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HOME > NORTH TAIWAN > TAIPEI > ARTICLES >

TAIWAN FUN MAGAZINE, May 2003. VOL.3 ISSUE 5

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Kenting: A true all-things-to-all-people resort

By Steven Crook

       Kenting offers a great deal more than sandy beaches and sparkling ocean. Energetic visitors can happily spend days here without ever getting their feet wet.

       Kenting National Park--which now covers 20,000 hectares of land, and almost as much sea--has 15 species of wild mammals (though you're more likely to see buffalo than macaques), 59 kinds of reptiles and amphibians, 216 species of butterflies, and more than 300 different birds.

       Offshore, reefs of soft and stony coral attract scuba divers. Sixty percent of the world's coral species can be found around Kenting; these reefs nurture 1,500 kinds of fish. For those visitors who want to enjoy all this sub-aqua color, diving outfitters abound.

       The Hengchuen Peninsula has more than a dozen prehistoric sites, some of which were inhabited by humans 4,000 years ago. More recent cultural attractions include the 120-year-old lighthouse at Eluanbi, Hengchuen's South Gate, and the tiny aboriginal communities that dot the area.

       Popular with tourists since the 1970s, Kenting Road--the resort's main strip--now hosts well over a hundred businesses run by locals, outsiders, and foreigners. On weekend evenings it resembles a night market, with food vendors, souvenir hawkers, and even tattoo artists plying their trades.

       Dawan Road, quieter and closer to the beach, is home to two of Kenting's most popular eateries--Warung Didi and the Cactus Cafe.

       Unless you're here for the gastronomy or the nightlife, you shouldn't restrict yourself to "urban Kenting" and the nearby beaches.

       Scooters can be hired at almost any time of day or night. I arrived just after 5 am, and had the paperwork completed within 10 minutes.

       The roads that criss-cross the eastern half of the peninsula make for dream riding: Smooth tarmac, extremely light traffic, and pleasing scenery at every turn.

       Some of the places I saw in the hour after dawn, like the crumbling cliffs near Lungpan, looked very different when I returned mid-afternoon.

       At one point further up the coast, I had to stop because torpid cows blocked the road. Then a man with a two-meter-plus tuna fish strapped to the back of his motorcycle overtook me at great speed.

       Taiwan is a well-watered, fecund island. The shifting sand dunes at Gangtz are therefore especially intriguing, and it's no surprise that at least two companies offer Jeep tours of the "desert." A circuit costs NT$300 or so per person, and takes 25-30 minutes.

       I was enjoying my foray through the less-visited, thinly populated eastern half of the peninsula so much that it seemed a pity to turn around and head into the uplands visible from the tourist beaches.

       These hills are largely uplifted coral reefs. It is strange, hundreds of meters above sea level, to find house-sized chunks of brownish coral. It's also a vivid illustration of the power and time-scale of geological processes.

       Kenting Forest Park is a formal but worthwhile introduction to the area's plants and trees. Exploring the nearby roads--many are dead-ends, others are rock-strewn farm trails, a few are alarmingly steep--can be equally rewarding. The surrounding open pastureland, and the cattle grates on the road, make for several this-cannot-be-Taiwan moments.

       Mountain biking is certainly an option hereabouts, and rock climbers will find plenty to occupy them. In fact, the list of non-water activities is almost endless. There are hot springs elsewhere on the peninsula if the sea is too cold for you (unlikely in this season), not to mention the superb National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium.

       In and around Kenting, you can be sure: You'll run out of time before you run out of things to do.

 


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