November 27, 2008
Following on from the Ilan trip, the next stop was Nanfang Ao. This small port, (right next to Suao Port if you are driving) is a hardcore fishing town and not a huge draw for tourists it would seem at first glance. In fact, some of the looks we got when leaning up against some of the fishing boats were questioning to say the least. Fishing is a tough business and the fishermen are equally as tough. In other words, don’t climb aboard without permission, matey!
The first thing you will notice are the aforementioned fishing boats around the harbor. As this is very much a working port, there are plenty shops catering for the boats, and so are probably best avoided, unless you have the need to buy some engine parts of course.
There are plenty of restaurants, however, and I was in seafood heaven again. It’s as fresh as you could hope for, and you can have a slap up meal of mussels, crab, fish, shrimp, sushi, squid and all the trimmings for less than US$15 a head. Of course you don’t have to go so overboard and you can order fewer dishes, but you get the idea.
The Matsu Temple is definitely worth a peek. Matsu is the goddess of the sea and is revered both in Taiwan and China as the deity who protects sea-faring folk. Actually she is such a big deal that she deserves her own post as it is likely that you will encounter in some aspect during your visit. The name is also directly linked to the islands of Matsu which I visited earlier on in the year.
So back to the Matsu temple in Nanfang Ao. The standout features are a jade statue and the only gold statue of Matsu (the sea goddess) in Taiwan. For me, there was a stronger sense of reverence at this temple than others I have visited. This may have been all in my mind, but with the temple facing the sea, the fisher folk, and thinking about the many who have lost their lives to the trade, it was an interesting place to contemplate life.
As you come into town, you will spot a large (for the size of the town) bridge. You can walk across this bridge as well as drive, and it’s worth it for views over the town and out to sea. If you venture over the bridge you can walk back into town following the road (ie you don't have to walk back over the bridge), as it does looks a bit intimidating. There is a small sandy cove over here and you can also sit on the sea wall and see the sea close up. Although there are no lifeguards here, you are allowed to swim at your own risk. A few restaurants are located on the far side of the bridge for those who work up an appetite (again) exploring.
The area is still dotted with pill boxes left from when this was an important military post. One suspects it still is, but technology has progressed from the old days and is now pretty unobtrusive. This is good for the tourist however, as the views over the ocean are no longer classified.
There are other beaches around Nanfang Ao, but there are dangerous currents and swimming is not allowed. The signs aren’t being overly cautious, and they are in English as well as Chinese so there is no excuse for ignoring them.
So in conclusion, during your trip down the east coast, and you really should try and make the east coast when you are here, Nanfang Ao is a good place to visit. Bring the camera, bring an appetite and prepare for contemplation.
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