Things Yon Really Need to Take Home from Sunny Kending
Text / Kurt Weidner
Photos / Liao Jun-yan
It's the same all over the world. Wherever large numbers of tourists congregate, souvenir vendors will soon set up shop to hawk everything from cuckoo clocks to "authentic" outer-space rocks. Since Kending is one of the premier tourist spots in Taiwan it is not surprising that it has a fair share of souvenir stalls and shops. Let's find out about Kending memorabilia you really need to take home.
While the thought of souvenir vendors might conjure images of street peddlers nagging and begging you to buy useless stuff, or "friendly tour guides" luring you into dark alleys where you are "invited" to buy local carpets, there is no need to worry while traveling in Taiwan. One of the biggest assets of Taiwan's travel environment is that it is extremely safe. Living standards are high, and foreign visitors are usually treated with high respect. Bargaining, while existing to some extent at night-markets and in certain shops, is less common than in other Asian countries where you might beat down the seller and still end up paying more than you should.
When it comes to the quality of the goods on offer, there is a wide range. Of course, you'll find the ubiquitous plastic trinkets that are bound to become dust catchers in years to come or are destined for the trashcan soon after your arrival back home. But if you want to take home something uniquely representative of Kending, check out the many fine products designed, created, and sold by local entrepreneurs, many of whom are themselves gifted artists.
The town of Kending is not that big, so it's quite easy to find its central shopping area. Most shops and restaurants are located along the main road, Kending Road, which is part of Highway 26.
T-shirts, caps, and shorts are the preferred attire of most visitors spending time in tropical Kending, and there is no shortage of shops selling the T-shirts and other brightly colored summer wear. Reportedly there are 30 shops specializing in T-shirts alone, and by specializing it is meant that these shops really make an effort to design and create unique works which sometimes are even customized to meet the individual taste of the buyer.
A good place to start looking for your next "I was in Kending" T-shirt is the Songlin T-Shirt Shop at 165 Kending Rd. The shirts here feature unique designs and images that separate them from the average tourist-oriented outlet. Apart from T-shirts the shop also has a rich assortment of caps, hats, slippers, and other de rigeuer beach-fashion apparel.
The majority of Taiwan's indigenous inhabitants live in the central mountainous regions and along the eastern coast of the island. While the town of Kending is not in the immediate vicinity of aboriginal settlements, there are a number of shops specializing in the unique art of Taiwan's "first people". There is a wide range of objects to choose from, including wooden sculptures, woven and embroidered items, leather bags and purses, accessories made with beads, and much more.
A wide collection of aboriginal handicrafts can be found at Native Trading Post, located at 21 Kending Rd. The shop is known for its warm and friendly owner, herself a member of Taiwan's aboriginal community. Check out the many items made of leather that feature traditional tribal motifs, the wood-sculpture art of the Bunun tribe, and the intricately woven and richly embroidered traditional clothes. While an elaborate necklace made of colorful beads can set you back several thousand NT dollars, there are also many smaller items costing just a little more than a hundred NT$.
For more info on the tribal art of Taiwan, you can visit www.tribe-asia.com, a website with info on a large selection of indigenous artworks and handicrafts from Taiwan and the surrounding region.
Windbells / Chimes
Kending has a tropical climate and is known mainly for its sun and sandy beaches. During the short winter, however, it can be chilly at times, and windy, very windy. In 2002 a new annual festival was born in which Kending's strong winter winds play an important role - the Kending Wind Bell Festival. Aiming at attracting more tourists to the national park during the off-season, the festival has become a showcase for an amazing variety of windbells and chimes in all shapes and sizes.
Many of the shops selling decorative items and accessories in Kending also feature locally made wind-bells and chimes. If you take one of these unique-sounding devices back home you can hang it on your balcony or your front porch, and when the wind blows and you hear the charming melodies created, you can close your eyes and remember the beautiful times you had at Kending.
A large assortment of windbells and chimes can be found at Zesin Souvenirs, at 158 Kending Rd.
Seashells and corals are the main reason the sand of Kending's beaches - in contrast to many dark-sand beaches around the island - is so fine and white. If you are on the hunt for some unique shells or products made from them, head to Eluanbi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan proper, and visit Seashell Collection 23. This shop is filled to the brim with seashells of amazing shapes and colors.
Shopping Bags Full, Time to Head Home
There are hundreds of other shops in Kending selling unique souvenirs and items for every tourist's taste. While shopping might not be the main reason for you visiting the farthest of the far south of Taiwan, the myriad creative outlets here will leave you no excuse to go home empty-handed. Happy exploring!
If you read Chinese, you can visit a number of specialized websites introducing you to the commercial sites of Kending. You'll find details on shops and other establishments, as well as useful maps and links, at: