But it can also be a place of arachnophobic horrors.
Then, we decide to rent scooters to go around the island – up to the lighthouse, down to the cliffs, explore small towns along the way. I’ve never driven a scooter before, but since I totally live on the edge, it was as good a time as any to learn how. Now, I’m talking automatic here, nothing very fancy, and that suited me just fine.
Part of the route includes the lighthouse, but before we get there, we stop in a very small town to see an interesting rock formation out in the water – and to recharge our scooter batteries. We found a restaurant to munch down on some chow mein and mango ice.
From there, we scoot over to the Kenting Lighthouse. Since the lighthouse looks busy with the busload of Chinese tourists who just showed up, we decide on a road less traveled by – a walking route through the jungle and out to the sea, and finally back around to the lighthouse.
This journey should have been nice. It was humid and sticky, granted, but the views from the whistling rocks – two mammoth rocks that opened up barely to the sea and make some interesting noises as the water crashed in – were spectacular. As we strolled along, blissfully ignorant of the monsters lurking in the jungle, I saw a gorgeous tropical turquoise butterfly flitting about in the canopy overhead.
I will never see another butterfly the same again.
At that very second, one of my companions stops abruptly and gasps something that sounds a mixture of surprise and horror. In my sweet innocence, I ask why she is afraid of the beautiful butterfly just over our heads. I mean, butterflies aren’t evil incarnate, are they?
But then, I follow the line of her pointed finger, and I see THIS …
… hanging just ever so menacingly above our uncovered heads. When I say it was the size of a man’s hand, that’s actually not an exaggeration. Marco put his hand near it, and that beast from the jaws of Hades was the size of his hand.
I am petrified to the spot. I mean, one ungainly move, and I’m its lunch.
|Marco holds back the waves. He is
the son of Poseidon.
Finally, I work up enough courage to duck and run under its web, praying that I make it out alive.
I did, but that’s not comforting. After all, Murphy’s Law states that if there is one, there are many. I’m sure Sasquatch there isn’t the only one skulking about in the trees, preying on tourists and large insects.
Turns out, I was right; there were more spider Yetis to behold. Not far down the path, another spider with legs as long as a catwalk model (no photoshopping in nature!) prowled its web for food. Given as I am to arachnophobia, I kept my head down and ran my butt out of those trees.
Once the canopy opens up to the volcanic rock formations and the pounding surf, I knew none of those beasties are out there. We continued on the winding path along the water, admiring the sea views that are simply incredible. Almost worth being ambushed by man-hand-sized spiders. Tidal pools house little fish and crabs cast out by the churning waves. It’s peace and power all in one gigantic rush of water.
|Southernmost tip of Taiwan|
The lighthouse itself is a pretty fixture up on the rocks. It’s simple, unadorned, and unopened to the public. It is not long after that we grab our scooters and jet over to the southernmost tip of Taiwan, a small memorial carved out at the end of a jetty, which also meant a trek through the lush jungle again. The views were quite open and sweeping, which made the short journey worth it.
We journeyed along the coast then, heading north on the opposite side of the island. While the others stayed at the top of the hill, I walked down to see the mountains and cliffs and the water all converge together. I felt like I was in England, on the rugged coast, wondering how in the world I’d gotten to a place where I could say I’m standing on a cliff in Taiwan, being battered by the warm sea breeze, and having the sun just break through the clouds to reveal the scenery. I stood on the cliff for awhile, waxing philosophical, when the tour bus horn honked noisily and broke my reverie. Sigh. Dang tourists.
|Just in case I need to get more lost.|
Finally, we headed back west, through the up and down hill terrain of the island’s interior. One final stop landed us in a small town with a charging station for the scooters, and we pulled up to a local cafe with an interesting play on the name “Starbucks.” I ordered a vanilla latte, iced, and took it back to the bench where the others were sitting. A red and white bridge spanned a river, and people were happily walking back and forth on it, pausing for photographs. Old dogs wandered around our feet, looking for hand outs. After I finished my latte, I got a xigua jia bing (watermelon smoothie, in my crappy Chinese) and let the brain freeze take over.
As we prepared to leave, the sun hid away, and rain suddenly splashed around us. It was hard to drive with crappy knock-off Gucci sunglasses that didn’t shield from raindrops. It was a bit chilly to be whipped around in the rain, but thankfully, it didn’t last too too long.
Now we rolled in to Hengshan, a town just north of Kenting with an old city wall and gate that was still in tact. We paused for a bit to take pictures, and as we rested, a few Taiwanese kids started to sing and dance to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” I remember them having props, too. I was able to die laughing, and they loved performing for the foreigners. It was a pretty great send-off to the day.
|Reflections of a good day|
Night fell as we pulled into Kenting. It took me twenty minutes of searching up and down the main street to find the scooter rental places because the night market had started up again, blocking all of the buildings and making everything look so different from the morning.
|Just before the storm hits…|
However, we did manage some beautiful beach shots that day, and then we hit up the night market once more as it was our final evening in Kenting. I couldn’t leave without trying out everything at least once, including the spicy prawn balls, octopus balls, fried milk, and some kind of spicy tofu mixture with green beans. In addition to the markets, there were old-fashioned street games set up for people to play, and musicians entertained folks in the square.
|Red sky at night, sailor’s delight|