Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pingtung III: Magical Kenting

Another week, another four days in Pingtung County at the invitation of the County government. Yay! They wanted me to spend eight days in Kenting. What am I to do with eight days in Kenting? The answer is: everything!

My first night was spent here in Sichongxi, the spa town just a few kms east of Checheng, on Rte 199. Clean rooms, plenty of hot water, friendly service.

The chatty locals notwithstanding, the weather looked like it would interfere with my plans to do the loop through northeastern Kenting, 199 to 200.

Sure enough, once I had climbed above Shihmen town into the hills, it started to rain. Here the Stone Gates, the site of the battle between local aborigines and the Japanese in 1874, bracket a gray sky.

Taking a break in front of the dam in Mudan township.

Looking over Shihmen town in Mudan township, I spotted good weather to west.

I changed my plans, and headed to the west, taking 151 over to 26. Onions were being harvested everywhere in Kenting.

No one sings about fields of onions, but they make big bucks.

Onions waiting to be weighed and bagged.

I stopped by the east gate of Hengchun, the only city in Taiwan with extensive sections of its wall preserved. The government has restored this part, making for great atmosphere.

Hengchun city maps are visually impressive.

I went over to Manjhou township to leave my stuff at Kentingdon, a resort village outside of Manjhou town. Highly recommended if you have the cash to burn. The service is friendly, the resort has all sorts of amusements, and the area around Manjhou is one of the loveliest agricultural landscapes in Taiwan.

The deer paddock at Kentingdon Resort.

Then it was out to Jialeshui, the surfing mecca, for lunch. This is Rte 200 going into Manjhou town.

Lunch in Jialeshui at Jessie Hong's place. Great food, great owner.

Manjhou town and the hills around it.

I spent the afternoon riding the small roads around Manjhou town. Really a rewarding experience.

On Sunday the clouds were still grim over the northeast, so I turned south to make a loop around Kenting to Hengchun and back to Manjhou along 200. Plenty of diversions along the way....

The coast road from Jialeshui around Euluanbi to the lighthouse is stunning. On weekends it is filled with cyclists.

Plenty of places to stop and take in the scenery.

Motorcyclists take in the view.

Taking a break to take in the scenery.

This is one of my favorite spots on the whole island of Taiwan.

Then it was into Kenting to Starbucks for coffee and second breakfast. Because scenery viewing is hard work.

Beachfront bicycle.

There are some excellent scooter lanes going into Hengchun town.

The Folk Music center in Hengchun. The town apparently has its own distinctive music style.

On Rte 200 between Hengchun and Manjhou is the Chuhuo National Scenic Area. Natural gas leaks from vents in the earth, where from time to time it is ignited by lightning strikes, teenagers with lighters, and other natural causes, resulting in fires. The area has some good walking paths and once you work your way up the slopes the views are nice.

The beach at Jialeshui. A popular surfing site, surfing lessons, boards and rooms can be rented in the little community just above the beach.

Surfer, Jialeshui.

Once again, lunch at Jessie's in Jialeshui. The wooden tables are hers.

She was kind enough to pose for this culturally significant shot of bathing apparatus and surfing apparel technologies.

After lunch I continued up the road from Jialeshui to the Jialeshui Scenic Area, a stretch of wild rocks that equals anything in northeastern Taiwan.

With the purchase of the 80 NT ticket, you can get a ride on one of these tour vehicles, that take you down the 2 kms or so of concrete path while explaining how things work. Or you can just ride your bike.

The wild rocks of the Jialeshui Scenic Area.

Beyond this point there are no roads for several kilometers; friends of mine who've hiked that stretch say it is wonderful. Hopefully I can get to it next week.

Once more into the bucolic loveliness of Manjhou to get my car and head over to Hengchun.

In Hengchun I stayed at the Kenting Resort Training Hostel, which is on the grounds of a high school whose vo-tech program it serves. Clean and well stocked, but you're better off buying your own breakfast.

Since there was still time to explore, I visited the Hengchun Old Street, passing the South Gate along the way.

At Shipai Park the goverment has mounted some old stone tablets.

Inter stele visitor.

The gate in Hengchun seen in the movie Cape No. 7. Cyclists: there's a Giant shop nearby.

Monday morning dawned bright, so I rode down to Kenting Street for breakfast.

My first goal was Sheding Nature Park and the Kenting Forest Park, both popular hiking spots.

Cycling up the climb up to the entrance makes a nifty warm-up activity on a warm Kenting morning.

Sheding is about 700 meters from the Kenting Forest Park.

The parks path are cut through coral rock and offer unique organisms and topography. Not to mention an enjoyable hour or so of hiking.

Lots of locals out enjoying the paths.

The park also offers excellent views over Kenting to the ocean.

The paths are clearly marked.

The park is full of wildlife, and if you are really lucky, unlike me, you might be able to get a good shot of a butterfly. I also shot the alert lizard at the top of the post in Sheding.

After hiking in Sheding, I stopped by the visitors center to apply to enter Nanren Lake next week. I then  rode over to the Longluan Lake Nature Center, a popular birding spot. I know you've always been curious about the Sisal Industry Historical Monument in Kenting, and since it was along the way to Longluan, I decided to check it out so you wouldn't have to.

The monument, located on an old sisal plantation, is apparently still under development. There are just a few displays.

Longluan Lake Nature Center is at the end of a lovely little path, along which are signs identifying organisms and their environments. Really a pleasant experience.

The center is specifically aimed at birding, and the government has constructed an artificial island nearby to attract birds.

Unfortunately it wasn't the right season, and the only bird visible was this hunting bird who was having no more success than I was at finding birds.

The view northeast over the lake towards Hengchun is splendid.

From Longluan I took a spin across the tiny peninsula on the west side of Kenting to the fishing port of Shanhai, where I always stop for lunch.

Way too much food for one person, but I made a valiant effort.

From there it was around Maubitou and Houbihu, stopping here at Baishawan Beach.

The view from Maubitou.

On Monday Kenting roads are empty, but full of promise.

Tune in next week for the final installment, including a visit to Nanren Lake, a restricted nature reserve. Hope to see you on a Pingtung Road soon!

First two installments of this series:
Pingtung I: Magical Mountains of Pingtung 
Pingtung II: Magical History Tour

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.


OzSoapbox said...

Is it just me or is that tan getting darker?

Lucky bugger.

Herman said...

There's an old Chinese poem that went:

Left my hometown in early youth I now return to it at old age

The dialect of the locals hasn't changed but my hair's gray

A child sees me and not knowing who I am

Smilingly he asks me where I am from

Ah, Michael, the pictures you take and the blog you write, they are the food that cures my nostalgic hunger. I thank you heartily for your Taiwan Journal. I've been a long time reader, all the way back to when you wrote mostly about teaching English in Taiwan and posted lots of night-market pictures. If and when one day I make it back to live in Taiwan again, I promise I will start training to ride bicycle and do like what you do, checking out the the scenery and taking "culturally significant" photos..

You are the man!

Stripe said...

Love your work, sir! :)

Anonymous said...

It's been several years since we wandered in that area,I'd forgotten how beautiful it is..The Kenting nature park is a really intersting place. The last time we were there we ended up on the far side from the gate as dusk fell and the night noises were impressive to say the least!

Cary said...

Thanks for another great post. Kenting is still my favorite part of Taiwan. I always loved the Maobitou place name.

Anonymous said...

what are you running away from?

Kevin said...

Great to see you living it up! On the one hand, I'm envious as hell; on the other, I'm glad to see someone doing what many (including me) could be doing with a bit of enlightened re-working of priorities. I'm trying to gain that enlightenment/those opportunities!

Keep having a great time and hope to ride with you again soon!


Unknown said...

Mmm, the sashimi looks delicious in

Mad Minerva said...

Gorgeous photos. I haven't been to Kenting in a few years. Your photo essays make me miss Taiwan more than ever! (And that's a compliment.)

Gavin Sullivan said...

Props, Michael. Incredible post!