Off to the Beach and the Rocks
|The Northeast Coast Offers Waves of Summertime Fun|
By Eric Lambert
The thermometer is creeping up, the days are getting longer, final exams are almost over, and delicious mangos are everywhere. Summer is here!
One of the highlights of the summer among music lovers is the Hohaiyan Rock Festival held at Fulong Beach in July. This year celebrating its tenth year running, Hohaiyan is Taiwan's premier indie music festival, featuring rock, hip hop, folk, and anything in between. The festival, with a name that comes from a term of the indigenous Amis Tribe describing the sound of the ocean, has seen attendance numbers steadily rise as young people across the island embrace underground musicians and beach culture.
Leading up to the festival, hundreds of indie bands compete for a spot on the prestigious Hohaiyan stage, and once there a battle of the bands commences to determine the winners of a variety of awards. Bands rock out all day and into the evening, with a bigger audience than many groups have ever encountered before. The energy can be electric. Throughout the festival grounds thousands of young people dance, swim, attend workshops, play, and party on the golden-sand beach, while a busy lane of vendors sells Hohaiyan T-shirts, crafts, beverages, and local seafood snacks.
Even without the Hohaiyan excitement, Fulong Beach is a fantastic visit. The beach is only a short walk from the nearby train station, the area's key transportation hub, but on the way there are many spots to stop and have a bite, and cafes offering refreshing drinks. With clear seawater and a soft, sandy bottom, Fulong Beach is perfect for swimming, surfing, and windsurfing.
If you're looking for a place to camp, one of your best options in the area will be the Longmen Camping Resort, located adjacent to Fulong near the Shuangxi River. The grounds feature hundreds of campsites as well as cabins. You can also rent bicycles in Fulong – there is a Giant bike-rental shop by the train station – and follow the area's many coastal trails, and there are lots of fun water activities to do in the calm river mouth or the nearby beach.
North of Fulong, the jagged coastal area near Longdong offers a world-class rock-climbing site and the best snorkeling and diving in northern Taiwan. Over 500 sport and traditional climbing routes exist on the magnificent sandstone cliffs overlooking the sea. Check with Taipei camping stores to find out when guided group outings are scheduled; or if you've got the basic gear, head to the crag on your own and climb with some friendly locals. Surrounding the rocks underwater is a beautiful coral reef teeming with ocean life, a great spot for diving and snorkeling. A couple of dive shops operate in the area, renting snorkeling gear and leading dive outings as well.
Surfing is at the center of life for many of Taiwan's new generation of beachgoers, key to the beach-culture explosion. In such northeast coast hotspots as Wushi Harbor, Daxi, and Fulong the streets are lined with surf shops selling and renting boards, and surfers mingle around small cafes. The mostly gentle waves during the summer are great for learning, while the swells from periodic distant typhoons can challenge even a seasoned surfer.
Honeymoon Bay near Daxi, a few miles south along the coast from Fulong, is one of Taiwan's original surf beaches and for good reason. It's a swell magnet, and nearby mountains protect it from winds. Only the slower EMU (Electric Multiple Unit) trains on the north-south coastal railway stop at Daxi, but taxis from the nearby Fulong or Toucheng stations will also take you there.
About ten kilometers south of Daxi is Wushi Harbor. A wide black-sand beach borders one side of the harbor's break wall. Sandbars formed near the wall create consistent waves during the summer, making this spot popular with surfers – and spectators too. Paragliding down to the beach from a neighboring mountainside is another adventure sport available to thrill-seekers at Wushi.
Music comes to Wushi Harbor during the Yilan International Rain Festival, which is held in the months of July and August. Its Pop Music Festival, running eight hours on a single day, features some of Taiwan's hottest groups. If you want to party till the sun comes up, then don't miss the Wushi Summer Solstice Festival, also part of the Rain Festival. This is a twostage all-night beach rave showcasing international electronic and hip-hop DJs. To get to Wushi Harbor, take a train to Toucheng station and then a