Monday, July 11, 2011

Xiao Liuqiu (小琉球) Pt. deux

Continuing from Amanda’s post... 

After dropping off our bags at the place we would be staying for the second night, “Country B&B”, we headed out for our first day exploring the island.

We started with a walk around Baisha Tourist Harbor which has a number of harbor front touristy stores. We found a restaurant that had a large picture menu outside the store front and the food looked too good to ignore. For lunch we had the most excellent shrimp fried rice, a bowl of very good and very spicy beef noodle soup as well as papaya milk and watermelon juice. The food was so good that we agreed we would definitely return before leaving the island.

After lunch we took a long walk towards the west of the island stopping at Flower Vase Rock  which is possibly the most recognised island landmark, then going on to Beauty Cave and the Sea-Viewing Pavilion. When we were at the Flower Vase Rock we were briefly stopped by three Asian tourists who asked if they could take their photo with us and we kindly obliged. I wasn’t sure if we should be flattered or offended by the attention, but we both thought it was pretty hilarious either way. The temperature was easily in the 40s Celsius and even the periodic stops in the shade weren’t enough to give us adequate rest from the sun. Eventually we succumbed and bought two fairly cheesy hats that were functional if not flattering.

Upon returning to our B&B so that we could check-in we were met by an employee who spoke no English and who decided to call a friend to come meet us to help with translation. The lady that met us was very kind and gave us the usual hotel check-in run-down. Upon learning that we were to be English teachers, she also informed us the Liuqiu currently needed a native English teacher and told us the hourly rate (a surprisingly high figure). While intriguing, Amanda and I have made other English teaching arrangements and so this would not be for us, albeit a pleasant notion about which to daydream.

That evening we went for a bit of a walk, exploring the Baishawei community as opposed to the coast, had a light meal and got an early night. It was a very relaxed evening and nice being away from our computers and the noise of the city.

The following morning we decided to explore around the north coast of the island heading in the opposite direction from the prior day. We stopped on Zhongao Beach to take a few pictures and while we were on the beach Amanda noticed something being slowly brought onto the beach by the waves. I snapped a picture of what we thought might have been a nautilus (not sure) and then tossed him/her back into the ocean.

We continued on a deserted path around the coast with a Chinese-style cemetery on the ridge to our right and the reef to our left. Upon reaching Yufu Fishing Harbor we walked through a residential area called Yuchengwei to a beautiful temple that wasn’t on our guide maps so we don’t know what it’s called.

After that we slowly made our way back towards Baishawei via the “Round-The-Island road” and upon getting back, we had a bite to eat, grabbed our gear and headed for the ferry terminal. The ride back to Donggang was a little rougher than the ride a few days earlier. I think Amanda did a pretty accurate job of describing our respective takes on the previous ferry ride in the last post and I think it is fair to say that the same was true of this journey.

Getting home...

Once back at Donggang we knew we were going to have to get ourselves to the bus depot which we thought would be simple enough...

I had made sure to have on-hand my cheat-sheet with all of Stanley’s Mandarin notes. Stanley had written down the name of two bus companies - Zhong Nan Bus Company & Kaohsiung Bus Company.

Within moments of leaving the ferry terminal we were approached by what appeared to be a taxi driver. Taxi drivers take searching out a fare much more seriously here than in Canada and as obvious Wàiguó rén (foreigners) I think that sometimes it seems like there is a $ sign floating above our heads! I showed the piece of paper to the taxi driver and and said “wǒ yào dào Zhong Nan”. I said this a few times and in response he spoke fairly rapidly to me in Chinese, of course my not understanding a single word. All the time he was pointing to the second of the two bus companies, Kaohsiung. I assumed that maybe he was saying “this company has a bus leaving sooner” or “you should take this bus because it is cheaper”.

We followed the man weaving in and out of the huge crowd that had just disembarked from the ferry. Approaching the road we realised that this man’s vehicle was not an “official” taxi, in fact there were no official cabs in sight. We were, however, reassured by the fact that the vehicle was actually in very good shape and was better/newer than most official taxis that we have been in. As well, there were clearly two other passengers that would be joining us to the bus station, both well dressed middle aged ladies, one of which was beckoning us to get in the car. When in Rome!

Once in the vehicle there was a lot more talking... in Chinese. We heard Kaohsiung mentioned a number of times and in response I confirmed “duì, duì, Kaohsiung” (yes, yes, Kaohsiung). This didn’t seem to satisfy the driver and he motioned to see our piece of paper again, me thinking that “maybe he wants to check the bus company name again?”. More conversation, more repeating Kaohsiung, me responding yes, yes, Kaohsiung, Zhong Nan (the name of the bus company). Next came the revelation... “yī bǎi wǔ shì” he said while pointing at me, then “sān bǎi” while pointing at both Amanda and I both. That is far too much to be charging us to take us to the bus station that is just ten minutes away... I turned to Amanda and said “I think he’s going to drive us all the way to Kaohsiung”. Had we taken the bus it would have cost us half as much but it also would have taken twice as long. By far the overriding factor in my decision was that we had already been on the road for ten minutes and were now on a highway, there was not a chance that I was going to try to communicate to these people that we only wanted to go to the bus station. So I confirmed back with the driver “sān bǎi, Kaohsiung, dui, dui”. There were a few smiles exchanged between everyone as it was now clear that we all understood each other and just in case our driver and fellow passengers had not yet realised that we were not locals, I decided to reveal to them the “wǒ men shì cóng jiānádà” (we are from Canada). If there was any remaining tension then this certainly acted to break it as the whole car broke into laughter and rapid conversation.

Well we weren’t quite done yet. Next the driver tried to find out where in Kaohsiung we wanted to go. He had my piece of paper and motioned writing with a pen and handed both to me. I think he thought that I had written all the Chinese characters but that I couldn’t speak Chinese. This seems pretty crazy but it is actually quite common in Taiwan that people can read and write English far better than they can speak it because there are simply not many opportunities to practice Englsih speaking. I suggested Aozihdi (the MRT station by our apartment) which one passenger recognized but the driver wasn’t too happy with. Eventually I suggested one landmark that I knew EVERYONE in Kaohsiung would know... “wǒ men yào dào bā wǔ dà lóu”. Everyone immediately recognized my reference to the Kaohsiung Tuntex Sky Tower known locally as “85 floors” and this brought to an end my foray in very broken Mandarin.

Our trip to Xiao Liuqiu (also known as Little Okinawa) was wonderful and since we weren’t able to see the whole of the island, Amanda and I agreed that we will definitely try to return at some point - even if only for a day.

While we were on the island, Stanley checked in on our progress a number of times by calling us to see if we were ok. We really appreciate his help with booking our accommodation and getting us there. Upon returning to Kaohsiung, Stanley mentioned that Vicky had joked how Stanley was frequently checking in with us like a worried father whose two children have gone off to their first summer camp. We are certainly happy that we have Taiwanese friends ready to act as our surrogate Kaohsiung guardians!

Sipping on delicious red tea at Baisha Tourist Harbor
Shrimp fried rice, spicy beef noodle soup, papaya milk and watermelon juice.

Lingyun Temple near the Flower Vase Rock.
The Flower Vase Rock
View of coral from the Sea-Viewing Pavilion.
There are many places on the island where you can join a guided snorkeling tour group.
Zhongao Beach
Amanda on Zhongao Beach.
What we think was a nautilus washed ashore as we were walking on the beach.
Zhongao Beach
We don't know the name of this temple as it wasn't on any of our maps.
The temple interior.

Donning my very non-tourist hat.


  1. The Temple's name is "池隆宮" (chi-long-gon)
    ---by Jenny

  2. It looks like an octopus who stole a nautilus's shell. I remember because coney Island Aquarium had a living nautilus in it's display looked like a giant shrimp with a shell.