I went exploring Xiaoliuqiu (小琉球) for Chinese New Year, a particularly beautiful part of Taiwan. A friend and I were planning to go for three days and our friends called us crazy, saying there wasn’t enough to do there for even two days – we definitely proved them wrong.
As you all know, one of the best parts about teaching abroad is getting the opportunity to travel and explore a new part of the world. Taking advantage of the chance to see new places is crucial to your experience abroad.
Whether we know it’s happening or not, traveling changes our perspectives and opens our minds to new ideas and ways of life. We will always be different people after coming back from another part of the world, regardless if you know it or not.
Exploring Xiaoliuqiu was an amazing adventure that everybody should try if given the chance. Amazing food, great people, and an unforgettable experience.
Exploring Xiaoliuqiu – Getting There and Back
Since Xiaoliuqiu is an island off the coast of Kaohsiung getting there takes a few steps if you live in Taipei.
First, I took the HSR (High Speed Railway) to Taichung, about half the distance from Taipei to Kaohsiung, where I met up with a friend. Then we took another HSR from Taichung to Zuoying-Kaohsiung station. Each leg of the train ride cost NT$700 for a total of NT$1400 for the whole trip. The entire trip from Taipei to Kaohsiung only took about two hours.
Once we reached Kaohsiung we took a hired car to one of Kaohsiung’s harbors, Donggang, for about NT$200 each. From Donggang we took an hour ferry ride for NT$200 that took us to the Xiaoliuqiu harbor.
The way back was fairly similar except we decided to take a bus back to Taipei, about a five-hour ride – still not a bad ride. Not only that, but the bus company we took has some of the nicest buses I have ever taken. Large, personal, leather, reclining seats with massagers, blankets, and personal T.V.s with headphones. Ho-hsin Bus Company, definitely worth it. The ticket cost NT$700 from Kaohsiung to Taipei and we took it at 11:30pm and passed out the entire way.
Accommodations and Driving Around
You will definitely want to rent a scooter while you are there. The good thing is, most hotels and hostels will include a scooter with a room, it’s that much of a necessity.
We rented a room at a hotel overlooking the water with a green garden area decked out with swinging chairs, a pond with a waterfall, picnic tables, umbrellas, and decorated with stepping stones. The hotel also provided a scooter upon arrival to the island which we used to get to the hotel on the other side of the island (about a 15-minute scooter ride).
Once we arrived at the hotel the employees laid out an entire schedule of things to do: numerous attractions around the island, guided tours during the day and night (included), late-night BBQ (also included), breakfast (included), snorkeling, and laying out on the beach. They had each event written out on a whiteboard (in Chinese) with times and additional information.
Once we were all caught up we set out to explore the island.
Over the span of three days, we found some of the most delicious food the island had to offer. Flying fish is a specialty of the island and they include it in many dishes. One particularly delicious snack is a mix between a mini-roti pancake/pizza – topped with cheese and your choice of sausage, tuna, flying fish, green onions, or just plain cheese…seriously to die for.
The BBQ that was included with the hotel was a two hour all you can eat buffet, or as Taiwanese like to call “eat to die” and that’s exactly what it was. We sat at a table with a small coal-fired grill in the middle and cooked our chosen ingredients: peppers, chicken wings, mushrooms, clams, shrimps, chicken butts, chicken hearts, beef patties, sprouts rolled in bacon, the list goes on. By the time we finished we were rolling out of the restaurant.
The weather was perfect for any outdoor activities, day or night. Remaining around a comfortable 24-28 celsius, we rode around the island on our scooter and looked at the various sites.
Climbing on the jagged rocks near the water really made us stand out. As my post about Taroko mentioned, Taiwanese people are not really ones for going off the beaten path, which was great for us as we moved off the trail and climbed these rocks that looked over the crystal blue and green water.
Xiaoliuqiu is home to one of the few easily accessible coral reefs in Taiwan. This means that the snorkeling was incredible in the clear sky-blue water.
The sandy beach is an incredible spot for sunbathing and swimming during the day and a whimsical place for star-gazing at night. Tours will go to the beach with mats to lay out and talk about the constellations and various combinations of stars – an educational and awe-striking tour.
Black Dwarf Cave is not for those who get easily claustrophobic. This cave leads you through extremely tight corridors that require you to twist, turn, and bend your body just to crawl through. Definitely a fun and slightly terrifying experience.
The sights, food, games, night markets, sunrises and sunsets all make this an incredible get-away from the hectic city life. One of the most amazing parts of Taiwan is the fact that a majority of the best places to visit are natural wonders: Xiaoliuqiu, Taroko, Sun Moon Lake, Alishan, Green Island, Yangmingshan, plus so many more.
My hard belief is that any of these places can be as fun as you make them out to be. If you want to spend one or two days there, do the bare minimum, and keep to the beaten path that’s obviously available for you.
If you are like me and want to spend a lot of time going out of the way to find the places fewer people write about, places you are not likely to find in the guidebooks, then take a couple extra days to explore the unexplored.
Have you ever been to Xiaoliuqiu? or had a mini adventure of your own? Let us know about it in the comments section below.