingtung flatlands.

A Duck farm.

We followed 189 south through Chaozhou in Pingtung, which has some charming traffic circles that are death on bicyclists. And well marked, too.... nothing can confuse a couple of educated guys with forty years experience in Taiwan faster than local Taiwan road signs.

You could roll a marble from Pingtung city down to the sea.

Laying plastic on a field.

These telephone poles actually follow an old Japanese narrow gauge rail line; the rails are still extant next to the road.

Finally, nearing the coast. Fangliao, the last major station. Two days later we would end up here....

The mountains here aren't so tall, but still lovely.

We stopped to rest and shoot these hardworking fellows trying to pull over one of those machines for oxygenating water in fishponds.

Our excitement mounted as we realized the weather was going to be a gift from the bike gods.

We took a few pictures of this ruined resort. Both coasts are littered with such remains.

The bike gods sent us a rainbow.

A side street in Fenggang.

Ever since I started biking, I've wanted to bike this stretch of coast.

Aquaculture: the fish are imprisoned in nets in the ocean, where they are fed and raised until ready to eat.

Jeff threads his way through the traffic. Friday evening in Kenting!

Once we hit Checheng we decided to turn inland down 199 to the Sichuanghsi Hot Springs. The sky was unbelievable.

The Fuji does a wonderful job with scenery shots.

The old man and the moon.

Nearby peaks.

A small herd grazed beneath the rushing clouds.

The moon at evening.

A place to rest? Here in front of this temple I waited for Jeff. That twenty minute ride up from Checheng had been mindblowing...

We stayed at this small lodging for $1000 for a large double bed room, clean, and no one else staying at the place.

In the morning Sichuanghsi town was silent.

Over the hills it looked like rain.

7-11 for breakfast.

We stopped at the small park for the Mudan (shihmen "stone gate") battlefield memorial. Everywhere we went we met groups of cyclists out enjoying themselves. We had plenty of friendly chats, one of the best things about riding in Taiwan.

A quick walk up the stairs brought us to the memorial, erected by the Japanese to commemorate the 1874 Mudan incident.

The views from the top are excellent. The battle is named for the gorge a little way up.

The gorge. We climbed up here intending to follow 199 to 199A and head down to the east coast, but it started to rain. Since this was vacation, we decided not to get in a manliness contest with the bike gods and turned around and headed back to the coast.

Jeff fights a slow leak.

As turned down this road, we left the rain behind.

The views improved immediately.

Just a perfect day for a ride.

We followed that little road until we hit the main road, and then went into Hengchun town. Here's the old gate, which some of you may recognize from Cape No 7.

Part of the city wall is still extant, a phenomenon rare in Taiwan.

We grabbed a coffee and amused ourselves watching the vehicles attempt to negotiate the narrow streets. I fell in love with Hengchun instantly; it has a real lazy coastal town feel and has not become overwhelmed by kitsch tourism like Kenting Street.

The south gate.

A Hengchun street.

We turned on to another minor road heading for the coast.

Along the way we passed through the local communities.

We got directions from this friendly and outgoing woman.

After a short climb through some Taiwan soldiers out playing RED vs BLUE, we dropped down to the coast road just north of the Aquarium, an awesome place for a visit if you are in the area. We then turned off into the small town of Houwan.

The road was flat and lined with vegetation. There was a bike path but it appeared to be used largely as a parking lot.

We stopped in the tiny fishing port of Shanhai for lunch.

The port.

Two little girls were at play right in front of the seafood place where we chowed down on oysters and sashimi.


Leaving Shanhai, we saw big ships....

...and little ones.

We rounded that little peninsula on the west side of Kenting and came upon Houbihu, and entered the world of tourists.

The beach by the nuke plant, with three wind machines, which appear to serve the exact same function for the nuke plant as the zoo animals painted on incinerator smokestacks.

In Kenting town, the cars were starting to flow in, and the vendors were starting to set up.

Amy's, where we had dinner.

It's a stampede!

Lots of great stuff on display.

Lots of great displays.

Can't get enough of that color.

Can't get enough of that color.

Dinner at Amy's. Yum.

Setting up for the crowds.

Waiting to be grilled.

Just off Kenting street are several streets full of places to stay.

Sunset. Kenting becomes a madhouse.

Dad teaches daughter.

Jeff and I settled down in front of the Starbucks/Coldstone/7-11 complex (my, has Kenting changed over the years!) to take advantage of the lack of open bottle laws and absorb the crowd madness.

Everyone posed in this spot.

Coldstone was having a free ice cream giveaway.

Another day, another moon. We stayed at Water Space near the Caesar Park, $1260 for a spacious room with two beds -- plenty of room for bikes. Bathrooms not attached, however.

In the morning it was raining, the kind of stubborn rain that just won't give up. We headed out to Eulanpi to the End of Taiwan to take a few pictures, where it miraculously wasn't raining.

On the way back we decided to bag our planned ride to the east coast because it was obviously too wet, and to return home instead. Stopped by the big bus park to ask the drivers -- can we toss our bikes on your bus? Response was invariably: there's no room. Subtext was: your bikes are too dirty for our clean bus. So we headed back 40 kms to Fangliao along the coast in the drear and drizzle hoping to ship the bikes to Taichung and Keelung, and take the train home.

Fangliao was soon reached. Naturally, as soon as we had purchased tickets, the skies cleared. The railroad guys in Fangliao said we couldn't ship our bikes out of Fangliao but we could put them on the 2:45 for Kaohsiung.

Exciting Fangliao.

We rolled our bikes up to the platform....

...and soon our train arrived. 240 kms of beautiful Taiwan roads under our tires, we headed off to Kaohsiung to ship our bikes and thence to the HSR, ending one of the most relaxing weekends I've had in months. Hope to see you on the next ride.

Trip Map on Google. Not certain about the section from Hengchun to the coast on Day 2.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


mike said...

I'm not exactly your biggest fan as you know, but I'll always be among the first to admit that your photo-blogging posts like this are simply excellent.

I love Hengchun too.

Jenna said...

Kending park = beautiful.

Kending As I posted in my own narrative of our weekend there - I am thoroughly underwhelmed by the main tourist hub of Kending. Food is overpriced and mediocre, hotels are overpriced and mediocre, too many cars and too many people. The beach down by the plant is quite nice, and I love the park, though.

But I'll be happy if I never see Kending town again. One can find the same middling food and tourist junk on the beaches of Thailand, Bali and Boracay. Taiwan doesn't need it, too.

Pearl said...

wow that was really nice!!

Anonymous said...

You really have eyes for beautiful peaks Michael ! What's the name of the cloud-covered beauty?

Michael Turton said...

Wish I knew the names of all the peaks!

Craig said...

Were you purposely underexposing those photos in a funky white balance, or was something on a wrong setting for a lot of the scenery shots?

Michael Turton said...

Craig, I don't know which shots you are talking about. The only shots I tinkered with the exposure on were the night moon shot and the sunset shot which I set on SPOT meter, and the shot at Eulanpi which I forgot was still set on SPOT. If you mean the Flickr pics as a whole there are a bunch of shots that I forgot were set on SPOT.

Michael Turton said...

The scenery shots were all down on auto exposure on program. I didn't tamper with the WB at all. That's the default Fuji setting.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks Pearl! Happy to meet you!

mx said...

Thanks for sharing Michael. Excellent photos + commentary! Awesome colors as well.

Kenting needs to build a vehicle tunnel under the main drag to make it more pedestrian friendly.

Craig said...

Ok, most of the scenery shots look like the WB was set to tungsten or some other very cool temperature. They have a blue/green color cast to them and are mostly about a stop underexposed.

STOP Ma said...

I loved Kenting -- kitch and all. I loved taking photos of the fossil beaches and the unique experience we had popping popcorn in the park with the natural gas flames shooting up through the earth.

Quite a magical time we had there!

Thanks for evoking those memories, Michael!

Michael Cannon said...

Loved "nothing can confuse a couple of educated guys with forty years experience in Taiwan faster than local Taiwan road signs.". Still envious of your guys riding in Taiwan. I sorely miss the mountain and seas here in Delhi.

James said...


I checked in with your blog to get my daily fix and believe that this is one of your best. Thank you for the views.


Thoth Harris said...

Nice pictures, Michael! Looks like an amazing trip!

Todd said...

Looks like you two had an awesome time! Great shots!

P. S. said...

Michael, the late-day shots of the hills and sky were gorgeous and surreal, so rare for Taiwan. Btw, I am surprised you could not ship bikes from Fangliao. Cliff and I put our bikes on at Fangliao back in 1994 and picked them up in Taipei. Usually service improves over time in Taiwan...
- Paul

Michael Turton said...

Oddly, you can ship bikes TO Fangliao.

For this trip Jeff had shipped his bike to Kaohsiung but they told him in Cidu near Taipei that you can't ship to Kaohsiung, you have to ship to Nantze north of the city. Meanwhile I had no trouble shipping to kaohsiung station directly from Taichung. On the way back he couldn't ship to Cidu, but had to pay extra for the bike to go by express train to Cidu. They said in Kaohsiung that he couldn't ship to or from Keelung but I've shipped out of Keelung many times. Last time I was told that from Taichung I could ship to Taipei station but everyone says that's impossible.

Conclusion: no one has any idea what is going on.

So if the right stationmaster is there, you might still be able to ship bikes out of Fangliao....

Robert Scott Kelly said...

Michael and anyone else planning to bike to Kenting. From Pingtung ride the 27 (30km) to Sandimen and then take the 185 south to Fangliao. The 27 is a quiet lovely road but the 185 is nothing but rural bliss for 60km. The road skirts the foothills but is perfectly flat and best of all does not ride through a lot of ugly towns. What towns there are are nicely back from the road. This is a really sweet route.

Fili said...

Damn, that's just gorgeous. -jealous-