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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dragon Boat Festival in Kenting

The past year or so every Saturday, I'd invite my daughter's swimming coach Ivy's daughter Maggie to come over and spend the day with us while her Mom worked full-time at our gym. Ivy is also a single mom.  Ivy taught Z to swim several years ago when E-Power moved into the basement of these condos' pools.(We actually lived on the 17th floor of one of those condos when we first arrived from the States). Our daughters became instant buddies, fast friends, and played together when I took a yoga or kickboxing class. Those Saturdays were a  win-win situation for both of us; Z had a companion her own age, so I'd just bring us to the park, do some yoga or reading while they adventured on in their imaginary worlds.

Ivy and me catching the sunset
After the Anping branch of E-power closed, Ivy took a new job as a swim coach in Kaohsiung. One Saturday we came to pick up Maggie as usual and the staff told us they had moved to Kaohsiung, my daughter was gutted. We called them to wish them the best of luck with their new life and tell them we will miss them.

I was surprised when Ivy called me out of the blue and invited us to spend the Dragon Boat 3 day weekend with them in Kenting  (墾丁). I've been to Kenting maybe four or five times, and think its a bit overrated. Still, I wouldn't not think of declining such an invitation, my daughter was stoked. Her cousin Benson would join us. He happens to be fluent in English (and Afrikaans, Taiwanese, Mandarin) having grown up in S. Africa. He certainly helped when my poor Mandarin and Ivy's poor English didn't connect.

On the drive down to Kenting we stopped at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Pingtung. Sure we have been there four times, but each time Z a little older and we are with different company, so although we know where each exhibit is, its still altogether a new experience. We saw the penguin feeding this time which was a first. There we were, two strapping single mom's with our daughters on our shoulders so they could look over everyone's heads. 


We decided to save some money and camp it the first night. We found a campground south of the city center with a view of the beach, but alas we got there too late for prime viewing tent sites. After we set up camp we found dinner run by the French chef at Chez Papa. After our yummy dinner we drank a few beers and played cards but no one but the kids got any sleep. It was much too hot in the tents and in typical Taiwanese campgrounds, its much too loud too late. Thankfully there was no KTV, as I've experienced camping in Taiwan before, but drunk dudes did come back in the middle of the night, immune to the volume of their own voices and there were people setting up camp at 3 am next to us. With the heat, we were pretty blood shot come morning. There were quite a few foreign dudes from Tainan. I recognized their voices bright and early also complaining of the early heat. One guy, packed up and returned to the AC of his apartment back in Tainan. We fortunately booked a room in a hotel the next night, otherwise I might have joined him.

Early we left for breakfast and drove outside of Kenting to where there were some reefs. Ivy brought us all snorkel gear and the girls had life vests. It was nice to snorkel on our own terms, the way its supposed to be done and not how the locals do here, wet suits, vests, a whole group of them tied to a rope and kicking each other's masks off with their fins. It was a perfect, if not scorching day to snorkel. I was vigilant about covering up my kid most of the time, the sun was so strong. By the end of the day I was the one with a sunburned back, but the coral was lovely, I was surprised having scuba dived here before. I didn't see anything "big", just trumpet fish, parrot fish, but it was still so peaceful.

For dinner that night we hit the strip for something cheap and found a burrito stand. Of course it was burritos for a Taiwanese palate and more of a snack, than a meal, but I appreciated the effort. How nice to sleep on a bed with AC and avoid the crowded strip which was right outside our doorstep. That strip was like a glorified night market with scantily clad young Taiwanese women, the crowd moving along like a serpent at a snail's pace.

Ivy, Z and Maggie
After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and then decided to do some 4 wheeling. It was pretty mellow, not a dangerous dirt track with hills, small jumps and sharp turns. It was exhilarating catching some air. Then we hit a different track for some go-carting. Now that was worth the 20 minute wait! All the penned up aggression and road rage from 5 years of risking my life driving the "mean" streets of Tainan on scooter came spilling out. I ran people off the track into walls, spun a few out, finding satisfaction in passing people. I even rammed a dude who nicked my bumper. Every time we cut in front of someone, Z and I giggled wickedly. I highly recommend go-carting in Taiwan for therapeutic it's purposes.

Post 4-wheeling

Speed Racers
On our way back we stopped for lunch somewhere off the road at some restaurant that made their own mango ice-creams We dropped off Benson at his place in Pingtung and then we continued to the beach near my place in Anping. We met my friend with his paddle boards and relished the end of our amazing weekend with more time in the water. I felt so grateful paddle boarding into the majestic pink and lavender sunset. There must of been some kind of magic in the air that eve, because Ivy and my paddle board friend hit it off and they've been keeping good company ever since.

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