No, Taiwan not Thailand, and yes, this is where all your childhood toys
came from. And yes again, its where now most of your adulthood toys come from. Taiwan has changed, it’s still around 160 km off the Chinese coast, but they have changed from producing cheap plastic toys to more expensive elect
ric toys, like computers, cameras and mobile phones. They had such a fast and strong growing economy over the last decades that they actually produce most of these items now in Taiwanese factories located in China.
What else? It has a really young and interesting history, people in general are well educated and have a high standard of living what makes traveling around there more expensive but easier.
There is a small mountain range splitting the island into East and West. So the weather can be really different on either side, even if they are not that far apart. You’ll find good hiking, climbing, a lot of hot springs and in general great outdoor sports that become more and more trendy. So does Surfing, what is looked at as something cool. People celebrate that lifestyle with colourful clothes of all the big brands, worn far away from the surf.
You’ll find waves on the north, east and south, but nothing on the west. It’s a country with vast differences, with cities like Taipei, and not so far away towns as sleepy and rural as they can be.
Many of the young people speak fairly good English, especially in the cities, and are extremely helpful, friendly and more than anything else, they are polite. But if you’re heading to some of the rural towns, don’t expect to find anyone who understands a single word of English. That is where the fun starts, and not having a clue what kind of food you’ve just ordered can be as exciting as disgusting.
This is the country’s capital, sitting in the north, and is exactly how you would imagine it to be. It’s crowded, super modern in some parts and old and dirty in others. A lot of freaky stuff everywhere and those weird Chinese letters explaining to you where to go, what to do and what to eat.
It is also home to the Taipei 101, which was the tallest building in the world, until some rich oil sheiks in Dubai thought they want to have the title of something else as number one in the world. It has good shopping, plenty of entertainment and nightlife, and even nature not far away. You can take the Subway to go to some hot springs and mountains, even surf is not far away. Of course, the beaches closest to the city are the most crowded ones, and not the really best this country has to offer, but it’s still surf.
I decided to go all the way south along the west coast and surf my way up on the east. As I love train rides and they had the fastest train in the world (at this time), I decide to spend a few more Dollars for the experience and to save up time, as this train crosses the whole island in a few hours. But at the train station, they didn’t like my plan. They looked at my board bag, asked how long it is, and measured it to make sure I didn’t lie. It was two inches to long, and I was not allowed to take it! Not because it wouldn’t fit, but because this is the way it is! It’s not South East Asia, where you do things in one way or another. This is Taiwan, and here you do things the way they have to be done! I tried hard, I tried everything and talked to everyone and every ones supervisor, but no chance! So I had to find my way south with a couple of buses and travelling much slower.
I had a short stop here to check out the famous night market. This is probably one of the best places to really see the culture of this country, to try its food and to experience first hand what crowded means. If you don’t find time for a night time stroll around here, go to one of these markets in another city, it won’t be too different.
This is the really southern tip of the island, has a big natural park, beautiful nature and some tropical looking sandy beaches. Here the water is warm all year round, kind of, and the waves are gentle. It’s a Longboarder and Fishboarder paradise. Countless different beaches and points, but you need transport. Rent a car or scooter, and explore. Or even better, find someone to show you around. The people here in general are so friendly, you are most likely to find someone who takes you surfing and shows you all the spots. If you want to make sure you’ll find surf, just find AFEI. He has a surfcamp/ shop just outside of Kenting, and he’s the man here to talk to. He also shapes boards and makes his own surf clothes.
You’ll find surf here all year round but usually never really big. If you don’t have time to bus all the way, there is also an airport here. Bring your best small wave board, or something with a bit extra volume and you’ll have fun here.
Another thing i liked big time about Kenting was, that this is a typical tourist beach town with bars, restaurants and people who try to sell stuff on the street at night time. BUT as soon as those vendors want to approche you, they realise that they don’t speak a word of English and let you have a close look at everything, without hustling you. On the other hand, better don’t come here if you like to complain about Chinese tourist with there fisher hat, who take pictures of everything. Here you’ll see many of them and what might be a photo opportunity to them, doesn’t has to be one to you.
Taitung is a city a bit up the east coast and has a couple of great point breaks and rivermouth waves close by. Again, you need transport, and there is no surf in the city. It would be a good idea to stay somewhere a bit outside, best with people who take you to the waves.
There is a left hand point break here, by some called Four Palms, and this spot goes off with a good typhoon swell. You paddle out from a little harbour and around the waves, easy to reach the line up with dry hair. It has its name from the four palm trees that stand right next to where you take the wave, and where it starts peeling, or actually barreling down the line. I surfed it after a typhoon had passed and the locals told me it was not big. This only made me think how big it could really get? And talking to the locals about the size of waves is a funny thing, as a head high wave is called ‘one man’, double over head is: ‘two men’, and so on… At first when they told me with their broken English about ‘three men’ waves, I thought they were talking about the crowd, but after seeing pictures, it made me understand, that it gets huge here when a typhoon hits.
I also surfed some rivermouth with a left and a right that works even with small swells, and is surprisingly powerful.
Hualien is a fairly big city further up the east coast and has a lot of different surf spots close by. As everywhere in Taiwan, you need transport. But if you have some wheels, it’s easy to find waves. People here are friendly and helpful and tell you where to go to find waves. These spots are already more crowded, as they are close to the city.
There is also the Taroko national park, which is great and has a lot of other outdoor activities, such as river rafting, hiking and of course hot springs.
I had only little time when I was there and did a loop around the whole island in two weeks. But if you have more time, there is much more to see and many more waves. The people are unbelievable helpful and love to take a foreigner surfing. The surf potential here is of surprising quantity and quality, BUT it’s difficult without a car or someone who takes you around. There is another point break around almost every corner, plus many beach breaks and rivermouth waves. Get yourself a car, a map and find those places, it’s pretty easy here, and you don’t have to be afraid of sharks, the locals told me more than once (always with a smile) there are non, as they eat them all!
It’s a great and diverse country with amazing people and lot of uncrowded waves of any kind, from white water beginner beach, to triple over head point. I could tell you a bit more about some of the waves and how to find them, but do it yourself. It’s so easy here to find waves and to find people who tell you about them, that telling you here would be like taking away the fun. Belive me, it’s easy exploring.
For Typhoon hunting, go from late September for a couple of months, they get hit by the same storms as the Philippines and Japan.
It’s is one of those places where the Aloha spirit is still alive and other surfers are treated as friends and brothers and not as enemies and rivals. The surf culture here is still young, let’s hope it stays in such a friendly way. And if you visit Taiwan to surf, do your part to keep it the way it is.