So after my weekend trip to Kenting I had an insanely crazy, busy, draining, stressful week. I won’t get into it, but let’s suffice it to say I was pretty worn out.
But it wasn’t all bad— my beautiful and fun August roommate, 奶茶 (Nai Cha) took me to a big night market in Kaohsiung one night where we played carnival games and ate delicious food, and afterwards we went bowling in the middle of the night.
Another night a small group of us went for a late walk and found an amazing place to look out over the city lights. It was beautiful, and a good reminder of why we’ve all fallen in love with Pingtung.
At the end of the week Nicole and I were both ready for a relaxing weekend, but we didn’t have anything planned, so we called a little inn on Green Island (with some help from a Taiwanese student to translate…) and set up a weekend package spur of the moment. We convinced Dan B. and Youming to tag along, and it was one of the best things we’ve done since coming to Taiwan.
Saturday morning we got up early and hopped a train to Taitung (on the east coast of Taiwan), where we were met by a taxi driver (sent by our little inn). He took us to the ferry, where we had tickets waiting for us (booked by our little inn). We spent an hour on a boat in the beautiful sunshine; we stood on the deck and watched Green Island slowly grow in size as we approached.
When we landed we were met by a man (from our little inn), and he had scooters waiting for us. (Did I mention that booking that package with the inn was one of our best decisions ever?) The name of our inn was The Cat House— it overlooked the harbor, with a beautiful view of the ocean. We all sort of fell in love.
We spent the afternoon wandering around the main town a little bit. We ate some good aboriginal food (Nicole ordered ostrich. Surprisingly tasty.) and played on the shore searching tide pools.
In the evening we went snorkeling, which was arranged by— you guessed it— our little inn. It was a very controlled situation, that included full body wet suits and a floating rope that we all grabbed on to while a guide swam with it over coral reefs.
I’ve never snorkeled before, and despite my occasionally over-powering fish phobia, it was an awesome experience. Whole schools of brightly colored fish swirled around us as they chased after bits of bread our guide tossed into the water, and the coral was an array of purples, pinks, and yellows. The fish made me nervous at first, but soon I was too caught up in watching them dart back and forth across the ocean floor which had morphed into an alien terrain.
After we cleaned up we went and got pizzas, and took them back to The Cat House to eat them up on the deck. We sat there at sunset with an incredible spectacle before us as the sun set over Taiwan far in the distance across an expanse of sea. It was a perfect evening.
But it was far from over. After dinner the owner of our little inn took us on a late night tour of the island on scooters. Every now and then he’d pull off the road to show us a landmark, catch unique insects or sea creatures, point out spotted deer, or make whistles out of grass stems.
One of the funniest parts was when we were stopped to take a look at the prison, where political prisoners were kept during the turmoil between the KMT and the Communists. Although it’s still an actively used prison it looks more like a school dormitory building. There’s a fence, but the gate is open. There’s a guard, but only one. If Nicole and I were lost and didn’t know the building’s purpose we’d probably have wandered in there to ask the guard for directions.
Youming then informed us that we didn’t need to worry about the prison, because there aren’t any political prisoners anymore, only violent criminals. We had this sudden shocked reaction of, “This is a high security prison?! WHAT?” And his steady reassurances of, “Don’t worry, it’s not political prisoners, just dangerous ones.” When we asked what happens if the prisoners escape he laughed and replied, “It’s Green Island! Where would they go?” Hmm…
After the tour we went to relax in the local hot springs, which overlooked the coastline. Dan bought a bag of eggs, which he dunked in a boiling spring and we munched on hard boiled eggs in the salty night air and let our muscles soak in the warm water.
The drive back to our inn was one of my favorite moments in Taiwan; we had to get to the other side of the island, so we drove along the deserted road on our scooters. The wind kept us cool in the tropical night air and we were flanked by the ocean to our left, steep green mountains to our right, and a full moon laying on a bed of wispy clouds overhead.
The next morning we headed out to explore the island in the sunlight. We took our scooters out and drove along the coast, looking for places to explore. Our first stop was at an old cement wall; I think it was once a dock for large ships, but it sits empty now. It keeps the waves out, but offers deep glassy water that was just begging to be jumped into.
After swimming for a little while Nicole and I were given scooter lessons from the guys in an empty lot, and quickly gaining confidence in our skills, decided we’d drive to the next spot up the road. It went without a hitch, although perhaps a little wobbly. But once we were there Nicole decided she wanted to go just a bit further. Going further required turning completely around, which we hadn’t quite learned yet. As she turned she lost control, clamped down on the accelerator, and gunned it for a parked car. Dan was on the back going, “Break. Break. Break! Break!! BREAK!!!” But she wasn’t breaking. Fate intervened and she bounced off an uneven patch of gravel, missed the car by a few inches, and quickly after managed to stop the scooter.
She decided not to drive again.
Our next stop was to look at a huge craggy rock jutting out of the ground. Dan and I instantly decided it needed to be climbed. Nicole and Youming stayed on the ground and watched our climbing progress. It was easy to scramble up, but it was a sharp jagged type of rock that cut into your hands and feet as you climbed, and sent pebbles flying as you loosened them from the rock’s sides.
When we were about 20 feet up there was a small ledge, and Dan stopped there. I wanted to go just a few feet higher while Nicole snapped pictures of us. I had reached up with my right hand, and just shifted my weight to the rock I had grabbed, when it decided to come loose from the wall. I started to plummet downwards. As I fell I managed to grab the wall with my left; it slowed my descent, but also spun me, so I was facing out towards the sea. Thankfully Dan, still on the ledge, reacted with amazingly fast reflexes and caught me as I fell and pinned me to the wall, saving me from another 20 feet of free fall and a landing of sharpened rocks at the bottom.
Afterwards Dan commented that between Nicole’s driving and my climbing, we were going to kill him.
We continued our drive around the island (I drove!), and came to the Sleeping Beauty outlook, which is a short stair climb to a gazebo perched on a cliff side. It was an incredible view of the ocean and the island in shades of blue and green that I’ve never even seen before.
By then we’d used up our time, so we circled around the island back to The Cat House, packed up, thanked our amazing hosts, and found seats on the ferry, where we promptly fell asleep as we began our journey back to Pingtung.