Taiwan Day 2 – Tainan, Kenting: Houbihu Harbour, Cheap & Good Sashimi, Maobitou, Baishawan, The Sail Rock, Southernmost Point of Taiwan, Eluanbi Lighthouse, Kenting Night Market
I was very excited about Kenting since the day we started planning our third self-tour of Taiwan. I love beaches, nature walks, sea coasts, road trips and mountainous scenery.
I had a dream fantasy house when I was younger. It would be built such that it is one third in the mountains, one third in the forest and one third under the sea. How this is architecturally possible, is not a question a young girl bothered about. That’s why the dreams of the young are often more imaginative than the practical wishes of the pioneer generation.
If you don’t believe, watch this video. Somehow our dreams just get simpler as we grow older, as if we are too aware of the limitation of human life.
When I was younger, there were many paths open, fewer commitments and a blank slate to write my life’s direction on. But one by one, my dreams floated away, because they weren’t in sync with my life’s goal, which may sound a bit old-fashioned: to find someone I love and raise a family.
Although this goal comes with a LOT of commitments, the alternative is to be single, but nah, I wouldn’t be satisfied with this. And besides I’ve already found someone I love, even if I don’t show it enough.
Anyway, back to my travelogue, having stayed in chilly Tainan the night before, the husband and I woke up at 530am in order to reach the Ah Hang famous milkfish porridge shop at 6am when it opened.(read more about Tainan’s milkfish dishes).
We tried the milkfish porridge for NT100 which was oh so creamy, hot and peppered with fried garlic bits. The milkfish tastes like boiled saba fish and it was the perfect breakfast for a cold Tainan morning.
After that, we returned the scooter and took a morning 自强 Tzechiang TRA train to Xin Zuoying TRA train station, where we walked over to the Zuoying HSR side and purchased PT bus tickets for the Kenting Express bus 9188 to Kenting, which costs NT650 for a round trip per person.
We weren’t exactly taking a complete round trip from Zuoying-Kenting-Zuoying as our destination after Kenting was Dapeng Bay, but it was still cheaper to buy the round trip tickets.
This Kenting express bus will stop at a few destinations along the way, and there are quite a few stops along Kenting coast itself (although not all stops are stated in the schedule), including Nanwan, the entrance to the Kenting National Park and beyond. It took about 2 hours plus to reach Kenting.
For those traveling to Dapeng Bay, not all Kenting Express bus timings from Zuoying HSR station will stop there, some will bypass it. Schedules may change often so best to check towards your trip dates (I downloaded the pdf bus schedule which has the costs per station interval, but I can’t find the link anymore).
Upon reaching Kenting, we rented a scooter for NT900 for 2 days and set off for Houbihu Harbour, about 15min away. It was quite easy navigating via Google maps, but the wind was really strong at some sections of the road. We regretted not choosing helmets with visors but our sunglasses sort of blocked some of the wind.
Upon reaching Houbihu Harbour (a pretty sleepy place), we searched for a cheap and good sashimi stall at the main building which had a lot of seafood stalls. We specifically looked for 阿兴 (you’ll have to look for the 繁体字 version of the characters). It’s on level 1 and is always full of customers.
We ordered a plate of 20 slices of 4 different types of sashimi for NT100 (the cheapest and freshest sashimi I’ve ever had), a plate of stir fried cabbage for NT100 and 2 bowls of calrose rice.
This stall also sells other dishes such as stir fried noodles and steamboat, but we stuck to the basics to save money.
Full and happy, we set off for Maobitou, which is a series of rock formations along the coast of which the cat’s head is the most famous.
Complete tourist trap.
We paid NT10 to park the scooter inside, and left after 15 mins as it was swarming with loud, noisy PRC tourists who did not know the meaning of personal space. There was also a group of Falungong activists who were holding up a banner and practising a sort of taichi show in the hope that the PRC tourists would notice.
We next rode to Baishawan, which is popular with families (but there’s nothing really much to do except play in the sea and sand).
Normally people would travel next to Guanshan for the sunset, but we would have to kill 3 hours of time before sunset, and we bet that Guanshan would be crawling with PRC tourists, so we headed back to Kenting to buy some snacks from 7-11 and chill while admiring the Sail Rock.
After a rest at the hotel, we visited the Southernmost Point of Taiwan, managing to relax for 15 minutes before a whole group of tourists arrived.
We had half an hour to spare before sunset at 530pm, so we quickly went to Eluanbi Lighthouse which is a short distance away, paid an entrance fee and walked through the grounds. The lighthouse is at the top of a hill, with a few trails going down the hill and into some natural rock formations.
I managed to squeeze a short trail walk just before sunset, and it was thankfully relatively tourist-free. Most of the other people around were Taiwanese.
There were quite a few great spots for photo-taking, rolling down the hill, picnicking and relaxing. If I were to return to Kenting, I’d spend at least an hour going through all of the trails at the Eluanbi Lighthouse park and having a sandwich after the walk while lying on the soft grass.
It was dark when we reached the Kenting night market, which stretches from the Kenting National Park road turnoff entrance to the Caesar hotel. Sellers there sell their wares in pushcarts on both sides of the road such as souvenirs for NT50 onwards, 4 boxes of Taiwanese fruits for NT100, fried milk cubes, sausages, BBQ corn and baked cheese potatoes.
We clambered into a local café to have noodles for dinner, and had an early night as we wanted to wake up early to visit the Kenting and Sheding National Parks the next day.
Kenting is a great place to travel to in the winter. The weather is chilly and it can get a bit too sunny at times, but it beats going in the summer where temperatures can be even hotter than Singapore.
One of the cheapest ways to get to Kenting from Singapore is to fly a budget flight to Kaoshiung airport, take the MRT to Zuoying train station and board the Kenting Express bus to Kenting. Alternatively if you are traveling in a group of 4 and above, booking a taxi or minibus directly from the Kaohsiung airport may be more time efficient with cost savings.
Kenting isn’t a place for a day trip. You should spend at least 2 nights here!
Packing sunblock, sunglasses, a cap and an international motorcycle/car driving licence is recommended. There are so many places to visit that you wouldn’t want to be tied down by a tour bus or the limited Kenting public shuttle timings. It’s also a good holiday destination for children and elderly.
Food-wise, there are affordable cafés here and there, a 7-11, Family Mart, McDonald’s, some higher end restaurants and there’s always the Kenting night market for street food. Or you can take a 15min drive to Hengchun town for a wider variety of local food (which we did in our next day in Taiwan).
Refer to my Taiwan Day 3 – Kenting blogpost for more updates on Kenting.
Taiwan Travel Tips
These are a few very important links or apps you need to bookmark or download if you’re self-planning a trip to Taiwan.
High speed rail – twice as fast as TRA’s 自强 (Tzechiang) and twice as expensive too. It only takes a couple of hours from Taipei to Kaohsiung.
Normal railway – there are 3 types of trains. Take the faster 自强 Tzechiang for long distances to save time (if you want assigned seats, buy online or go to the counter in advance), and the slower trains (chukuang and local train) for short distances to save money.
Taiwan’s iBus app
Download from Google Play store. Apparently it has the timetables and even a moving geolocation of running buses in Taiwan. You need to be able to understand 繁体字 to use it.
Google maps app
Useful if you’re figuring your way around.
Type in your location, click on Places Of Interest and click on the map option to check out the tourist spots in the vicinity. It works for restaurants and hotels too (but we prefer Booking.com and travelking for this).
Also published on Medium.