This weekend, we were able to take advantage of the Taiwanese national holiday and, since “Double Ten Day” (so called for being the tenth day of the tenth month) fell on a Saturday, we got a three day weekend. In an attempt to get to know our island home a little better, Chris planned a trip with some of our friends down to the southern tip of Taiwan to a beach town called Kenting. Having two typhoons swirling around in the Pacific last week made us a little nervous, but the worst seemed to be over by the time we hopped on the high speed train down south. Arriving late Thursday night, we found our hotel and crashed into bed. Friday morning, we got up and explored the area around our hotel and staked out the nearest beach. At this point, I would like to emphasize the difference between American beach culture and Taiwanese beach culture. In the U.S., we love our beaches. White sand, brown sand, black sand, warm water, cold water, murky water, it pretty much doesn’t matter. As long as there is salt water and sand, we are lining up around the block ready to overpay for airbrushed tee-shirts and tacky postcards. Taiwan, on the other hand, is a totally different story. First of all, most Asian women highly value their white skin. In fact, they often walk around with umbrellas on sunny days to avoid any stimulation of skin pigmentation. So, laying out is pretty much out of the question. Add to that the superstition that ghosts come from the water and you are left with an empty beach. And, that is what we had. Beautiful, empty beaches.
Sadly, the tail end of the second typhoon was still lingering on Friday afternoon so we were left to wander around the town ducking into tourist traps and restaurants when the skies opened up. Friday evening, our friends who were staying in cabins on the other side of the city invited us over for a barbecue. Not being ones to miss out on food cooked over open flame, we gladly accepted. Getting to their cabin was easier said than done, however. In Taipei, we are spoiled with the ease of public transportation. So, we were unpleasantly surprised when finding a taxi in Kenting turned out to be quite an odyssey. After finally flagging one down and explaining where we wanted to go, the driver quoted us what we thought was an astronomical price. Thinking that it was an attempt to bargain, we came back with a low-ball price. But, the disheveled driver refused to change his price. Just out of principle, we all decided that we would rather walk the 10 kilometers to their house rather than let this toothless scoundrel take advantage of us. So, we did. We grabbed our things and started walking. About two kilometers later, our principles started to weaken and we caved, though not completely. We had an overpriced van come and pick us up (which turned out to be more than the astronomically priced taxi). But, we got there. And we were very glad that we did. Our friends ventured to the fresh fish market that afternoon and picked up a veritable cornucopia of fresh fish, clams, and squid. For the rest of the evening, we cooked, ate, talked with our friends and the hotel owner, and generally participated in good ol’ fashioned merrymaking.
Saturday proved to be a much better day for the beach and so we laid out and swam all day. Saturday night we went into town and had dinner, wandered through the night market and caught a glimpse of a few fireworks. Sunday, we wished the sun goodbye and headed back to Taipei. In all, it was deemed a successful Double Ten Day.