Sunday, Jun 25, 2017, 6:21 PM CST – China

Outside In

Charming Kenting

SPRING BREAK!

In the damp Taiwanese winter, experience one of Asia’s best beach parties in the island’s still-tropical south

Situated on the southern tip of Taiwan, Kenting is beloved by locals and tourists alike for its beautiful white sand beaches, warm climate and delicious seafood. After several rainy winter months in Taipei, it was with great ease that my friends persuaded me to join them on their trip down to this sun-kissed land of sweet tropical fruit for the annual “Spring Break on the Beach” music festival.

It is worth pointing out that three festivals in Kenting take place over the same weekend. Unfortunately, our delayed realization of this crucial fact, coupled with the similarity of the three events’ names, was enough to throw some of our group off the scent.

While the neighboring “Spring Scream” festival offers a mix of rock and reggae, “Spring Break on the Beach” attracts electronic music lovers with a variety of talented DJs, from world-class acts Danny Avila and TUJAMO, to the less well-known DJ Money Dick. Indeed, there was something for everyone, with Ladybeard’s death metal performance notably providing a particular treat for those who enjoy listening to lyrics screamed out by cross-dressing wrestlers.

Every day from 3 PM, a multicultural crowd of sun-soaked youths spilled through the gates of the five-star Chateau Beach Resort where the festival was held, and onto the hotel’s private stretch of beach. There, volleyball tournaments and mango cocktails combined with the sounds from the main stage, the BPM gradually increasing as the afternoon progressed and truly taking off when the sun finally set.

Wild

At 6 PM the free beer began to flow and hilarity, naturally, ensued. As the strong, rhythmic bass cast a spell over the crowd, the otherwise naturally reserved nature of our Taiwanese friends was cast aside. The foreigners, therefore, went off the deep end – understandably, as many had traveled from as far afield as France and Brazil. As dusk set in, garbage cans were overturned and used as dance platforms, new friends were made and language barriers broken through the universal language of workin’ it. The Bikini Dance Contest proved particularly popular with the crowd, as barely clothed men and women were given the chance to win prizes ranging from bottles of vodka to a night at the resort.

At midnight the music stopped and, like moths to a flame, the beer-infused crowd stampeded towards the golden arches of the nearby 24-hour McDonald’s. Others opted for more local fare available at the excellent nearby night market, where the drunken orders of foreign tourists were met with looks of bemusement from the stallholders. Some people spent the night camping on the beach, having left organizing a hostel too late. For those who do not fancy the idea of waking up with sand in strange places, with a bit of forward planning there are several hotels and hostels available within walking distance of the festival.

Explore

Train tickets are notoriously hard to buy for travel on this particular weekend. Not only are these festivals very popular, but they coincide with the annual Tomb-Sweeping holiday. Our group decided to rent a car for the trip, which had the extra benefit of giving us the freedom to explore the coast. For those relying on public transport to get around, beautiful Nanwan Beach offers a wide array of activities, whether you want to rent a jet ski or experience for yourself why Kenting is famous for its scuba diving. It also has many small hotels and guesthouses on its doorstep, as well as coffee shops and restaurants.

In peak season, Nanwan gets very busy, which is why we favored the much quieter Baishawan Beach, only accessible by road and consequently less crowded. For those willing to pay the 300 New Taiwan dollars (US$9) for a parasol and chairs (recommended if you want to avoid acquiring a deep shade of lobster red), there is cabana service of sorts, as you come under the attentive care of sun-beaten locals who, mouths scarlet from chewing betel nut, ride quad bikes up and down the beach delivering cold beer and food to visitors.  

Another favorite spot for our group was Houbihu Marina, boasting some of the freshest fish on sale in Taiwan. Walking through the fish market, customers can pick the fish they want and watch as it is deftly prepared before their eyes. While taking food away is an option, in order to fully enjoy the freshness of the fish it is recommended to eat it on the spot. Here, a mere 200 New Taiwan dollars (US$6) will bring to your table 40 pieces of fresh assorted sashimi, laid on a bed of ice. This is a culinary experience not to be missed.

After a wonderful three days in the sun, we were in no hurry to get back to Taipei. Having said this, after hours stuck in traffic our destination became more and more appealing. And here lies the main disadvantage of traveling on public holidays in Taiwan, as snail-paced conditions are an inevitability. Despite leaving at around 9 AM, we only made it back to Taipei by 7 PM, taking 10 hours for what should have been a six-hour trip.

For those interested mainly in exploring the rugged beauty of Kenting, this particular weekend certainly brings with it the disadvantage of crowds and substantially higher accommodation prices. However, for music lovers who are looking for a new environment for their spring break adventures, Kenting and its idyllic coastline bring the guarantee of stunning surroundings infused with the charm of a laid-back, beach-bum culture.

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