The first part of my trip to Taiwan was spent in Taipei with my friends from grad school, Simon and Amanda, and Becky, Amanda’s mother. The last part of my trip was spent with a former student, Ken Ning, whom I advised while working at my previous institution of employment in the US. Ken also completed an internship at Al Jazeera in Qatar last summer. I was able to pick him up from the airport and host him for a few days before I flew back to the US for my summer break. When I returned from break, I was able to see him one last time and drop him off at the airport.
Now that I was visiting Taiwan, Ken wanted to spend some time traveling with me. And, since he had never visited Kenting in the south of Taiwan, he was very interested in accompanying me on this leg of the trip. Ken was trying to finalize his graduate thesis before the start of his 11 months of mandatory military duty for Taiwan, so I imagine he might have needed this trip more than me. Regardless, having a twenty-something Taiwanese travel companion made it considerably easier for me to visit Kenting — all I had to do was underwrite the transportation, lodging, meals, and various activity fees during this excursion. But, considering how Ken was able to select and negotiate for more efficient prices, having him along saved me money and spurred me to do more.
The first day of my trip with Ken, we traveled from Pingtung to Kenting by bus. Then once we checked into the hotel that Amanda and Simon reserved for us, we headed to Baisha Beach as the sun was setting for a little bit of swimming before eating duck for dinner nearby in Hengchun. Ken taxied me around on the back of the scooter that the hotel loaned us for free, so this was an additional perk of him accompanying me.
Here are some pictures from the first day in Kenting.
At the end of the first day in Kenting, Ken suggested that we go snorkeling the next day. I thought that this would be a very memorable activity, so I agreed. However, in order to make an appointment, Ken had to spend about an hour talking with a shopkeeper of a sporting wear store in Kenting to connect us with a person in a neighboring town where all the snorkeling coaches were drinking beer. We had to then ride the scooter to the nearby town to talk with a coach as he was partying for the night, but none of these coaches were available for snorkeling the next day. So, we drove back to the shop, where a girl working there gave us the number for her brother who worked at a diving store near Baisha Beach. He was available to offer a private snorkeling appointment for Ken and me at 9:20am the next day.
“How much is this going to cost Ken?” I asked.
“$350 NTD per person,” Ken responded. “Is it too much?”
The snorkeling fee converted to $11.16 USD per person. “Not at all. Book it, and let’s go back to the hotel.”
Not only did Ken and I receive a guided snorkeling excursion, but our coach also took pictures of us during the activity. All we had to do was control our breathing and enjoy the scenic waters off the coast of Kenting National Park. Here are some of the pictures from snorkeling.
After snorkeling for the morning, Ken and I ate lunch at a local restaurant. We had a simple meal of noodles, fried rice, and steam mussels. I think the meal cost us about $3 USD. We then visited a Starbucks, so that I could get my fix of coffee, before heading to the southernmost point of Taiwan. Along the way, we made other stops to sightsee and take pictures.
However, after visiting the marker, I implored Ken to return to the hotel room for a short break. I – – being older and not used to spending all day outside in the hot sun – – was starting to overheat. I could feel heat rashes developing on my arms and legs. If I did not take a break and a cool shower, I knew that I would be in bad shape. Ken, on the other hand, was not affected by the heat and the sun like I was, but he understood my health concerns. We paused at the hotel for about an hour. Then we headed back to Baisha Beach, ate a seafood dinner of local lobster and fugu, and walked the length of the Kenting night market before calling it a night. Well, not exactly – – Ken still wanted to return to the sporting wear store to make some last minute purchases. I had no problem with this as long as I could enjoy the air-conditioning and edit my photos on my phone.
Here are some photos that I took from the second day in Kenting.
Our last day in Kenting was also my last day in Taiwan. We had to travel from the south of Taiwan all the way to the north in order for me to catch my flight at 9:30pm. Ken had planned this all out days before. Basically, we had to catch a bus in Kenting and ride it to Kaohsiung. Next, we would hop on the high speed rail and blast our way to Taoyuan. Finally, we would take the MRT four or five stops to Terminal 1 of Taoyuan airport. This 433 km trip with its three different modes of public transportation, at most, cost $50-60 USD for the both of us.
However, after sleeping in and taking our time getting ready, we still had time to kill before the 1pm bus ride. So, Ken and I hopped on the scooter one last time and rode through the Kenting National Forest Area.
Here are some pictures from this last jaunt and my rides to the airport.
For my trip to Taiwan, I only had three things I wanted to do: spend time with Amanda and Simon, spend time with Ken in Kenting, and see the sights and sounds of life in Taiwan. Because of the emic knowledge and expertise of my friends, I was able to experience much more than I imagined when booking my plane tickets. So, for Amanda’s, Simon’s, and Ken’s patience and hospitality, I have only one thing to say…