Going further down the coast of Taiwan specifically. Thought I’d share this song which incidentally you can cha-cha to!
We went further down the coast to Kenting, which has been described to me alternatively as Taiwan’s Hawaii or Jersey Shore. It’s the southernmost tip, and has turned into a certified beach town. Anywho, we got in in the afternoon and went down to the beach, about 5km away, and I had a fantastic swim. The water was way warmer than anything in NorCal, and there was a nice amount of sun that fortunately didn’t seem to add to the sunburn I got in Tainan (I’ve had to face the uncomfortable truth that I am white and have been living in Siberia for 7 months and as a result cannot tan like I used to).
Funnily enough, this beach is right next to one of Taiwan’s three nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy in Taiwan is super interesting, and it was briefly touched on during the conference. As a tiny island with no resources, Taiwan imports an absurd amount of it’s energy, and nuclear currently makes up about 15-20% of its fuel mix. However, there’s massive public opposition to nuclear energy, probably due largely in part to Fukushima, but probably other factors as well. Tsai Ying-wen recently won the presidency with a campaign promise, one of many, to convert Taiwan to renewable energy, mainly off-shore wind farms, while getting rid of nuclear. However, everyone I’ve talked to here has stated that it simply can’t be done, and that nuclear has to be in the mix somewhere, at least temporarily, if Taiwan wants to move away from fossil fuels. I’m not really sure what’s to be done there, but it was good to learn more about the field and the country on that aspect. On a personal note, I had a lovely time swimming there and haven’t grown a second head yet so I think it’s alright. Tenzin also got the chance to play tennis there because where else are you going to keep your public tennis courts than a nuclear power plant? It’s just the logical choice.
We then met up with some other Fulbrighters who had come the day before for some of the best Thai food of my life on the main drag. We had a to-die-for coconut curry, so creamy and satisfying, spicy papaya salad, noodles, and a fried rice that was the least exceptional.
Kenting helped me satisfy two of my main goals for this trip as well. The first was renting an electric scooter to circle the peninsula (about 46 km in all). It gave me a little slice of that road trip life as we cruised along at our max speed of 42km/hour through 18mph winds (that was fun). Not to say that we did it in an hour, we took plenty of stops to see the coastline, and then a forced stop when the battery died and we had to call the guy to replace it. Fortunately we were only 6km out at the time so it didn’t take too long. I don’t know why it was such a seminal moment for me, it’s just something I’ve always wanted to do. Highlights included this cool fortified lighthouse (fortified against the native peoples, colonial Britain eat your heart out), the southernmost tip of Taiwan, and so much coastline. A lot of tidepools as well, but I didn’t see any of the life in them that we have in NorCal. Didn’t see any light at all really. It is nice to ponder how tidepools only exist when the tide leaves though. Something that only exists in the absence of something else.
Objective number two was hiking, so to scratch that itch I went on my own to the Kenting Forest Recreation area in the morning. The park is in the center of the peninsula and is made up of 1/2 botanical gardens,, 1.2 trails and sights. I learned that the peninsula was formed when coral reefs burst up due to seismic activity, so that’s pretty cool! As a result, all these crevasses you’ll see below are from that event, or formed by wind erosion. It’s also vastly different from the rest of Taiwan in terms of flora, so I highly recommend it to budding botanists. Highlight there was the sea-tower which gave you a view of the entire peninsula and the surrounding peaks (which I hope to climb if I ever go back there). Thought I caught a glimpse of a monkey, and then there were the caves with bat friends!
Also in the caves were a bunch of formations that supposedly look like things, apparently an obsession of the people here. Buddha’s ear, and an immortal. I dunno.
What made it even better was since I went first thing in the morning I had the whole park practically to myself. The only people I saw were a group of four Taiwanese tourists who I bumped into like three times and were super friendly. Equally friendly were the people at the seafood restaurant the night before who even sang us a welcome song (it was somewhat remeniscient of the Chevy’s staff singing you happy birthday, but with genuine feeling). Had a huge spread of seafood, which is normally not my bag, but this is pretty much the best place to have it, y’know?
Lastly, for anyone out there in need of inspiration, let this banyan tree be it. Anytime you feel like you can’t reach your goals, just look at how far this one went for it’s ground. You can do it!
We went back to Taipei early due to the weather being pretty non-beachy, so we caught a goodbye lunch with a couple of the other Fulbrighters at this great dumpling place we picked on a whim before heading back.
I then went to the Raohe night market which is supposed to be Taipei’s oldest. It’s filled with snacks as a night market should be, namely meat-wraps from two Iranian guys, pastries, the works.
Sorry to make this such a long, mostly boring post, but here’s one last bit. On my last day in Taipei, I climbed elephant mountain which overlooks the city and most notably Taipei 101, the tallest building in the country, then beat the rain to this Lego themed cafe where I started my training as an online crisis counselor! I’m super excited about this, as it’s a way for me to volunteer and help back home from abroad. It’s nice to have someone giving me a deadline on things again too. Dinner was tasty pork on rice (a local specialty), and tomorrow I’m back in Harbin. Probably back to once a week posts when I’m there, but I have at least three in the backlog that will appear with greater frequency. G’night and good luck!