Day 201: Hengchun, Taiwan. We woke to the not-so dulcet sounds of Jingle Bells being practiced rather sloppily on a recorder. By the twenty eighth rendition (we were quickly learning that practice doesn’t always make perfect), we were reaching for our ear plugs to block out the squeals.
We decided to head out to the local laundromat with a large bag of washing. The lady who owns the guesthouse (we must find out her name) apprehended us on the way, shook her head and steered us back up the stairs to the rooftop, where we found two washing machines.
Using Google Translate, she managed to communicate that it’s best not to go to the laundromat as ‘dogs and cats are often washed there’. We assume she meant dogs and cats clothes but decided not to pursue that one any further. Perhaps that’s why the little puppies at the pet shop yesterday looked so squeaky clean, if a little startled.
She also communicated via Google that there was no need to wait for the washing, she would take care of it – we were to go and have fun. How awesome is that. She loaded us up with a hefty handful of candy each, and we set off on a long walk around the coast.
As we walked out of town, we passed a karting stadium which seems to have been built around an old dinosaur theme park. Very bizarre. Jim took the opportunity to head-butt a dinosaur, big kid that he is.
The scenery as we walked through farmland and rice paddies and out towards the coast was absolutely stunning. We’re guessing the locals see very few tourists out walking the roads here (most probably zip past on a tour bus), and we were greeted merrily as we went. Jim was happy to spot a snake, albeit a dead one. This time a Banded Krait, the most venomous snake in Taiwan. Holy dooley.
We wandered through a very cute little fishing village called Hongchaikeng. From here you can get a tour boat with underwater windows to view the corals, but we were happy to just watch the local fishing boats putting in and out of the harbour.
We kept walking – and walking. We checked out a few raised coral beaches along the way, that are the fossilised remains of long exposed coral from when the sea level was very much higher.
And then we reached Baisha Beach, which is where the Sunday afternoon action was really happening. The beach is renowned to be one of the best in Taiwan, and it was pretty busy with people swimming and sunning themselves, with a couple of open air bars selling cocktails, and lots of umbrellas to keep the sun off.
Baisha Beach is also famous for being used in shots of Life of Pi and a very famous Taiwanese movie called Cape Number 7 – a fact that they promote quite heavily. Jim (of course) had to pose with the statue of Richard Parker the tiger.
We continued our walk around the coast, stopping after a while at the next attraction, Maobitou Park. Its claim to fame is a large rock that looks like a cat reclining, though to be honest we struggled to see the similarity. It’s the rocky outcrop in the picture below – and just in case you need a useful comparison, there’s also a picture of a real cat that happened to be reclining on a nearby viewing deck.
Some of the online reviews of the cat rock are quite scathing: “It’s a lump of rock for heaven’s sake” and “a lame excuse for people to make money by hyping up a pretend cat” (there was a small admission fee to see the feline wonder). Regardless, the distant views were awesome, though we had to battle our way past a bus load of tourists who seemed to go deaf when taking selfies.
There was also a sign saying watch your step on the platform while gazing at distant view; Lil tripped and nearly fell over while trying to read it as she walked past.
We walked past the Maanshan Nuclear Power station then through fish market where all sorts of weird and wonderful seafood was waiting to be bought and scoffed for dinner. Including leopard eel, razor clams that looked like they were waving at us as we walked past, and gross geoduck clams with huge syphons poking out. Lil couldn’t wait to get outside.
By now, we’d walked 22km and still had another 7km to go to get back to town. It was getting dark, so we decided it was safer to stop walking and catch a bus. We walked one more kilometre to the tourist shuttle bus stop, and stood waiting in the dark.
Two minutes after we arrived, a motorbike pulled up and the guy said there were no more buses at this hour. (We were surprised, as Google said there were at least two more before the service finished for the day, but he was adamant). He said his friends were about to head into Hengchun in a car, and we were welcome to a lift with them, and to follow him along the road for about five minutes. When we got to the entrance of a house, he waved us into a van, where we sat on a low wooden bench, alongside a motor bike and the driver’s wife. They dropped us off at the bus station, told us not to miss the night market, which is open on Sundays only, and wished us well. Such lovely, lovely people.
We took their advice and went to check out the night market, and we’re really glad we did. It’s a large market with a fabulous range of food and lots of games and raffles, including one stall where you stood a chance to win a live mouse, bird, rabbit or terrapin. The thought of a little live pet in our backpacks sounded like fun, but we decided to be sensible and give that one a skip.
We had one of our best dinners yet at the market – thinly sliced steak served on a hot plate with egg and noodles. Absolutely superb.
Then we headed home for an early night, very tired out from the day. Tomorrow we’ll likely give our legs a rest and hang about the town. Wearing lots of clean washing, thanks to the lovely guesthouse owner.