Last weekend I finally made my way down to Kenting.  Kenting is at the southern most point in Taiwan and home to Taiwan’s nicest beaches.

Some friends and I went there to surprise our friend for her birthday.

I was excited to go, not only because of the birthday surprise but because the chance to explore a new area and get out of Taipei always puts me in a good mood. Based on my research before the trip I could look forward to lollygagging on the beach in the hot sun, parasailing, jet skiing, scootering around, and hiking in Kenting National Park, all in the company of good friends.

It had the makings of the perfect weekend.

So, naturally, the weather took a gigantic crap all over us and it rained heavily the entire weekend from the moment we arrived until we left.  At which point the universe decided to laugh at us and grace us with a beautiful sunset and mountain views.  Taiwan’s weather strikes again!

Despite the disappointing weather and the fact we didn’t get to do nearly as much as we would have liked, the weekend was a lot of fun and contains a lot of memorable moments.

This post is about two of my favorite.

After we arrived, the guys and I headed down to the beach. We had gotten there early and no one wanted to sit around wasting time in the hotel room.  We walked around, took some pictures, made some funny poses, made our way back toward the hotel.

Along the way we saw a Taiwanese family in front of the rocky surf posing for a picture.  So in a misguided attempt to be friendly and helpful, Bernard walked up to the heavier gentleman who was holding the camera and using mainly sign language offered to take the picture for him. The guy relinquished the camera with no complaints, and Bernard motioned for him to join the rest of the family.  The family cheerfully waved at him to come into the photo, but oddly, he declined with a shake of his head and hands. Twice.

Okaaaay.

I started making tracks.  He didn’t even want to be in the picture! I thought it was weird, but he was a heavier guy so I assumed he was feeling self-conscious and didn’t want his photo taken. The point was, why was Bernard trying to take this picture if the guy didn’t want to be in it?   Meanwhile, Bernard, instead of just returning the camera and extricating himself from the situation, kept trying to take the picture of the family who were posing and smiling away the entire time.

He quickly realized he had no idea how to work the camera.  It was a complex camera and he couldn’t find the shutter button. As I’m walking away, behind me I hear Bernard trying to figure this thing out while everyone watched and waited.  His voice trailing off as he felt more and more stupid.  Embarrassing!  Finally, I said “Why don’t you just give him the camera back?”

He did, but it took some effort because the guy didn’t want to take the camera back. I assumed, and I think Jerome did too, that he didn’t want to be rude to the foreigner.

There was really no way to save face.  The whole incident was just that smooth.  Bernard finally got out of there while Jerome and I snickered at each other.

It wasn’t until the next day when Bernard was telling Li and Rachel about the incident that he told us what he had realized midway through….the guy taking the picture wasn’t part of the family.  He wasn’t dressed as nicely and he had betel nut stains around his mouth. No. He was just some innocent guy who got roped into taking a picture.  We guessed he didn’t mind Bernard swooping in because he couldn’t figure out the camera either. Meanwhile, the family never let on that anything weird was happening or that the other guy wasn’t part of their family.

It was like the light suddenly dawning after a dark night. That moment of clarity when everything shifted into its proper perspective was priceless.  Jerome was absolutely right in pointing out that from every perspective that story was funny.  Ours, the family’s and the guy’s.  We spent a good five minutes speculating what story the family and random guy would tell their friends about this.

Later on that day, after our other friends had arrived, we rented scooters and checked out the Eluanbi lighthouse and park area. It was pouring rain, so we weren’t all that dry when we got there, but we were determined to persevere.  After seeing the lighthouse (which wasn’t particularly impressive) we strolled the grounds and walked down to the sea.  There were a number of clearly marked trails on our map, and along one of them there were a couple of caves.

Above water sea coral.

Well, nothing would do but that we checked out at least one of them. I was the guilty party in pushing this idea.  I figured, we were out there, might as well make the most of it, right?  What could go wrong?

Jerome looking like he belongs on the cover of a slasher movie.

So, in the gathering darkness, we made our way under the dripping trees along a treacherous stone path until we got to the Antiques Cave.  Well, with a name like that, my curiosity was piqued.  What wonders would we behold? Would there be amazing rock formations?   Traces of prehistoric finds?   Cave art? What?!  I couldn’t wait to find out.

I should have known better.

Bernard braved the darkness first, and I went second. The others lagged behind us.  I asked if anyone had a lighter, but Li pointed out that in the cavernous darkness a spark of light would hardly help.  That gave me an idea and I brought out my camera and started pressing the focus button.  This gave us just enough light to see the general contours of the pathway, and so Bernard wedged himself deeper into the cave where the pathway began to slope up against a boulder.

The camera didn’t really work out great as a light. Instead, every time I pressed the focus button the flash would go off and it would snap a picture.  Rather than providing good illumination it blinded Bernard, who started bitching about it.

I pointed the camera at the wall instead and the flash went off.

And in that brief glimpse of light I saw the nastiest, biggest, creepiest looking bugs I have ever seen in my life.  These things had foot long antennae, fat legs the size of plump twigs and were as large as my entire hand if not bigger, and they were creeping along the cave wall not more than a foot away from me.

Seriously…what the fuck is this thing???

I let out a blood curdling shriek and began blindly shoving the others behind me in a desperate flight to safety.  Near the entrance to the cave I stopped for a moment thinking I was safe.  I could hear Bernard bitching behind me and I’m pretty sure I scared the shit out of him as much as I had out of myself.  Just a guess here, but he probably wasn’t too happy that I had bolted with the only light.  Then the flash went off again, and all around me I saw dozens of massive spiders. They were next to us, above us, probably underfoot as well, and only inches away.  We were surrounded.

Bernard’s foot and the monster at seven o’clock.

I came flying out of that cave so fast I made my own head spin.

Take a close look at the walls.

I’ve seen some huge spiders in Taiwan and those were as big as any I’ve ever seen in my life.  they were easily greater in size than my entire hand, and about as evil-looking creatures as you could imagine.

Li, Rachel and Jerome were outside already, trying to guess if those spiders were tarantulas or not.  According to my research there are several giant spider species in Taiwan. I’d say the ones we saw most closely resembled these, or this one.  Who cares? All I know is that they are scary as shit, and that’s all I need to know.

We hustled back down the path, and decided we had just enough time to see one of the pavilions before we had to head back to the lighthouse.  We arrived at the stairs leading up to the pavilion and I ducked beneath them, creeping out onto a rocky ledge for a spectacular photo-op.  Literally the second I finished assuring the others that its natural to panic when bugs catch you unawares and I was completely over it some kind of giant toad/lizard monstrosity skittered near my feet and went leaping out into the abyss. No doubt in a panicked bid for freedom.  I couldn’t help it. I freaked out and screamed like a little girl.  The others howled with laughter secure in their safety on the path.

I can’t blame them, but I wish I had a gotten a picture of this thing. It was the size of a bowling ball and unlike anything else I’ve ever seen.

Seriously, how many, “What the hell was that?!” moments could I have in one night?

The pavilion was nice but we had lost the rest of the light and couldn’t see much of anything, and so we made our way back in the increasingly heavy rain to our scooters.

The Kissing Stones

We enjoyed the rest of our stay, playing cards, eating dinner and walking around the night market.  But my biggest take home memories of this trip will always be the little cave of horrors and the incident of the reluctant camera man.

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