Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Beautiful Island"

3/17/12 Saturday

Kenting or Kending, however you say it, it must be Taiwanese for Hawaii! And no wonder, it sits on the same latitude as the United States’ island paradise. I cannot help make another comparison to the US by saying we arrived the seaside village of Kenting (my preferred spelling) via Taiwan’s National Highway 1 just as one in America would drive to Big Sur via the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) which is our US Highway 1. If you’ve ever driven either, you know the highway hugs the coast, and you travel for miles with a continuous view of waves, rocks, beaches and the ocean meeting the horizon. It was as magnificent here in Taiwan as any drive we have ever made on our own west coast.

We arrived at our hotel, the Bethlehem B&B, after searching high and low for street signs. We gave up hope that we could find the hotel by looking for an address, so we began looking for a place that hopefully resembled the pictures that were online. We spotted one possibility that was very similar to what we had seen that was up a tiny side street.  

When I got out of the car and went into the lobby I was convinced it was the right place. It looked exactly like the picture I had seen. But, “No,” the man who couldn’t speak English was sure I was in the wrong place and pointed somewhere “over there.” I couldn’t argue. What did I know? So off we went to look “over there.” And, surprisingly to me, there was another hotel that looked just like it on the main street! When we walked in the lobby and talked to the girl at the front desk, she pulled out her list of reservations, we pointed to our name and we had a room!

This was the cutest little hotel/B&B! It was, like the subtle theme of the village, Mediterranean style…more specifically Greek. It had stucco walls painted white with royal blue shutters and doors. Our room was on the third floor of the complex off the back patio where you entered through a charming little blue gate. The lobby there was decorated tastefully with brightly colored flowers and knick-knacks. They stood out boldly against the white walls and staircase.  

The outside wall of each landing had a window and was painted a different bright color. One was orange, one was hot pink, one was yellow. The stairs from the second floor up were painted the same royal blue as the window frames and doors. I need not continue describing this adorable inn because I have a lot of pictures of which I have chosen the best to post below.

The back patio entrance to the breakfast room.

Lobby to the back complex of rooms.
The Bethlehem B&B at night.
This adorable place, though, was positioned amid Old China. I am not making any kind of statement. I have mentioned this before…a most wonderful place might not be surrounded by an equally lovely place. I want to be truthful about our experience. Next to the cute, clean patio where we walked up an alley and tiny street to enter, there was an old complex of tile-roofed traditional Chinese homes. They were in a u-shape all sharing the same roof that extended out over the walkway in front of the house. As is traditional, the wash was hanging outside the front door when we first arrived. There was a low, broken-down  brick wall around this set of family homes with a large opening. Someone in this family obviously ran the beach business of “wave-running” because the jet ski and “hot dog” to pull behind it was stored in the large plaza area inside the walls of the property. 

No matter about the neighborhood. It was safe and quiet. We enjoyed our two nights at the Bethlehem B&B. We had a big, good bed, air conditioning (which we needed), American channels on TV, a bathtub (which I haven’t had in 3 months) and eggs for breakfast in the morning. The accommodations were perfect for relaxing. This was the purpose of our get-away to Kenting. Mission accomplished!

Of course relaxing didn’t mean soaking in the tub or watching TV all day. We did walk the beach.

We also explored the interesting rock formations that covered the “beach” immediately in front of the hotel. When we got right down on them we discovered they must actually be coral. The designs in them were beautiful.

This area is famous for a rock that tumbled into the edge of the sea and sits strikingly by itself. From the water, they say it looks like a sailboat, so they named it the “Sail Rock.” However, from the direction of the boardwalk people thought it looked like the profile of Richard Nixon. This idea was passed along so often that even the information sign describing its history says it is best known as “Nixon Rock.”

On Friday morning, we took a ride around the tip of the island to see the east coast. The east coast is quite remote. There is very little space to build between the ocean and the mountains. There is a road similar to the road to Hana on Maui that winds up and around and through this coastal area. At one point we stopped and got out of the car at an overlook. We walked through a meadow and through a path that was cut through a clump of yucca plants. We came out to another open space that was very unusual. The clay-like ground was worn smooth and hard but it had strange rock formations popping up through it. We continued on all the while the ocean was spread out below us.

When we got to the edge of the cliff there was an information plaque that explained the geological phenomenon that was happening to form this ridge. The mountain we were standing on was made of coral. There are coral caverns within the mountain that will eventually collapse causing the edge of the mountain to drop down creating a shearing effect. In geological terms, this is called “slumping.”  

Aside from the absolutely breath-taking view from this overlook, we explored fissures in the ground created by earthquakes and “slumping.” We found a granite marker that had writing on it. It was flat in the ground like a grave marker. We know how they mark their graves and this was not that. I found it interesting, so I took a picture.

We walked farther and saw another marker just like the other one only this one was standing upright. It appeared that the first had fallen during a “slumping” episode and the other is still as it should be. We surmise they might be warning markers.

We continued on our drive. After quite a sharp descent, we were at sea level and driving along the coast, again. This time we stopped and walked through another path cut through jungle-like vegetation, only this time we ended up on a sandy beach with surfers in wet suits.  

There was driftwood on the sandy beach as well as a collection of rocks that had been washed up over the years. They were round and smooth, just the kind you see in Oriental rock gardens or used as a bed in an indoor water fountain. We made ourselves little rock “seats” to sit on in the sand. We sat there for quite awhile watching the tide coming in, then decided to head back to the hotel.

Later in the day, we drove through the Kenting National Forest Recreational Area. We drove through an arched entryway and followed the signs.  

When we got to the peak of the park, we could look down onto the little seaside village with the ocean rolling in on the beach. It, too, reminded me of some place we’d been before. It wasn’t till later that night that I realized that it wasn’t Hawaii or the PCH but it was Catalina Island.  

It was very warm…hot…in the middle of the day, but the temperature was pleasant after the sun went down. That’s when we took advantage of the beautiful view of the night sky and ocean. We could also see the lights of the huge resort around the curve of the bay that, again, gave the impression of the Mediterranean Riviera. It was a great spot to eat ice cream that we bought from the 7-Eleven across the street. (Again, I want to give an honest portrayal. It was beginning to sound a little “more” than what it was. It was just a lovely place to share ice cream.)

This was our “last hurrah” before setting our minds to packing and going home in four days. It was a fabulous way to end our time on the “beautiful island,” Formosa. The Portuguese had it right when they gave this name to the uncharted island that they found while sailing for Japan in 1542!

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