is it possible to take a vacation within a vacation? that's apparently what i was trying to find out for myself when i woke up at 5:00 this morning to get ready to go to kenting, the southernmost taiwanese town, known locally for its beaches and national parks. i took the 7:30 high speed rail to kaohsiung (NT$1350, tried to pay with my credit card via vending machine, wouldn't accept the card), arriving there sometime after 9:00 (that's approximately the distance between boston and new york). from there i got on a bus to kenting (NT$650 round trip ticket). apparently kenting express is supposed to be ironic because it actually took longer to get from kaohsiung to kenting than it did from taipei to kaohsiung. along the way we passed through some sad looking towns, made me wonder why anyone would choose to live there if they could leave instead.
when we set foot in kenting, i immediately hated the place. it was a tourist trap catering to local taiwanese vacationers. first order of business was to find a hotel room. the first place i visited - joe's place - price for an average room was a shocking NT$8000. i calmly left without screaming. walking up the main drag, a woman sitting on a scooter asked if i needed a place to stay. she led me down a side street to the DV motel. when i asked for the price on a room, they had go in back and ask, meaning there was an adjustment based on my projected social economic class. they asked for NT$1200 (US$40) which i accepted because 1) i was tired from traveling and wanted to drop off my things, and 2) i was expecting NT$2000-3000 so it was cheaper than my expectation.
the room wouldn't be ready until 1:30 so i left to go have lunch, having not eaten anything all day (which in itself is nearly unheard of in taiwan, where food is always available). i basically eat what i can read, and a saw a restaurant with "beef noodle" so i went there. i bought a bowl of NT$100, an edible and forgettable affair, with a strangely sweet broth which i didn't bother finishing.
with still some time to kill, i walked down to the nearby beach, which was pretty much empty. most people go to the white sand beach a few miles away, i saw on when our bus passed by, crowded with people, with so many umbrellas you can hardly see the beach. it was hot on the beach, as i played around with my tablet PC getting a GPS fix on my location. i walked around a bit more, surprised that it suddenly started showering a little bit. i finally returned to the motel where my room was ready.
the room was already depressing upon initial inspection, and how that i was living in it, it was even more so. the biggest problem is the lack of a window, unless you count the window that points into the hallway. the walls are a little thin and living on the second floor i can hear everything out on the first floor foyer as well as any noises from hallway traffic. the lighting in the room is also awful, a recessed ceiling with blue and pink fluorescent illumination (maybe this is the honeymoon suite? although i pity the couple who stays here). a queen size bed, but a stiff mattress that i'm suspecting is just a panel of padded plywood. as far as other amenities, it looked good on paper: cable television (surprised to get chinese subtitled HBO and cinemax, although the TV looked used, like it was dragged by its screen at some point),l air-conditioning, refrigerator (old as well, with a little bit of rust inside), bathroom, and some complimentary toiletries (soap, shampoo). 3 outlets, none grounded, all on the other side of the room across the bed. i was happy to see the tub, figuring i'd be able to take an american style shower for a change, but that was before i stepped inside and saw that there was no shower curtain, and the tub was very shallow, less than a third of the depth of an american tub, with no stopper. the tub itself is also tiled using cement and small pebbles, so it actually hurts to step inside. it strange being used to a certain level of comfort living in taiwan - even my office cave seems like a palace compared to this - to be now living in a 3rd world hotel room.
after a shower, i laid in bed watching television, and promptly fell asleep. so much for making the most of my time in kenting. to be honest, the moment i arrived, i was already thinking about leaving.
i woke up at 6:00 to visit the night market i heard about that happens here in the evenings. sidewalks don't exist on the main drag, and now with the addition of food vendors, pedestrians were squeezed out into the streets with the cars and scooters. i'm really surprised there aren't nightly casualties. although the night market doesn't make up for what a horrible time i've had at kenting so far, it did offer some good photo opps as well as food choices. i had some fried chicken nuggets (NT$65), a taiwanese sausage (NT$30), skewered smelly tofu ($NT50), preserved prune juice (NT$35), and barbecued corn (NT$50).
after 2 hours of wandering, i returned to the motel, where i took another shower and got ready for bed watching ms.congeniality on HBO. i think i came to kenting ill-prepared, and only now having arrived did i read up on the kenting chapter in my tour guide. apparently the nature preserve is close by, but requires transportation to get to. i'll rent a scooter tomorrow which will allow me to explore the area a bit more. i should make the best use of my time since apparently another typhoon is about to hit taiwan within the next few days (according to my cousin eric at least).