Joe Duffer Translated by Iya Chen
is here! It
seems like only last week we were enduring
some of the coldest winter weather
to hit Taiwan for many years, and already
the dog days of summer are on their
way. That means sweltering heat, blazing
sun, 24-hour air conditioning, and
weekends at the beach.
For many people, vegging out on the beach
equals making the pilgrimage down to Kenting,
the beach resort on the island's southernmost
tip. Kenting has emerged as THE top beach
on the island. True, during winter it's about
the only place in Taiwan to enjoy a little
beach culture, but during the long, lazy
days of summer, Kenting isn't such a dream
destination that I'd be willing to make the
long journey more than once a year.
Fortunately, there are a clutch of beaches
within an hour or so of the capital which
are more than adequate for the job, yet (with
one or two exceptions) they are not that
well known--especially among expats.
Most popular by far is Fulung Beach on the
northeast coast, served by regular trains
from Taipei. The main beach, backed by a
small lagoon, is one of the few remaining
beach resorts in northern Taiwan, complete
with parasols, deck chairs, litter patrols,
and lifeguards who blow their whistles furiously
if you venture in deeper than your waist.
There's a small, free, public beach next
to the main one. Turn right along the main
coast road after leaving the train station,
then first left in a minute or two, after
crossing a small stream.
Further up the coast, northwest of Keelung,
are the area's other big beach resorts. Chinshan
doubles as a noisy family beach (complete
with piped music) and a hot springs resort.
Just behind the beach is a large park popular
with locals for barbecues, and an indoor
hot-springs swimming pool (look for the blue
glass pyramids on the roof). Everything is
closed on Mondays. There are regular buses
from Taipei North Bus Station (next to Taipei
Main Railway Station) straight to the beach.
For some beach bumming without the crowds,
try the very large beach on the opposite
side of the headland. From Chinshan Beach
walk along the coast, past the harbor, then
cross the park on the headland above. The
beach is on the far side of the headland.
There's a further tiny, very secluded beach
near the end of the headland, reached by
a steep scramble down the cliff. It's a great
spot, but beware of strong currents.
A little further south, near the tourist
Mecca of Yehliu, lies Green Bay. This place
has an expensive admission charge, but it's
the place to be in summer if you like water
sports, and the admission fee includes use
of Howard Beach Resort facilities. Those
in search of a thrill could do worse than
hook up with an instructor and jump off the
cliffs high above-- attached to a paraglider
of course. Green Bay is one of six places
in Taiwan where the sport is practiced. Call
the Keelung Aerosports Association (tel:
(02) 2966-3414) to fix up a tandem jump or
arrange a full course.
To reach Green Bay, take a bus or train to
Keelung, then take another bus from the bus
depot next to the train station, bound for
Chinshan. The journey to Green Bay takes
about 20 minutes.
For more water sports, head to Ilan County,
90 minutes by train. Get off at Tahsi (only
a couple of trains each morning stop here,
so check the schedule first). Turn right
along the main coast road to reach Honeymoon
Bay in a couple of minutes. This isn't the
best spot for swimming, but it's famous as
one of Taiwan's premier surfboarding locations.
The surfing industry is taking off here--witness
the several surf shops which have opened
up in the nearby village, along with a popular
eatery selling tasty and cheap Vietnamese
food, and on almost any weekend, bronzed
youths leaning on their surfboards or discussing
the state of the waves.
Non-surfers should stay in shallow water,
as the currents are strong. The grassy campus
of the elementary school next to the beach
makes a fantastic camping spot. Waking up
in the morning to see the sun rise over the
Pacific, with a magnificent view of Turtle
Mountain Island, is hard to beat. Ask the
school janitor before putting up your tent.
My personal favorites happen to lie even
closer to Taipei. For swimming, White Sand
Beach, on the north coast not so far from
Tamshui, is my first choice. It's convenient
to reach, it's free, and the beach has clean,
fine, pale sand. As dusk approaches, head
out onto the wild headland with its small
patches of coral sand to see the sun set
over the East China Sea.
After falling into neglect, White Sand Beach
has recently enjoyed a renaissance, with
some discreet, tasteful development. Hopefully
piped music and deck chairs won't follow.
Take the MRT to Tamshui, then take any bus
heading north round the coast: White Sand
Beach is a 40-minute ride.
Finally, a very long but almost unknown beach
lies hidden down a network of back lanes
not far from Tamshui. The water here isn't
quite as clean as further round, but the
beach is almost always deserted, even on
weekends, save for the odd local out to pick
up shellfish, a few beach lovers in the know,
and--on one memorable visit--a group of amateur
photographers snapping a pair of nude models.
Watch out for submerged rocks off to the
right; in the center the sands stretch uninterrupted
towards the horizon during low spring tides.
This beach lies down a lane off the main
North Coast Highway, about six kilometers
after the first turnoff to Tamshui. There's
a sign, but only for traffic going towards