We left Kaohsiung quite early to head east toward Taotung County. Kaohsiung, incidentally, views itself as Taipei’s rival – where Taipei 101 boasts 508 meters, 130 m higher than Kaohsiung’s 85 Tower, Kaohsiung now has the largest mall in the country. Kaohsiung city also has one of the world’s top 10 ports and was a landing for many Dutch immigrants in 17th century. Kaohsiung is home for 2.7 million Taiwanese, second to Taipei’s 7 million.
We toured the southern tip of the island and visited Kenting National Park. Kenting has some of the most spectacular views I have ever seen. The puffs of lush green vegetation blanketing the mountains adjacent to the deep emerald blue-green waters of the Taiwan Strait and the Bashi Channel. We stopped at the coral reefs overlooking the Bashi Channel where the powder-blue sky served as canvas for the frothy mounds of grey and white cumulus nimbus clouds. It was heavenly.
Taiwan has over a dozen beaches, but only three are open to visitors and swimmers. The country takes preserving nature quite seriously. Our route allowed us to travel alongside the Taiwan Strait, then the Bashi Channel, and finally, the Pacific Ocean – 3 bodies of water in the matter of a few hours. We stopped at the Eluanbi Lighthouse, built in the era of the Qing Dynasty. Here we could see the calm waters of the Bashi Straight meet the choppy sea of the Pacific Ocean. Quite a contrast.
For lunch, we stopped at Kenting Street which had a Hawaiian vibe. Flipflop shops were everywhere and the locals had a laid-back beach-going attitude. I inadvertently became the translator for two German travelers, and one Australian-Chinese traveler. We had lunch at a place called Ocean Blue which was painted the bright bold blue and stark white that is most associated with the Greek Islands. In fact, many buildings lining the Oceanside were painted with these colors. My companions included a retired UN employee, an actuary currently living in Singapore, and a civil engineer who lived in China for two years but is now back in Germany. Our ages spanned over generations. We were an unlikely bunch and yet there we were, dining and chatting together as new friends. Such a great experience.
After many more scenic stops along the east coast of Taiwan, we pulled into Chihpin in Taitung County. The east coast of Taiwan is home to many aboriginal tribes, e.g. Amis, Puyamas. The place we stayed offered fantastic amenities, one being a performance by the children from local tribes.
Meanwhile my foot was feeling better. So I decided to have dinner properly at a restaurant downstairs. The service was exceptional. After a lengthy conversation with a staff person explaining all the things I could not eat, he was able to have a customized meal of sautéed Chinese vegetables and two generous salmon flanks, prepared for me off the menu. And the meal was brought to me in a separate restaurant next door where my friends were dining, so that I could sit with them. I thought this to be a hassle but he insisted politely. My meal was perfect, my Chardonnay wine was refreshing, and all of it for under $10 USD. I could get used to this.