Kenting: Taiwan’s Hawaii?

Kenting is referred to as “Taiwan’s Hawaii”. 5 years ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing Hawaii during a visit to Maui. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I found myself in a parallel universe of rainbows, blue oceans, and Mai Tais. At that point, I would not have been surprised to see a unicorn. The islands of Hawaii exude an exotic aroma of flowers, mangoes, saltwater, and roasted pig. They possess a tranquility paralleled by no other island-at least none that I have visited.

So how does Kenting compare? Well, comparing Kenting with Hawaii is unfair. It’s like taking a lightweight fighter and pairing them with a heavyweight. Hawaii and Taiwan are in different leagues. I did find out from my last visit to Kenting, however, that it does have absolutely stunning beaches.

The last time Dom and I cycled to Kenting, it was during the Chinese New Year. Although we had a good time, it was probably the worst occasion to visit for peace and quiet on a serene stretch of beach. Instead, we were greeted by hoards of tourists, streets blocked with motor vehicles, and bloated prices.

Taiwan is similar to the size of Belgium, so there aren’t many places for tourists to visit. As you can imagine, Kenting is swarming with them. Additionally, mix into the equation the newly allowed visitors from Mainland China, sprinkle in some expats, and you’ve got yourself a smorgasbord of fanny pack wearing, camera totting, mega-bus traveling tourists.

Last weekend, Dom and I decided to give Kenting another whirl. Cycling again of course, but this time only halfway. We took a train to Fangliao, and cycled the remaining 60 KM. Much more enjoyable, as this way we avoided the urban sprawl of Kaohsiung.

Click HERE  to see our journey

The road we cycled was a windy one along the South China Sea, scattered with fruit, coffee, and betel nut vendors, and of course, plenty of 7-11 and Family Marts. (Taiwan’s density of convenience stores ranks first in the world).

Upon arrival, we refueled at an expat owned Italian restaurant, and then made our way to the beach. Around 6 pm, after showering and changing in a public restroom (glamorous I know), we decided it was time to pitch the tent, seeing as night fall was approaching.

Many people working in the touristy shops speak English, so I asked a young girl in one of them about camping. Her first reaction was one of confusion; she seemed surprised that we were camping, and instead offered directions to a hotel.

After I pointed to our tent and asked again, she disappeared and returned about 5 minutes later with valuable information: she was almost positive we could camp for free in the elementary school.

Bingo.

Dom and I made our way to the schoolyard in order to check out the scene.  We weren’t for certain if it was 100% legit, but at this point, it was our only option. We also figured that since we camped for free in a school on our last trip, we would most likely remain unbothered here as well.

The school grounds in Kenting were not as picturesque as the last ones in Sandimen, but it was good enough.

That night we dined on street food and street mojitos (yes there is such a thing, and they are delicious), and enjoyed the lively atmosphere. We couldn’t help, however, but notice the huge gap in the number of tourists present during the day and night.  By day there was a complete absence of tourists, and by night there were loads of people eating, drinking, and roaming the streets.

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Judging by the abundance of tourist buses lining the street, the majority must have been transported  from neighboring resort spots. And the others? Well, the rest were most likely watching t.v. in their hotels during the day in order to escape the sun. Nevertheless, just like Cinderella’s glass slipper, at midnight they vanished again (along with the buses), back to wherever it is they came from.

After enjoying the festivities of the night market, Dom and I returned to our tent. We were elated that it was not raining, and thanking our lucky stars for some good fortune.

We should have knocked on wood.

The winds blew in, and with it the first drop of rain. Luckily, it was a light shower, but the winds were strong and accompanied by a 10 degree temperature drop. Our tent, however, did manage to survive the night, but by morning, Dom and I were far from refreshed.

We had planned to cycle home, but with the lack of sleep-enhanced by the hangover incurred from the mojitos and sunburn from the day before-we called uncle and caught a bus.

Which leaves me with the biggest key difference between Hawaii and Kenting: I didn’t feel like a truck had run me over after returning from Maui.

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Comments

  1. Oh, it’s perfection!

  2. chistanote says:

    what a great post

  3. Enoch Castleberry says:

    I camped on the beach in Kenting once, was lovely until the second night when a storm blue in. i ended up having to relocate my tent to the Elementary school too! haha how funny. hey also, is that crazy guy with a roadside bar on the back of his truck still there? he used to have a clown-bicycle and if u could ride it in a circle three times u got a free tequila shot. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=562331426447&set=a.562329475357.2203819.29601991&type=3&theater

    • Nice spot! Looks kinda risky though-what if they tide were to come up? I didn’t see the roadside bar you are talking about-I would have definitely noticed a clown-bicycle haha How long did it take for you to get to Kenting from Taipei?

  4. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  5. I live in Taiwan as an expat. I must say, I hate it too when there are too many tourists, even if technically I am one of them.

    If you decide to see Taiwan outside of a major holiday, it is pretty quiet. There are many beaches and while it is not Tenerife, it is also very enjoyable.

    For example, if you go visit in the middle of an average week, when most are working, you’ll find the beaches almost empty. The only visitors are groups of teenagers and the occasional in love couple. They tend to stay very civil. In Sicily, people were having sex on the beach in broad daylight. Taiwanese folks are more opened in private and more puritans in public.

    Taiwan as a tourist destination is hit and miss. However, as a place to live is absolutely wonderful. I moved from Europe, where I stayed in London previously and I would take Taiwan over the U.K. anytime.

    And sharing your opinion – while it was nice to see fellow European at first, now I wish to see less of them and interact less so I can just enjoy my new life in Taiwan in tranquility.

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  1. […] Kenting as being  Taiwan’s Hawaii. As a matter of fact, just forget Kenting. Nestled in between the lush green mountains and the […]

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