Mount Cook and the "perfect" campsite

our experience camping near Mount Cook in New Zealand was filled with stunning views and surprises.

I blame Pinterest, really.

when my friend and I were plotting our New Zealand itinerary, a moment happened. the subject of camping came up and we decided "yes let's do it!" and "we can take some of those cute photos you see on Pinterest of feet and mountain views through open tent doors!"

if you've ever followed any kind of outdoorsy/ travel/ mountain/ forest vibe board I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

so we booked our campsites near Mount Cook. after a morning hike near Lake Tekapo, we drove all afternoon towards the south. the moment we spotted Mount Cook out the window, my friend and I went into photo frenzy mode. our husbands kindly obliged us by pulling over for photo ops. several times. and the mountain loomed closer and closer.

the sun was already slanting by the time we reached Glentanner Park. we checked in and discovered that camping here meant setting up wherever you liked in a large field area near the lodge. we drove around for at least 20 minutes, trying to scope out where the best views would be.

we finally settled on a spot and got the camp set up. the light was pretty harsh, but I took a few test shots anyway, searching for that Pinterest-perfect angle. my hopes were for some gorgeous early morning light. we went to the lodge to make dinner and charge our camera batteries, then I scoped out a few spots for shooting the stars later that night.

as the sun went down, the light turned magical. I shot a few photos of the area around our campsite and waited for darkness to fall. Husband and I tried our hands at astrophotography, then turned in for the night. I was so excited for the next day - we planned to hike the stunning Hooker Valley Track.

if you've read this post about what went wrong on our New Zealand travels, you may be able to guess the end of this story. our plans were ruined by three words I hope to never hear again: gale force winds. it turns out that camping in an open field, no matter how gorgeous the view may be, results in snapped tent poles and zero sleep when the winds are rushing down off the mountain and a rainstorm is on the way.

we cut our stay short thanks to the rain and forecast for freezing temperatures [and continued winds.] I never did get my Pinterest-perfect shot, but these two phone photos taken shortly before dawn as we frantically dismantled our tent and packed up to avoid being soaked probably sum up our Mount Cook camping experience best.

I wish I had more to say about Mount Cook, but our campsite was the closest we ever got to it. someday I'd love to go back. I want to hike the Hooker Valley Track and get a better look at New Zealand's highest peak. but I think on my next visit... I'll skip the tent and just stay in one of the cabins.


beaching in Kenting, Taiwan

the beach town of Kenting is the perfect place for a sunny Taiwan vacation. while I was there we explored the South Bay and Kenting Beach areas, but the Little Bay or Xiaowan Beach was our favorite spot.

are your toes cold? because mine are freezing.

it got down to 3 degrees celsius this weekend in Taipei. I could see SNOW on the mountains from my neighborhood. and while I realize the eastern US also had their own snowpocalypse, please bear in mind I live in a sub-tropical climate zone where most homes [mine included] do not have central heating. I do, however, have 20-foot ceilings and a wall of windows with no insulation. right now I'm wearing 4 layers and a winter hat, fuzzy socks and boots. inside my apartment.

so it seemed like a good day to look back at photos and pretend like I was roasting in the sun with a cool drink in my hand. [rather than contemplating how well I would be able to type this while wearing gloves.] let's take a little trip to someplace warmer, shall we?

Kenting is known for being Taiwan's beachy vacation town. there's a national park, a legendary night market, and of course: the ocean. situated on the island's southern tip, it's not the easiest to get to. but for years people have been telling me I should go.

last fall, a friend finally talked me and a few other girls into spending a long weekend in Kenting. looking back at these photos, I'm not sure why I needed convincing.

we started off early by hopping the high speed rail in Taipei and heading south. by the time we arrived - the last leg by cab instead of bus or shuttle [oops] - it was nearing sunset. so we quickly changed and walked off in the direction of the water.

we ended up on the eastern end of Kenting Beach. it was only a little crowded, decently clean, not far at all from town, and a lovely first introduction to Kenting. we splashed around a bit and I did an awesome beached whale impression. the sun went down and the cameras came out. a storm approaching from the east made the color of the water deeper and the sky full of crazy pastels.

I have to take a moment to show you this - the complete opposite vibe of the last few photos. what seems to be the most popular Kenting beach is actually down in Hengchung Township, known as the South Bay Recreation Area. we ventured that way for a stunning meal at Piccolo Polpo - definitely worth the trip - but took one look at the crowded beachfront and decided to spend our swim and sun time elsewhere.

elsewhere being here...

clean sand, blue water, volcanic rock formations, and only a handful of people. these are just a few of the reasons why Little Bay or Xiaowan Beach was our favorite spot in Kenting. it's a short walk from the eastern end of the main strip in town. 300NT [or $10 US] will get you a small table with an umbrella and chairs, for as long as you choose to linger. there's even a little beach bar where you can order snacks and drinks.

I'm closing my eyes right now and trying to imagine up the warmth of this sunshine...

this beach was totally heart-eye-emoji worthy. I was so shocked that I was still in Taiwan. not New Zealand, not Thailand, not Hawaii. still on my own island and just a few hours travel from Taipei. even after nearly 4 years here Taiwan can still surprise me. clearly - this beach was a gorgeous hidden gem and I highly recommend it over the other areas near town.

I don't know that I would come to Taiwan just for the beaches, but if you're here and exploring the island, Kenting is definitely worth a stop for some sun and relaxation. they are experiencing a bit of this cold snap right now as well, but will be back up near 80F by midweek. um, maybe it's time for another vacation?

hope you all are keeping warm, wherever you are! [if not - just close your eyes and think of Kenting.]
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