FYI SOUTH Magazine, July 2005

Hsiao Liuchiu

By Simon Foster Translated by Annie Liu

For a slice of a slower life within reach of Kaohsiung, you can't beat Hsiao Liuchiu, Taiwan's only coral island which offers picturesque beaches, bizarre coral formations, traditional architecture and a plethora of temples. The 20 minute boat ride starts from Donggang, a bustling fishing town 30 kilometres south of Kaohsiung, off Highway 17. There are regular buses from Kaohsiung or you can ride your scooter and take it on the boat (an extra NT$100 each way). The two boat operators sail to and from different ports on Liuchiu from morning till 6 p.m. - Liuxing (08-833-7493) heads to Dafu in the south of the island, whilst Dongxing (08- 832- 5806) serves the main town Baisa in the east. Both cost around NT$350 return. You can pick up maps of the island from the ferry port, travel agents in Baisa and hotels.
Arriving at either port you'll be greeted by touts offering scooters (NT$400 for the day) and in Baisa, a couple of reasonable accommodation options. Of course Liuchiu is close enough that staying overnight isn't necessary, but it is when the day-trippers have left when the island's tranquility really sets in. At the Coco Resort (Tel: 08-861-4368; doubles NT$2,200, twin rooms NT$3,200), a short way inland from Baisa, you'll find attractive wooden-floored rooms with verandahs nestled amongst the coconut palms, views down to the sea and friendly staff.

Little Liuchiu lives up to its name and is indeed, very hsiao. A drive around the island takes less than half an hour, though with stops could easily take a day. And that's the best way to see this laid-back island, meandering along its maze of roads and tracks, arriving at unexpected temples, pavilions, strange-shaped rocks, boardwalks, coves and dead-ends! If you enjoy lazing on beaches, searching for shells, snorkeling and the odd bit of swimming, then your boat will always be leaving too soon!