I talked about being inspired to explore more of Taiwan in my Northern Taiwan trip report, and it was always a case of ‘where next?’
My initial thoughts were to head back to northern Taiwan, but having being indecisive over the early part of the week, I left myself with my few options. It was too late to book travel for a trip north, so it had to be a short distance trip. The week progressed and I still hadn’t decided on anything and it looked as if the weekend would be wasted. For one, I was a bit stuck for ideas having done a lot of things in southern Taiwan.
Things changed late on Friday. Initially the idea was Alishan Mountain, but that was put off on time taken to get there. My second thought was ‘Xiao Liu Qiu’ a small island off the coast of Pingtung County that I’d researched before. So I went to bed, and 3 1/2 hours of sleep later, my alarm went off, I snoozed. At 5:45am, I panicked thinking I was up too late for the first bus, and went back to sleep, day wasted.
It was not to be deja vu, as even though I couldn’t get to sleep until 2:45am, I beat my alarm. A quick check on Taiwan’s bus website, and the first bus was 6:30am. I was out of bed at 5:55am, and stupidly dawdled despite my bag being packed the night previously. At 6:18am, I checked the website again and the bus was due in 7 minutes and I had to run!
Fortunately, I was a couple of minutes early and was at Tainan station at 6:40am. There were a surprising amount of people about, and Tainan was not the ghost-town like many British cities would be at 6:40am on a Sunday morning!
I got a seat on the train down to Kaohsiung and I arrived about 7:45am, now for the interesting part, getting a bus to Donggang in Pingtung County! I knew where the bus stops were but no idea on what time a bus would show up. I got to the bus stop and waited, and waited, and waited. It was 8:25 and I was considering going to another stop, when a 9117 turned up and for 105 dollars purchased a ticket to ‘Donggang’ 東港
The bus journey took a while, and even with my earphones it was a drag through the southern suburbs of Kaohsiung City and into Pingtung County. The scenery was dull and the industrial landscape in the Linyuan area was particularly awful. 90 minutes after leaving Kaohsiung, the bus arrived in Donggang shortly before 10am, which had me wondering how much time I was going to having on Xiao Liu Qiu island itself!
I didn’t know where the port was, but knew if I turned right after getting off the bus and followed the road I’d be heading north west. Sure enough, I got to a crossroads with a bridge over the water, I turned left and the port was on the right hand side. I attempted to buy my ticket in Chinese, with partly failed because I fluffed it and partly because the woman spoke a little English!
I attempted to say “我想要往返票小琉球” or Wǒ xiǎng yào wǎng fǎn piào xiǎo liú qiú” or I want a return ticket to Xiao Liu Qiu which is probably incorrect Chinese anyway!
With my ticket purchased for 410 dollars, I had about a 20 minute wait for the 10:30 crossing. Given that the previous one had been 9:00am, arriving earlier would only made me wait longer for the ferry.
The ferry journey wasn’t too bad, but there was nothing to see due to the morning haze. As ever, there didn’t appear to be any other white tourists and I’ve got used to the novelty, of being the 外國人 ‘foreigner’ or at least, the obvious one!
On arrival on Xiao Liu Qiu, my first thoughts were to put suncream on, and then find a bicycle, but couldn’t find anything and I wasn’t trying too hard anyway. Why? Maybe, because I subconsciously knew I was about to commit myself to walking round the entire island. At 6km2 Xiao Liu Qiu is not a big place, but I knew it would be a lot more than 6km round the island.
I was heading right, but didn’t know where I was on the island so found a board with a map on it indicating I was at the northern tip. The obvious thing to do, would be to go anti-clockwise round the island. A quick stop at 7 Eleven for some water and it was onto the first sight, Flower Vase Rock one of the symbols of the island.
I walked up behind the temple next to Flower Vase Rock, and there was a road, clearly the main road round the island and I followed as it headed uphill, away from the port area. The road was shaded, typically there were no pavements but they were hardly needed given the light traffic. I walked down on the partly closed Flower Vase Trail, which had been closed at the port end but it wasn’t that long and ended 5 minutes after I got onto it.
About 1.4km from the port, I came to Beauty Cave the next attraction after Flower Vase Rock. There was a charge of 120 dollars but it gave admission to all the sights on the west coast.
The Beauty Cave Trail was quite beautiful, which few other people and there was a feeling of tranquility. The trail was quite narrow, making its way in front of the cliffs and occasionally through narrow, low passages with some excellent views out to sea.
It was about 15 minutes walk, before there was a pavilion on the main road and opposite, another shorter section of trail.
I started to realise walking round the island was going to be a bigger task than expected and walking was proving to be sweaty, hard work! It didn’t help that it was uncharacteristically hot for October, at 33C!
I continued along the round island road, but made a mistake. I went left onto instead of right at a fork and ended up a bit inland. Fortunately there was a crossroads and I could turn right, and head back towards Shanfu Fishing Harbour back on the coast. About half an hour after leaving Beauty Cave Trail, I’d arrived at my next stop: Wild Boar Trench.
Wild Boar Trench was another trail area, a maze of paths with tropical vegetation and it felt more like a jungle in places than a small island off the coast of Taiwan. The area was littered with caves formerly used as air raid shelters, I remembered back to Pingxi and going to caves there, also used as air raid shelters!
There were main paths and ones that were unsignposted and turned out to be gluey mud passages between the cliffs.
I left Wild Boar Trench and carried on for a short distance to Geban Bay Beach which was crowded by Xiao Liu Qiu standards. Not much to see, and I moved on towards Black Devil Cave about 10 minutes further down the coast.
The road climbed high above Geban Bay then started to go steadily downhill, with the entrance to Black Devil Cave on the right. I first purchased a Pocari Sweat drink for 30 dollars which I guzzled pretty quickly before starting the trail.
This was another trail in front of the cliffs, twisting between the coral with plenty of low passages. It reached a small temple, before going in in front of it and winding along the coast, then came back around the back of it.
It was an enjoyable circular walk but I was starting to get a bit worried about time. It was 14:10 by now and I had 7km to walk back to the north of the island. I knew that 7km was only around 4 miles, but in the heat, it would take a long time.
I made it to Sunset Pavilion and there was only a couple of tourists there.
The sea views were good, and I decided to carry on around the southern part of the island at Haizikou Harbour.
At the southern tip there was a choice of a water crossing, or about 400m up and then down, round some houses. I decided on the latter, forgetting I had flip-flops with me. I’d also realised I was low on water, and as I made my way towards Guanyin Rock.
It was only a 1.2km walk from Sunset Pavilion to Guanyin Rock and it took around 20 minutes which was quite a nice pace.
The rock formations on the east coast where different and I got to a corner, which is one of more photographed sights of Xiao Liu Qiu, where the road goes between two rocks.
My concern was now not time, but liquid. It was at least 1.5km more onto Dafu, where I knew there was likely to be a shop but it could not come soon enough. As I walked along the quiet road up away from the coast, I started to feel dizzy, shiver even though it was 32C and I knew that heat exhaustion was imminent. I took my time, but had to trudge on as cursed myself for not ensuring I had enough liquid with me.
Fortunately Dafu was just 15 minutes walk away and there was a small gas station selling water. I took my time, knowing I had about 3.7km to go. I sat down in the pavilion, drank a bottle of water and rested for about 15 minutes.
Feeling better, I carried on and from here, it was to be a fairly dull walk back to Baisha Port in the north of the island.
I made my way through Dafu and then followed the coast road up past a power plant up to Sunrise Pavilion which was about halfway back. The views were yet again stunning and I could see the central mountains on the mainland.
The feeling of dehydration and glumness I’d had 50 minutes previously had disappeared. I’d done just over 5km in 1 hour 20, and had taken my time, and managed to rest for a while. The road carried on up hill after Sunset Pavilion for a short period before dropping away, and I knew that it was ‘job done’ and the walk was nearly completed.
Just after 4:00pm, I arrived back at Baisha Port after a 4 hours and 45 minutes walking round the island, the feeling was one ‘job well done’ but it was also a relief.
Walking round the island had been a silly idea but it was quite fun. It was definitely a very ‘me’ thing to do, go against the grain and do something nobody else would.
I only had 30 minutes until the next ferry back and it was back to the sinks in front of the ferry terminal. I had a quick wash down and changed t-shirt. I quickly bought some skewers from a stall opposite and it was straight in the queue for the return crossing.
I managed to get a seat up near the front but not near a window which allowed me to stand up before the ferry docked back in Donggang.
I made a quick get-away and after visiting 7 Eleven to break a 1000 dollar note to be able to pay the bus driver, was at Donggang bus station just after 5pm. It turned out there was a bus due and I was on my way out of Donggang in minutes, shortly after getting out of town, I snapped this photo…
The bus made good time, going by the freeway but then got stuck in traffic, trying to get on the sliproad off and back into Kaohsiung City. The journey was about 1 hour and 30 in the end, getting back into Kaohsiung at 6:35pm.
Into Kaohsiung train station and there was a local train due at 6:50pm. I bought myself a couple of beers and made my way to the platform.
Sadly the train was completely crammed, but it didn’t stop me putting me headphones on and cracking open a can. It was a more elaxed journey back than I expected, and I was back in Tainan an hour later. Another quick connection, into the 1955 bus home followed and I was therefore back home 4 hours after leaving Xiao Liu Qiu.
I got back and had a think over, it was good feeling to having walked round the island, it was an unorthodox thing to do but it allowed me to see the island at a slower pace. It was well worth making the effort to head to Xiao Liu Qiu, somewhere that I’d been told was worth a visit. It’s somewhere else done, but there is still plenty for me to do in Taiwan.
Next up? I’m not sure. I’m heading to Taipei for football on the 5th November, rain is expected this week and I may well be headed out on 29th October. My next tourist trip may not be till the 12th November. I certainly will not be going anywhere on 19th November as it’s my birthday two days later.
Until next time,