Solo-travelling has always been something I fantasise about trying, yet also something I was convinced I would never be brave enough for. I’m not sure why we are programmed to always underestimate ourselves, but it turns out we’re much more capable/brave/daring (etc) than we give ourselves credit for. So I finally travelled by myself for the first time.
Travelling alone – Why?
The most annoying thing I experienced was people assuming I was travelling alone because I was lonely. I think we all have different reasons to travel alone; for me it was about needing a break from life that became too overwhelming back at home.
I was enjoying my job, I went to the gym 3-4 times a week, I did yoga 1-2 times a week, I went running on weekends, I went out for dinner with school/university friends, I went out for tastings with media/bloggers, I write this food blog, I go out on boat trips with my family – it was all exciting, fun and fulfilling. But how did I even have time for all of that? I really didn’t and I just wanted to get out, by myself.
Day 1 – Arriving in Kaohsiung
I arrived in Kaohsiung in the early afternoon and checked in at my hostel (Backpackers Inn). I was feeling upbeat at first, doing what I love doing – exploring food. I wandered off to several places, including the Pier-2 Art District, and stuffed myself.
How dangerous is it to travel alone?
It was pouring rain (it did for the whole 5 days) and so I jumped on a cab. Throughout my trip, everyone’s first reaction to discovering that I’m travelling alone is: wow, how brave of you! But then this cab driver went on about how dangerous it is for me to go to Kenting alone. And I don’t think I’m brave (I suppose I am though?) so I was freaked out. In retrospect, it’s probably a bad idea to discuss travelling alone when you’re on a cab alone.
I contemplated whether this trip was a mistake. Should I cancel my trip to Kenting altogether? I didn’t even want to leave my room.
Ruifeng Night Market – favourite in Taiwan
But it was the only chance I had to visit Ruifeng Night Market, so I dragged myself out. I’m so glad that I did because it was an amazing night market – my favourite of the ones I’ve been to in all of Taiwan! There was so much delicious food: Yunnan style hash brown with cheese and buttermilk fried chicken were my two key prey. I found it much better in quality and choice than the ones I visited in Taipei. I bought a denim skirt from a young girl who also said “wow, how amazing!” when I told her I was travelling alone. We chatted about how expensive bubble tea in Hong Kong is. It was nice!
Day 2 – Making my way from Kaohsiung to Kenting
Day 2 was the worst. It was pouring rain. The breakfast place I wanted to visit was closed, as was the cafe I wanted to try. Then the cafe I ended up in was mediocre. These little setbacks faded away as I leisurely made my way to Zuoying station to take the Kenting Express bus to Kenting.
To rent an electric scooter or not?
When I got off at Hengchun (恆春), with the intention of renting an electric scooter to get to my remote minsu/B&B (民宿) in Jialeshui (佳樂水) – 30 minutes away, the lady refused to let me rent one. She said it was dangerous because I had not rode one before. OK, if even she thinks so (and she could make money from me), then maybe it really is? Plus, I was already fearing for my safety after that cab ride conversation the day before.
When things go wrong…
I sat at a cafe – Spoon in Pocket – to think about it. But then my phone died as I was taking pictures of the decor. That was definitely the lowest point of my trip – as much as I wished I could get rid of technology and travel in peace, I was feeling simply insecure. I calmed myself down with an iced latte and then decided to take a bus to Jialeshui, because if I rented a scooter and something went wrong, I wouldn’t have even had a phone to call for help.
But as I was waiting, it crossed my mind that whole hour, whether to just take a bus back to Kaohsiung airport and head back to Hong Kong… But how could I let a broken phone ruin my trip?
I sat down at a local noodle shop and ordered wonton. The two guys from Taipei next to me were super friendly – they were concerned for my safety (again) and this really made me worry more. But it’s always nice to have people to chat to when you’re travelling alone.
It was dark and late when I arrived at Winson’s House. I checked in and the phone situation was really making me nervous. Plus, Jialeshui is about 30 minutes away from anything – I told the minsu mama I’m not going out tonight, and she suggested to buy me food. I was hanging out in the common area with my laptop and then a group of four people from Taipei were heading to Kenting Main Street – Winson (the owner) was super friendly all along, and suggested I tag along with them, since they have a car. So I was like “Oh, do you guys mind? I would love to go!”
A little bit about Winson’s House
The fun exterior of this place was what attracted me to book it initially. Throughout my stay, Winson and his wife were extremely friendly and helpful – that really made me feel much more comfortable travelling by myself. The rooms were surprisingly very clean and spacious, with a relaxing design. Another bonus was the extremely lovingly prepared breakfasts served every morning.
Day 3 – Cycling in Kenting
The chance to be completely spontaneous
As much as I know I shouldn’t let something so superficial (my phone situation) ruin my trip, I just needed to sort it out. I bought a new phone – let’s try to forget the HK$1800 premium I had to pay for my iPhone 7.
My original plan was to go rent a scooter to wander around Kenting. But Winson said, why don’t you just join us? He was bringing a group of Japanese tourists around in a much more comfortable car. So why not? I didn’t really care what I did. So he picked me up after I got my phone and we went to another beach where they all went surfing. I didn’t have my stuff and the rainy typhoon weather meant it was pretty unsuitable for a beginner anyway. I took lots of pictures and just hung out.
We were heading back to Hengchun for lunch; the Japanese group changed their mind and wanted to walk around themselves. Winson drove me back to the minsu and said, “oh do you want beef noodles for lunch?” Yup! So we headed back and ate. We were going to see whether the waves would be OK by the afternoon so he could teach me how to surf. But it wasn’t.
Cycling from Jialeshui to Eluanbi – 30km in total!
So I took a bike and cycled 15 km to Eluanbi – the southernmost point of Taiwan on the road. It took about an hour; it was challenging yet do-able. I was completely soaked head-to-toe, but it was so satisfying because it was tough. There were so many beautiful spots on the way. It was extremely rewarding.
As I was taking my selfies, someone offered to take a photo of me and we started talking. Of course, again, this guy from another part of Taiwan said “wow, you’re travelling alone! You’re so brave” He then offered to take me back to Jialeshui, because it was getting dark quick. But my bike wouldn’t fit in his trunk. So I quickly got going myself.
It suddenly got dark, but I wasn’t even 1/3 of my way. The darkness was a little scary because on some parts of the road it was pitch black without a dot of light. Thankfully the minsu mama equipped my bike with a torch and flashing red light, so I was quite confident I would be fine. But still, the darkness motivated me to keep going, and keep going strong. I never stopped, even at the steepest parts. I finally saw a sign that said 6km to Jialeshui and thought “hey, I can run that, so it should be a breeze on the bike” – it wasn’t, but it motivated me enough.
I reached back at the minsu and Winson was worried, “I was trying to call you!” Anyway, we all went out for dinner at Bossa Nova and that was my favourite day.
Day 4 – Exploring on my own in Kenting
Electric scooter around Kenting
The night before, I was asked to join another group of visitors to go around Kenting. It was so nice to join other people and spontaneously tag along with their plans. But on this day, I really felt like being on my own and doing my own thing. I finally rented that scooter I had been on about every day. For the record, it was not dangerous or difficult. It’s so slow – less than 15km/hr, it’s like a toy.
Don’t go to Houbihu – a tourist business
I drove it for an hour to Houbihu – travel books recommended it for fresh sashimi which cost only NTD100 for 20 pieces, but it was an extremely disappointing experience. People there were in for business and business only. Both restaurants refused to sit me because they didn’t want one person occupying their tables (which could accommodate more). When the second one allowed me in, after I pestered the lady and asked “Why? What if I order more? OK, what if I wait for a table?”, the food wasn’t even good. The sashimi was not un-fresh, but it was just poor quality.
Living a slow life on my scooter
The speed of the scooter annoyed me at first, but I had no where I needed to be. So it was kind of nice just to have a literally slow day for once. It was nice to stop for bubble tea when I saw a shop. I also stopped at On The Table 在桌上 – one of the hipster cafes on Kenting Main Street I singled out in my research before the trip. The feeling of drinking coffee while watching the rain was cliched but seriously enjoyable.
I did nothing when I got back. I chilled. I ate takeout – lamb with rice – it was so delicious! Travelling alone is so uncomplicated.
Day 5 – Departing thoughts
I never thought I would not want to leave this place at the end of my trip. But the environment in Kenting was so relaxing and I made conversation with so many different people, who shared one thing in common – super warm and friendly. By the way, all of this happened in Mandarin! The funny thing is, it poured every single day I was there, but the sun finally came out 30 minutes before I was checking out of the minsu. But it’s ok, the experience was beautiful regardless of the weather. I think I would do it again.