Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Embrace nature in Pingtung County
By Nancy T. Lu
Sailing in the Dapeng Bay is a breeze. Such sea adventure is a pleasant departure from a life spent mostly in front of the computer screen.
The sunburned captain, obviously an old hand at sailing, may be preparing for a regatta in the area. But he finds time to invite a few guests to go sailing with him.
After starting the boat’s engine to pull his boat out of the harbor, he shuts it off, calling out to his mate on deck to rapidly hoist the sails to let the wind power the vessel around the bay on a beautiful day.
Sailing in Dapeng Bay
The glide on the water takes place without any incident. However, somebody may suddenly start instructing everybody to shift to one side of the sailboat to prevent the wind gusts from making it keel over. In minutes, the command dictates a quick reverse of position. Weight must shift quickly to the opposite side.
Smaller sailboats in the water, including one being maneuvered by an adventurous 12-year-old girl, come rushing towards what looks like an inevitable collision. The alert captain hollers, ordering the two boats to steer clear of harm’s way. Everything is put quickly under control.
Sailing enthusiasts enjoying the caress of the sea breeze stretch their bodies outward on one side of their boats and continue pulling their way around the not-so-calm bay.
Windsurfers in diving suits meanwhile maneuver to tilt their sails in Dapeng Bay. Someday they will be ready to perform jumps, inverted loops or even spinning tricks. For now, their rigs simply bob on the water.
Kayaking pairs paddle within sight. Indulgence in this water sport requires an equally enthusiastic partner with a lot of stamina. Both must synchronize their moves to gain in speed especially if they are training for a race.
A fleeting sailing experience in Dapeng Bay is just the beginning of a vacation in Pingtung County. A trip to the island of Xiao Liuqiu (Little Liuqiu) is a tempting option afterwards. (Liuqiu means “a ball drifting in the sea.”)
Donggang in Pingtung County is the take-off point. A 30-minute ferry ride brings a tourist to the island destination for another embrace of nature. A round-trip ticket costs NT$420.
The Vase Rock, the Xiao Liuqiu icon, comes into view shortly before the ferry docks in the Tafu Port. The Samaji Island Resort is a good place to check in. Wooden houses here are shaped like Quonset huts. One unit, which can accommodate four persons, costs NT$2,100 per night on weekdays and NT$2,400 per night on weekends with breakfast included. Well-equipped campers need pay only NT$350 per day. A tent, however, can be rented for NT$300. Bikes for rent are available, too. But residents do warn visitors about the difficult biking terrain on the island. Some tourists arrive all the way from Taipei by motorbike.
Through special arrangement, the restaurant proprietor at Samaji Island Resort can mobilize his kitchen staff to cook a delicious seafood meal. Menu items even include not only blue fin tuna sashimi slices but also fresh prawns frozen 45 degrees below zero and then thawed at room temperature.
Lounge chairs line the side of the main building looking out to the sea. Leave all worldly concerns behind. Live quiet and relaxing moments away from the madding crowd. Better yet, start composing inspired poetry under a clear blue sky.
Xiao Liuqiu has a population of only about 7,000. Fishing is a common means of livelihood. In the olden days, parents wanted sons in the hope that they would grow up to be fishermen. Daughters were left in what is now known as the Beauty Cave, according to local lore.
Residents tell another story about this tourist spot near the Samaji Island Resort. A man from Suzhou and his beautiful daughter were sailing to Xiao Liuqiu when they ran into bad weather. He perished but she managed to hang on to a piece of wood, drifting to the cave where her spirit continues to live.
The Sea View Pavilion is one of the tourist stops on the island. Close by, a road sign reads: “Crab crossing. Please slow down.”
The famous Vase Rock on the northeast coast resulted from the earth’s crust getting pushed up along a coral reef. Its narrow base is due to the eroding effect of the sea. The area has been nicely developed for strolling in good weather.
The Lingshan Temple nearby is one of about 40 houses of worship spread around the rather small island. Meanwhile the Xiao Liuqiu Library doubles as the Tourist Center, which offers information to travelers.
Biyun Temple, another local sight, is reached after a walk through a bamboo forest. A well nearby used to be the only source of potable water on the island.
On the opposite end of the island are the Indian Rock and the Guanyin Rock. Guanyin Rock has the striking silhouette of the famous goddess, seemingly keeping watch over the fishermen sailing out to sea.
The Wild Boar Ditch is another site for a leisurely walk. Coral beds once under the sea tower like rock cliffs on the two sides of a path. Occasionally tourists have to bend very low to get through. At one point, a sign points to low cave openings, which lead to former air raid shelters. Wartime bombings sent residents running to seek refuge in these caves in the past.
The Dapeng Bay was developed as a port for seaplanes during the years of Japanese Occupation. The island was a vulnerable target for attacks when war broke out.
According to a local legend, a wild boar in the area once acquired the magical power to transform itself into a man at will. One day, he came upon the clothes left by a fairy who turned up to bathe in the sea. He stole them and shortly forced her to marry him. But as soon as the fairy got back her clothes, she escaped to return to heaven. The wild boar died heartbroken in the ditch.
The Black Dwarf Cave on the southwestern side of the island was believed to be where the Dutch colonizers, who were driven out by Koxinga, left their black slaves towards the end of the Ming Dynasty. Stone tables, chairs, beds and bowls were found in the cave in the Qing Dynasty. But eventually the cave entrance sank, rendering access impossible.
According to one account, the slaves looted the ships seeking refuge from bad weather in the area. They sank them by making holes beneath the ships. A series of sinking incidents in the vicinity led to an investigation. The seafarers who learned the truth retaliated by piling up hay at the mouth of the cave and setting it on fire.
For inquiries, call the Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area through tel. (08)833-8100 in Donggang and tel. (08)861-4615 in Liuqiu.