Travel

Sand and street food in southern Taiwan

My best friend told me there was a little gem in the south of Taiwan that deserves to be explored although very few people know of it. Kenting is located in Hengchun Peninsula of Pingtung County and is home to the southernmost point of Taiwan. It was the end of April when, without hesitation, we began our journey.

Hengchun, just like its meaning in Chinese (“always spring”), has good weather all year round. The journey there displayed a transformation in the terrain, from messy to clear, from rough to delicate. Every style was totally unlike Europe. A single street ran straight through the town, with various tiny lanes meandering adjacent. It was a fantastic sight to see such a narrow road that seemed to extend as far as the eye can see. Orderly houses rose up on both sides of the street, shops setting out on the ground. Multi-coloured signboards stretched out from stores in a range of sizes and heights, all competing in their numerous styles to attract visitors. The sunshine hung lazily, shining down on pedestrians, traders, cars, bikes and goods on market stalls.

Arriving at the hostel, the owner told us that “everything you will do here follows your heart.” There was no necessity to prepare for planning where to go and what to do, apart from taking a map and hiring an electric motorbike.

It was a sunny afternoon as we drove out of the town center on a long asphalt road seeing almost no cars or people. The road would run straight for long periods and then wind, snakelike, shrubs and grasses growing green on the verge in rhythmic layers extending to the seashore. Clouds wandered, hiding the mountains that loomed in the distance. I felt tiny under the boundless sky; we were screaming, we were free, we were bursting with joy.

Taiwan is home to a number of beautiful beaches and thanks to the climate they can be enjoyed all year round. As I surveyed Baisha Shore, the location used in films such as Life of Pi and Cape No.7, I felt lucky to be able to experience such sights. I sat on the soft sands and watched the children playing, making sandcastles and paddling. Waves ran from the horizon and forged to the beach with rolling sounds. Innocent faces were in fits of laughter as waves softly doused around legs and feet. At that moment, it seemed that time stopped, my heart was peaceful and I became a bystander looking in on the beautiful picture before me.

Another overwhelmingly wonderful experience that should not be missed in Kenting is the gourmet-style street food. Served under Chinese paper lanters, they provide the best food in the night market and you can eat dishes such as beef noodles, fruit fried-ice, and barbecued and traditional tofu. The atmosphere was buzzing: traders and shoppers were talking, hot soup was bubbling and knives were chopping.

I enjoyed a  frozen dessert called garlic mung beans which, surprisingly, is actually nothing to do with garlic. It was traditionally served as the last dessert in local feasts. Mung beans are chopped and cooked like garlic and served in a bowl with condensed milk, little taros, syrup and special noodles. It was an unusual combination of chewy, juicy and crispy I immersed myself in the night market and believed that they were creating a culture more than selling one.

My trip to Kenting was truly magical; I enjoyed the differences between the city where I live and the atmosphere of my new environmment. Travelling gave me an appreciation of new cultures and this is why I believe travelling is so important.

28/11/2016

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