It is no wonder they call Taiwan the heart of Asia, for as soon as I set foot on the North Coast Scenic Area of the beautiful Formosa, I was in love.
I’ve always heard that Taiwan is extremely beautiful, charming any visitor with its wide scope of natural landscapes, ranging from warm sandy beaches, foggy mountains, to lush forests. It didn’t matter that Simon and I had only set foot in Taiwan for less than 24 hours, and hardly even saw Taipei; I was eager to get out of the city and explore some of this famed natural beauty.
The North Coast Scenic Area is located about an hour’s drive outside of Taipei, but with public transportation it can be more than double that. With a combination of the MRT (the metro) and the North Coast shuttle bus, we finally arrived there on a hot sunny day. Perhaps Taiwan should be aptly renamed the Heat of Asia.
The bus dropped us off on the side of an empty motorway that ran along the coast. Even though we were near the ocean, there was no such thing as an ocean breeze. The scorching sun beamed down on us as we inched down the road huddled under a small umbrella, trying not to break a sweat.
We followed signs to get to the beach coast, and took a much needed break under a small shaded area. We cooled off and reapplied the SPF before setting foot on the beach. The coarse grainy sand immediately burned the bottoms of our feet. As if we were walking on hot coals, we limbered across the sand until we reached the Laomei Green Reef at the waters’ edge.
The Laomei Green Reef (also known as Fukui Cape Park) is a popular place for engagement photos, and we could see why. The unique rock and reef formations created naturally by the waves of time and past volcanic lava activity are made even more stunning by the deep shade of jade green algae that grows over it.
The best time to see the velvety green algae is during rainy season in the spring, and unfortunately it was already way past that season during our visit. Still, the less than engagement photo worthy backdrop didn’t prevent us from getting up close to examine their unique formations.
At high noon, Simon and I were the only two crazies who wanted to get our feet wet and risked first degree burns all in the name of a good photo op. As dense solid masses, the reefs had been soaking in the sun’s rays and became conduits of heat. We dashed onto them in tiny steps, never letting our feet stay in one place for too long until we reached the waters edge. The cold waves crashed onto the rocks and provided respite from our burning soles.
Taiwan’s north coast was truly breathtaking and we explored as much as we could, sometimes enjoying the scenic landscape in solitude, while at other times sharing it with other friendly tourists who were more than happy to help us take our photos in return for theirs. We chowed down on a seafood lunch, fresh caught from the ocean, and toted our sun shield umbrella high above our heads to stay cool. I only wish we had rented a scooter for the day so that we could cover more ground, but alas, we were at the mercy of infrequent schedule of the shuttle bus.
The north coast was so charming that we remained there until sunset, shuttle bus hopping from one scenic spot to another, from the west to the east. We surrendered to the darkness, giving up the fight against the impending night sky, defeated that we couldn’t continue to venture west.
We waited along the dark isolated road, illuminated by the streetlamp high above us. In the warm humid night, it was quiet except for the buzzing of insects. Occasionally a pair of headlights would appear from down the road and passed us by, a flash of the metal frame of a car. Several busses passed also, each one providing hope, but alas none were the right ones to take us back to the MTR station. Eventually when it seemed that we might have to shack up in this unknown part of the island, our salvation arrived, and all we could do was plop our weary bodies aboard the cold air-conditioned bus to return to the concrete jungle of Taipei.
I think we left our hearts in the heart of Asia.