Saturday, August 13, 2011

King Dom of Kenting

Thursday morning I headed south to meet up with my friend Dom of Hold These Green Balloons who was swinging around to Kenting on a round-the-island tour, and my old friend and riding buddy Jeff Miller. Leaving Taichung on the HSR early in the morning, I knew from the clear skies that this was going to be an unusually good ride.

We met up at the train station in Fangliao, Pingtung, about 50 kms from Kenting.

Jeff and Dom discuss Jeff's new Canon DSLR.

Heading out of Fangliao, Dom covered against the sun. Today's route would take us on a 75 km swing south to Checheng, then over to the coast and down to Maobito, and then to Kenting Street to look for a room.

Just a sample of the clouds and light.

We stopped at the 7-11 in Fenggang, where I snapped a local road.

Incredibly, some company is actually finishing this wreck of a hotel that has stood unfinished for as long as I have been in Taiwan, it feels like.

Dom takes a break outside Checheng.

Park entrance -- down to the coast!

One of the small towns along the west coast of Kenting.


Heading down to Maobitou at the tip of the western peninsula of Kenting.

A butterfly at a rest stop.

Everyone takes a picture at this spot in Maobito.

A group serenading the tourists with aboriginal folk songs burst into "New York, New York" when Dom told them he was from that metropolis.

Lots of young people out enjoying the gorgeous day.

Back around Houbihu to Kenting Street. Here, fearful for his future children, Dom accelerates past the nuclear plant.

In Kenting we stayed at Water Space next to the Howard Beach Resort. They charged us $2240 a night for three people (2 nights), but put us in a four person room to better house our bikes. $700 for Kenting on a Friday night is pretty good, I thought. Our room was clean with an attached bath, and because Water Space has been purchased by the Howard Beach Resort, the morning buffet is the Howard's. Very nice. Friendly staff and a certain comfortable informality are also attractive points about Water Space. Here Jeff goes forth on Friday morning.

Our first stop after enjoying the abundance of the Howard's buffet was the hospital in Hengchun. Dom had taken a serious fall on the Suhua and a large wound on his hip had become infected. I went in search of a large stick for Dom to bite down on in the event amputation became necessary, but the doc assured Dom the problem was superficial and passed out some topical antibiotics. He spoke excellent English and was quite friendly.

The serious riding begun as we cut through the fields to 199. I've done this route many times; it remains one of my favorites on the island.

Of course we stopped at the grave of the Okinawan sailors.....

....and the Shihmen Battlefield Memorial. While waiting for Dom to visit the Memorial, I snapped this lizard. I thought bokeh in this shot pretty good for a point and click camera with a 4X lens.

Above Mudan township and the reservoir, Dom grabs a shot. We started climbing about 10:30; the heat was unbelievable. That handful of switchbacks knocked me out for about two hours.

199 is a lovely road through green, relatively undeveloped countryside. Really an enjoyable time once you reach the ridge. The road flattens out, the people are friendly, and the skies are big.

Dom rolls past the farms.

The long descent into Syuhai was wonderful; no pedaling necessary for several kilometers. At the bottom the signs refer to the proposed new route 26 link up, which will connect Taitung with Kenting. The locals oppose it, I'm told. But it will be more convenient for the tour buses. So you know who will win that one.

At Syuhai the road runs along the unspoiled coast through the old military base, now full of apparently abandoned military structures.

Of all the sights we saw that day, this one was the most amazing: three guys on fixed gear bikes who were doing the same route. Awesome.

Here they are again, homage to their greatness.

Of course, we stopped at the obligatory picture spot....

.... to take the obligatory pictures.

From Syuhai to Gangzai where the dunes are is about 10 kms. We stopped at our usual place in Gangzai before the climb up 200, reaching it about 1:30. We ate and rested there for about an hour, letting the afternoon heat dissipate somewhat. Then it was up 200.... Fenshuiling at the top, where we recharged with liquids and anticipated the wonderful drop through Manjhou township, one of the loveliest stretches of road on the island.

Neither word nor picture can convey its loveliness; put it on your list of things to do.

Ordinarily I'd have called it a ride at this point, and gone to Jialeshui to have a cheeseburger at Jessie's Summer Point, but we had decided to round Oluanpi and return to Kenting Street. we stop at the bridge on 26 at Gangkou next to Jialeshui to rest for a moment before beating down the coast.

Climbing up to the overlook on a day that was growing ever more transcendentally clear and beautiful, we discovered they were making a movie up here. We met one of the stars, whom Jeff recognized, but he wouldn't let us put his picture on the internet. "It's a secret," he said.

Jeff takes a break against the stunning skies.

It was so clear both Green Island (left) and Orchid Island (ghostly lump to the right) were visible.

Resting above the lighthouse at Oluanpi. Amazing skies to close the day.

Dom rolls into Kenting. And a car nearly rolls into him.

Resting at Water Space after 107 kms of some of the best riding I have ever experienced. Dom's enthusiasm and enjoyment made it a pleasure for Jeff and I.

At night we stopped in at La Pelican, where the gelato is unearthly. Actually, we went there twice. Highly recommended.

A friendly Kenting vendor.

The next day we rode the side roads back to Checheng and then ran back to Fangliao.

It was by far the clearest day I have ever experienced in that area. Siao Liu Chiu was clearly visible from the coastal road, and from Fenggang you could see the skyscrapers of Kaohsiung. A perfect end to one of the best rides I have ever been on. Thanks, Dom and Jeff!

REF: Friday's long loop around Kenting.

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! Delenda est, baby.


Rosemary said...

Hi, I'm Dom's sister. Thanks so much for posting these pics and narratives, they are great. It was great fun looking at them. Hope to meet you one day.

Rosemary (FB: Rosemary Terese)

Tommy said...

What are the people in the photo entitled "Heading down to Maobitou at the tip of the western peninsula of Kenting" doing? Are they cutting grass?

Michael Turton said...

Yes, by hand with trimmers. Exhausting and environmentally unsound.

Anonymous said...

Very slanted article, but interesting in that the US military may have parts of it that truly do recognize the threat of China on democracy in East Asia:

I'm sick and tired of US liberals always seeing China as some completely benign entity always doing what's right for them and that the US (and Taiwan, and Korea, and Vietnam, and Japan, and the Philippines) have absolutely nothing to fear other than fear itself. How do they think an attitude of continuous appeasement going to be responded to by China?

Michael Turton said...

Hahaha Anon, I just got back from leaving a long comment on it when i found your comment here. Thanks! I might blog on it later.


Michael Turton said...

Rosemary, it's my pleasure. Dom is great fun to hang with, and we had a really good time together.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing MT. Very cool photos and commentary. ~mp

Anonymous said...

Do I see a half naked butt? x_x Couldn't you have censored that part?

Michael Turton said...

No half naked butts.