Day 1 (afternoon) in Kaohsiung/Kenting: Hengchun

Hengchun Old Town was actually a very well-preserved town, with all four of its gates still intact (unlike the city of Seoul). We walked around the perimeter of the town to pass by them all. It was no easy feat, because we were carrying 7kg worth of bags each, and to add on, the sun was really beating us down! Although this sounds bad enough, it was just a taste of what was to come.

The West Gate appeared in the movie Cape No. 7 (which we didn’t watch prior to this trip). A post box was actually built beside it to commemorate this fact. As a result, the West Gate is probably the most iconic gate of all four (appearing in Google searches). We were not sure whether we could walk on top of it, but after seeing a family of four go ahead and do it, we followed too. It was a nice little vantage point over the quiet streets of the old town. A building was being constructed beside the gate and it was possible to leap across to it haha, if we wanted to!

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We then began the long walk to the North Gate. But before that, we passed by a mural on a wall of a 7-Eleven outlet, and caught our first Open-Chan at its door!

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When we reached the North Gate, we were sweating profusely. Like the West Gate, vehicles could pass through the gate, so we had to wait for bouts of zero traffic (not hard to come by in this sleepy town) to capture the gate face-on. This time, we climbed the gate without hesitation! Also, there was a tank beside the gate! I’m not sure what exactly it was used for, but I’m quite sure it had a part to play in the Communist War.

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The walk to the East Gate seemed slightly longer than the walk from the West Gate to the North. However, the walls connecting the North and East gates were better preserved, so it was easier to keep track of where we were going. We passed by a strange-looking structure that looked more like a crane than something more substantial. East Gate was not open to traffic. Instead, an opening was bored through a portion of the wall beside it to accommodate a road! The road led to Chuhuo, a place where gases leaked from the ground and fires started without anything to burn on. However, we stayed put as our legs were dying by then. We also climbed up and walked along a small portion of the wall!

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Heading back to the Hengchun bus terminal and South Gate, we passed by a school and saw teenagers playing basketball inside its compound. Here we were, in an isolated old town, and there were elements that we could still relate to.  These youths may choose to move to Taipei when they grow older, but for now at least, Hengchun is their town.

The South Gate also did not have vehicles pass through it. Instead, vehicles circled it – it was in the middle of a roundabout (like Dongdaemun in Seoul). We boarded the bus from opposite the bus terminal – the exact spot where we got off previously – rounded the South Gate, and were on our way to Kenting, the southernmost town of Formosa Island!

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Kenting is more known as a holiday destination to the Taiwanese than a proper town. Upscale resorts and small bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) catered to vacationers alike. An annual music festival, Spring Scream, is held here every April (which meant that we just missed it). There were numerous beaches, as well as a National Park. We booked a room at Dragonfly 100 guesthouse, a tiny guesthouse (like many located on Kenting Street) located on a small lane off the main street. When we first arrived at the doorstep, we waited for a while, as there wasn’t a doorbell we could press. Thinking that the host could have been outside, we decided to cross the road to a 50Lan bubble tea outlet (better known as Koi in other countries) to get a drink to cool ourselves down from the heat. We got a lemon plum juice (which automatically came in large size), and drank it on our way back. The host, Mr. Ma, happened to come out of a room and welcomed us in. He seemed to have been tidying up that room, and showed us our room without further delay.

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Our room was remarkably narrow, and its layout was unlike any other room I have ever been to. Yet, it was so intuitive, and made the space seem larger than it was. There was even an area for lounging around! It helped that the window was wide and the walls were white. There was plenty of greenery outside, too. There was a long bedside table painted to look like it was constructed of bricks, and an arrangement of photo frames without photos inside (I found it quite funny). It was cozy, and we liked it!

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We unpacked our luggage, finished our drink and rested for a while, before we set off for the two beaches flanking Kenting Street, as well as the Kenting Street Night Market itself, which was already beginning to be set up!

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