Thursday, July 7, 2011

Kenting (墾丁)

Sunday morning 6 am we rose bright and early so we could meet Milton & Jenny for our day trip to Kenting. I say “bright and early”, but having had only 4-5 hours of sleep that night, I felt far from bright. Dim-witted and clumsy with a sprinkling of grumpy would be a more accurate description, and if I had an alter ego, that morning I definitely would have been Lurch from the Adams Family. Despite this, I was very much looking forward to the day trip ahead of us.

We met Milton & Jenny at 8:30 am and headed southeast from Kaohsiung. For the first leg of our journey, we drove directly east towards the mountains. It was an amazing sight because the mountain range that runs through the centre of Taiwan rises from sea level to well over 3,000 meters in a surprisingly short distance. They truly tower above you as you get close and I imagine the topographic prominence and elevation of some of those summits are very similar.

Our first stop on the road was in CheCheng (車城) where we were taken to try mung bean soup (lǜ dòu tāng 綠豆湯). It is a sweet food that can be served cold or hot and is made from green beans and a simple syrup. If you’re interested, a recipe can be found here on Eating China. The mung bean soup we had was topped off with crushed ice and apparently this is a common Taiwanese summer snack that mothers will keep in the fridge for their children. It is said to be very healthy and I would recommend giving it a try if you ever have the chance. Amanda and I thought it was very good.

We then traveled onward to the National Museum of Marine Biology (國立海洋生物博物館) located in Checheng, Pingtung County. The museum boasts an enormous aquarium separated into three sections; Waters of Taiwan, Coral Kingdom, and Waters of the World. Highlights for us were the penguins, beluga whales, whale shark, manta rays, jellyfish and seals.

After a light lunch at the museum we were back on the road and next stopped in Wanlitong (萬里桐) just west of Hengchun Township where Milton suggested we go snorkeling. It didn’t take much convincing and the place that rented the gear (and the guide) was not far from the beach, so it wasn’t long before we were geared up and heading into the water. It was both Amanda and Jenny’s first time snorkeling, and they were a little nervous at first (Amanda much more visibly so than Jenny)! Those of you who know Amanda are familiar with her nervous stomach, and I admit I was greatly concerned at one point that she would throw up in the water with me swimming right behind her. She kept it together and had a lot of fun - I’m very proud of her. The water was incredibly warm and we were able to observe various species of tropical fish as well as a variety of sea coral and some jellyfish. Three of the four of us were stung by small jellyfish (a very mild burn) and when handing back our gear we were assured that the best ointment for a jellyfish burn is... well, you can probably guess!!!

Our snorkeling adventure ended around 5 o’clock and from there we continued to head south. We were shown the very popular - if somewhat touristy - South Bay (nán wān 南灣) as well as a scenic lookout over the southern tip of Taiwan.

One of our final stops was at a place called 出火風景區 which translates into “the fire scenic area” and is where natural gas continuously - but slowly - seeps from the ground and burns in small stone pits that have become a popular attraction. Other tourists were popping corn and lighting fireworks and sparklers which made for a very lively atmosphere.

Before heading back to Kaohsiung we stopped and had a quick bite to eat by the side of the road from a street-side vendor selling delicious pork dumplings and a kind of mushroom and pork sticky soup with rice noodles.

It was a beautiful and busy day and we felt like we saw many parts of southern Taiwan that we would not have had a chance to were it not for the very kind hospitality of our friends Milton & Jenny. We are very grateful to them for planning such an excellent adventure!

Mung bean soup (lǜ dòu tāng 綠豆湯). In Chinese it is also referred to as "garlic" instead of "soup".
National Museum of Marine Biology (國立海洋生物博物館)

Jenny & Milton.

Brett & Amanda at Wanlitong (萬里桐).
Jenny & Milton at Wanlitong (萬里桐).
Snorkeling at Wanlitong (萬里桐).
A fellow snorkeler had a waterproof camera and shared some of his pictures.
A fellow snorkeler had a waterproof camera and shared some of his pictures.
Amanda showing off her freckles!
出火風景區 which translates into “the fire scenic area".

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