Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day Trip to Jiqi Beach and Fengbin (磯崎, 豐濱)

On 5 November 2012, I made a solo day trip to Jiqi Recreation Beach Area (磯崎海濱遊憩區) and Fengbin (豐濱). The weather wasn't exactly favorable but I tried to make the best out of it. That's something to be prepared for when you're travelling in the low season. However, with a brolly or a raincoat, it is still possible to have some fun in the outdoors despite the rain and overcast skies.

I took a bus from the Hualien Bus Station, which is this building in striking orange located right outside Hualien Train Station. At the bus station, schedules and routes are on display so you can check timings and frequencies (alternatively, you can always check online. The link for Hualien Bus is displayed in the sidebar on the right).

Hualien Bus Station, located right outside the train station, so prominent you can't miss it.

Bus schedule on display

Bus 1145. Starting from Hualien Train Station and terminating at Chenggong.

Hualien to Jiqi. Bus fare: NT$121.

I set off at 10.30 a.m. and arrived at Jiqi at around 11.45 a.m. At every bus stop, there stands an orange hexagonal sign with a bus timetable attached to it. Be sure to take note of the possible timings for you to get to wherever you wish to go next. An alternative to taking a bus will be to hitchhike. This is technically feasible because Taiwanese are real friendly and helpful people, and after all, you're standing on a major road (Highway 11). Cars are either going towards the direction of Hualien or Taitung, so chances are that the driver will be able to drop you off along the way, if you're lucky enough to stop a car successfully and your intended destination isn't too far away. ;) Having said that, I can't guarantee your success, and not everyone is comfortable with hitchhiking (I for one hadn't tried until this trip), so I would say that it's definitely good to be mindful of the bus schedule!

The weather-beaten bus schedule

Jiqi Beach is located about 40 km from Hualien city. The soft sandy beach stretches 3 km and is an ideal spot for recreational water activities. There is also a camping area, restaurant and other recreational facilities, making this a suitable place for great seaside fun in the summer. Dashibi Mountain Trail is located just nearby. This is a wonderful ecological trail for families, as well as a good lookout point for visitors to observe the coastal landscape.

Jiqi Beach Recreation Area

Camping ground

The beach with gloomy skies as the backdrop, unfortunately.

There were actually a couple of people doing surfing

Map of Jiqi Beach Area

Dashibishan climbing trail map. The mountain literally looks like that.

Well-paved trail and a good vantage point for the coastal landscape

After spending some time at Jiqi, I was ready to catch a bus to Fengbin. The journey took 20 minutes and cost NT$40. 

Fengbin Township has the smallest population among the townships in Hualien county; the figure stands at about 4700 as of October 2012. Most of the residents are Aborigines from the Amis tribe and they are largely the old folks; the young ones have gone to the cities in pursuit of education and job opportunities.

Entering the sparsely populated village






It was at Fengbin that I experienced one of my most memorable encounters during my 24 day Taiwan trip. The quiet village that was sparsely populated looked even more desolate on a gloomy rainy day. I hardly saw anyone as I set foot into the village. Walking slowly with a keen sense of curiosity, capturing snapshots along the way, I was pleasantly surprised to see a group of elderly men in the midst of their gambling activity, and some womenfolk sitting around chit-chatting. The compound was sort of both a house and a provision shop. I stopped in my tracks to observe what was before me. It was at that moment that a few of the old folks noticed my presence and waved to me enthusiastically, signalling me to enter the place. 

I was slightly taken aback but I gladly obliged. They warmly welcomed me to seek shelter from the rain, despite the fact that I had an umbrella with me. It seemed that they were intrigued by my presence and were eager to find out more about this lone visitor. A small plastic chair was quickly handed over to me and I sat myself down at the round table. The bombardment of questions soon begun. "Why are you here alone?", "Where did you come from?", "It's raining, why are you still out and about?" etc. They asked with a genuine sense of curiosity and concern. I realised I was in an interesting situation. The old folks were just as inquisitive about me, as I was about them. 

That was the beginning of a long chat. I had trouble understanding them at times as a few of them could not speak Chinese, and those who could, spoke with an accent influenced by their own language. They showed patience and willingness to repeat their words and to explain what they were trying to convey. We talked about why I was in Hualien, my travel plans, their lives in the village, and the lives of their children and grandchildren in the cities. I reckoned not many people stop to explore and visit, and the old folks probably enjoyed the presence of someone who bothered to take a look at this almost forsaken town. I sat there for almost an hour, enjoying a warm and fuzzy storytelling session. I've never had a travel experience like that and it certainly left an indelible mark. 

I bade farewell and left Fengbin, smiling in my heart. It was time to go back to Hualien city, and that's when I decided to attempt hitchhiking for the first time. After some hesitation and mutterings under my breath, I decided to stick out my hand. The first two cars didn't stop, but the third one did. I was thrilled! The tremendous warmth I was lucky to receive on that chilly day certainly made up for the bad weather factor. :)

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