I’m huddled at the back of the jeep with the three boys. I stare at the peaks and valleys of the track stretched out in front of us and gulp. I offer up a silent prayer.
“Stand up and look at the roads,” our driver said with a chuckle, having sensed my apprehension. “You’ll feel less scared knowing what’s ahead of you.”
Before I can protest, he kicks the engine into gear and we roar off for the most exhilarating 10 minutes of our Kenting trip.
Kenting (墾丁) is often said to be Taiwan’s paradise on Earth, and with good reason: Endless sunshine, intensely blue waters, white sandy beaches; add a cocktail and you’ve got your very own slice of heaven.
Water sports like scuba diving and snorkeling are the typical must-do activities in Kenting. And why not? With clear waters and an abundance of coral reefs, Kenting is a prime spot for such water activities. Naturally, they take the conservation of marine ecology very seriously and there is even a National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium located at the north-west of Kenting National Park.
Adventure junkies would be pleased to know that Kenting also offers thrills such as go-kart racing and jeep safari adventure.
In fact, the jeep ride was the highlight of the trip for me. Our driver sent us careening around sharp bends, hurtling up and down dirt hills, crashing into a ditch full of muddy water then watching in glee as the resulting wave soaked us to the skin.
And it was awesome.
Though my fingers were numb from gripping the railing in front of me so tightly and I could hardly stand when the ride was over, hell yeah I’d do it all over again.
The go-kart racing was comparatively more sedate I’d say but still fun. There are many go-kart operators along the road leading to Hengchun Township (恆春鎮) and most charge 100 NTD for each ride. Don’t expect serious horsepower from the go-karts though. They may have been advertised as F1 racing but the only race you’d be getting would be the race to get the best looking go-kart.
As the adrenaline surge tapers off, it’s time for more leisurely activities. Go to Eluanbi (鵝鑾鼻) to view the historic lighthouse and explore the park trails.
Catch the sunset at Guanshan (關山) and make a wish at the Gateway to the Ocean.
When night falls, head to Longpan Park (龍磐公園) for a spectacular view of the night sky. It rained as we were driving there but the rain stopped almost as quickly as it had started. Though the sky was still cloudy, we pressed on and found a spot at the edge of the cliff to watch the stars.
As with all good things, stars reveal themselves to you with time. The sky gradually cleared and I lost count of the number of shooting stars I glimpsed. Under that blanket of stars, one feels so infinitely small when confronted with the vastness of the cosmos. A handy tip: Keep your eyes fixed on a particular spot and you’ll be rewarded.
When it comes to Taiwan, food is definitely part of the experience. The Kenting Night Market is located along both sides of Kenting Street (墾丁大街), tempting travelers with over a kilometer of Taiwan’s gastronomic delights. The must-try items are the fried sausages and braised dishes (卤味). We tried the braised dish at Yi Pin Lu Wei (一品卤味) and it was delicious!
Accommodation wise, stay at Nawan Hostel and look for Hong Ge for a first hand experience of Taiwan’s famed hospitality. We had wanted to stay there but it was fully booked for the weekend. Despite us not being guests of his hostel, Hong Ge welcomed us to drop by and helped us plan our itinerary. He was even kind enough to arrange our transportation for us!
We ended up staying at BlueHi Hostel. The room was clean and the breakfast provided was decent but it’s major flaw was the creaky beds. The slightest movement on the bed produced a creak that could probably be heard three doors down. I guess that’s the price of paying only 350 NTD per night for a bed in their six-person dormitory.
Getting around in Kenting is easy if you’re travelling in a group as you’d be able to rent a car. We rented ours for 24 hours and paid only $2200 NTD. Otherwise, there are scooters for rent too and prices range from about 600 NTD to 800 NTD. Rentals tend to increase the closer you get to Kenting Street. Alternatively, you may take the public bus. Buses come in intervals of 30 minutes every day before 9 pm. After that, the bus only comes once every hour.
Pingtung County, Hengchun Township, 恆南路125巷32號
Pingtung County, Hengchun Township, 南湾路164號
Take the High Speed Rail or rail train to Kaohsiung then hire a taxi to Kenting. The drive from Kaohsiung to Kenting takes about 2 hours.