Friday, August 10, 2012

Kenting National Park, Taiwan

Suwei's Family out a Lungpan Park, Kenting National Park, Taiwan
Keystone, CO - I hate blogging about things that happened months and months ago.  But, I love working on photos of the more interesting trips we've taken.  Our trip to Taiwan was definitely one of the most interesting trips of the past year.  However, a computer failure,  a software upgrade, a one and a half year old, and my ever shrinking supply of free time have all conspired to delay these posts into the summer and probably well into the fall.  Anyway, no time to waste.  I've got another set of photos ready.  These are from our trip to Kenting National Park at the very southern end of Taiwan back around the end of January, 2012.

Kenting National Park is Taiwan's oldest National Park and covers the entire southern tip of the island.  It's known for its tropical climate, nice weather, scenic beaches, forests and mountains.  It's a little different than most National Parks I am familiar with as it included the entire region including the township of Kenting, all the beach resorts, and even a nuclear power plant.  Inside the National Park can be found a number smaller parks, some have a separate fee and some are free.

Suwei's family made it very, very easy for us to get down there as many of them wanted to join us.  All told 13 of us piled into three cars and headed south for a two day trip.  We were given a full tour of the park, treated to a stay at the beautiful Howard Beach Resort Kenting, and taken out to dinner all thanks to Suwei's family.  They were incredibly generous and fun to travel with.  Here is what we saw while we were down there:

Day 1

The Maobitou Cape - Basically a large chunk of coral jutting out into the sea with amazing views of the Bashi Channel and the Hengchun Peninsula.  Maobitou supposedly means, "cat's nose and head", and comes from the shape of the land mass.  Cool crags, crowds of Chinese tourists, hardy fishermen, and a shady spot for lunch.
The Maobitou Cape
Some of the view points in Maobitou were a little crowded with Chinese tourists.
Amazing views of the Bashi Channel and the Hengchun Peninsula

Longluan Lake or Longluantan - Taiwan's largest natural fresh water lake.  I had to look this up as Sun Moon Lake is the largest fresh water lake in Taiwan, however it's not natural.  Longluan Lake is known for it's excellent bird watching with 180 migratory birds calling it home each year.  There is a fairly new visitor's center there where you can spot birds in the comfort of an air-conditioned building while sipping cold coconut water.

The Longluan Lake Visitor's Center

Lungpan Park - On the east side of the park an area of grassland ends abruptly as cliffs of coral reef drop to the Pacific.  It's a great place to spend the late afternoon.  Warm winds, great views, and great light.  Watch out for the fissures!

Lungpan Park

The Southern Most Tip of Taiwan - Not much here but an concrete pillar sticking out of the jungle.  But you do feel as if you've gone as far as you are going to go in that direction.  We had just a little bit more sunshine to bask in before returning to the hotel.
The Southern Most Tip of Taiwan

Kenting Street - After a shower we all went out to dinner at a Thai Restaurant on Kenting Street, which really does seem like the place to be after dark in Kenting National Park (the street, not the restaurant).  Noisy, packed to the gills with people, traffic barely able to move, smelly (thanks to the stinky tofu), incredibly lively yet still somewhat tame.  Imagine Patong, but without the bars, nightclubs, and scantily clad girls.  It took quite some time for Suwei and I to find a place where we could sit down and have a beer.  Most folks are out in the streets looking to eat and shop and there is a lot of that to go around.

Day 2

The Howard Beach Resort's Beach - Alleged to be one of the best in Kenting, it was quite nice.  To get there from the hotel, however, you must first head all the way down stairs and through the entertainment arcade, which was full of amusement park like rides, video games, and fast food.  Then you pass under the main road and through an amazing coral reef grotto to the beach.  The beach is beautiful.

The Beach at the Howard Beach Resort Kenting
Frog Stone Seashore Park -  A beautiful park just a short walk away from the hotel beach.  As you could probably guess, it too is named after the shape of the rock (somewhat frog-like).  There is a short paved path that winds along the coast through large coral reef boulders.  At the other end of the path is a Youth Activity Center & Hostel housed in compound with very old style architecture (Fukien or Qing Dynasty depending on which guide book you read).

Frog Stone Seashore Park

Kenting Forest Recreation Area -  This park used to be a botanical garden and it still has that botanical garden feel to it, but the folks in charge have added a few attractions to pull in more visitors.  I guess it worked, because this is one of the most visited places in the National Park.  The whole area used to be an undersea coral reef and is now riddled with limestone caves, narrow canyons, and covered with jungle.  Banyan trees with their crazy roots, wind through all of it. There is a seven story tower in the middle that lifts you up above the forest and allows you to view the entirety of Kenting National Park.

Kenting Forest Recreation Area, Kenting National Park, Taiwan
Limestone Cave in the Kenting Forest Recreation Area
The view from atop the 7 story tower in the Kenting Forest Recreation Area

It was a pretty full two days.  We had gorgeous weather (albeit a bit hot at times which is hard to complain about in the middle of January), saw amazing scenery, and got to know the family better.  Thanks again to family for being such generous guides!

Here are some links to earlier posts from this trip:

Going to Taiwan - Celebrating the Lunar New Year in Kaohsiung
Taiwan - Sandiman, Pingtung, Tainan, and the Kaohsiung Lantern Festival

Here is a link to the slide show if you'd like to see more photos and comments.  There are 64 of them in there.

Taiwan Trip - Kenting National Park

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