Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Chateau Beach Besort: Traveling with Mr. Budget

The Chateau Beach Resort

I’m not what you would call a seasoned traveler.  I read these travel blogs sometimes, and I’m amazed at how people can travel all over the world; not just once but multiple times. They have all these tips about making the trip more comfortable, dealing with security, getting upgraded and the like, I know nothing about those things.  When you drive your own car on most of your trips and you sit in the front seat your upgrade choices are somewhat limited.  Besides, I never really left the United States all that much to go traveling. I went to Canada, and I spent a quite a few vacations in Mexico.  But outside of Taiwan I pretty much stayed on my own Continent.

If I tell the truth I’m not into traveling.  I like being places better than getting there.  I don’t mind driving to a place, but I hate going through all the trouble it takes to fly anywhere on a plane; from being at the airport early, to going through all that security, to sitting on the tarmac in crowded airplane.  It’s really bad when my butt starts to hurt and the plane hasn’t even left yet.  I know somewhere along the line I’m going to regret getting on the plane.

The thing I do love, though, is actually being someplace other than my own house.  I like to experience things that are unavailable in my own country or culture.  I’m pretty sure that’s one of the reasons I love living in Taiwan.  It’s not Southern California, and it isn’t likely to be…ever!  Its not that I hate Southern California, I don’t.  I lived there a long time; it’s just that…I lived there a long time.

When we decided to go to Kenting, I really didn’t think I wanted to drive.  I really wanted to try out the High Speed Rail, but after the trip I’m glad I drove.  It was nice to have the car while we were there and the trip turned out to be part of the fun.  The reason for taking the car was our usual concern, the budget.

The beach was right outside our door.
Mr. Budget, who has been our houseguest for more years than I care to remember, often guides our decisions.  I laugh when my children talk about how they’re going to buy this mansion or that super car.  After living with him all those years you’d think they know Mr. Budget.  But one day they’ll have him in their own family and then they’ll end up doing things his way, too.  In fact, I’m looking forward to the day they meet their own Mr. Budget.  They’ll be surprised when he moves in with them and controls their lives.  They think I’m controlling, no I’m just a dad, Mr. Budget will show them what control is really all about. 

Anyway, so now you know the reasoning behind driving to Kenting.  When we got there we stayed at a place called The Chateau Beach Resort.  I mentioned in my last post that this was our first real family vacation.  This was also the first time any of us stayed in a five star resort.  The place was fabulous.

Our room had an ocean view; in fact, we had a patio that opened to the beach less than fifty meters away.  The resort had water sports, beach volleyball, on their private beach, sailing, croquet, pool, a video arcade and lots of restaurants.   The staff was friendly, and willing to do whatever they needed to do to make your stay more pleasant.  The people at the front desk were fluent in English, which is helpful. 
You’re probably thinking, “All that talk about Mr. Budget and driving and then you stay at a place like that?  What is that all about?”  Its funny that you ask that, well not really, since you’re not here with me and I just wrote that you’d be asking that if you were here, but…  Anyway, the cost of the hotel room ($562 USD/night) for our four-day stay, during the peak-operating season would be substantially more than I would (could) pay for a hotel room.  It’s closer to what I paid for our car.  The price for dinner alone, at one of the restaurants, would have paid for the air conditioner repair on our car; the price of lunch four new tires. 

Look crowded, huh?  This is the sports staff.
But we went during their off season and because of the timing we got about a sixty percent discount.  The beach was secluded as if, it was there just for us.  There was little reduction in services, although I didn’t see the croquet lawn set up for croquet. 

Croquet is pretty close to the level of excitement with which I’m most comfortable.  It’s a little scary sometimes when balls are flying off the field.  But I can handle it, for real bone-chilling excitement I listen to the playlists on my kid’s iPods.  Now that frightens me.

Lots and lots of food choices.
The restaurants operate at their usual level of service.  The sports organizers are out there in the morning looking fit and ready to go.  The housekeeping staff is working hard and cheerfully helping you.  It all seems to work.  The only mishap of the week was when Mr. Budget wiped out on the boogie board.  Oh well, it wasn’t the first time Mr. Budget crashed in our lives; I don’t expect it’ll be the last either.

Watermelon Art


Sea Snails

Mussels, they also had Oysters and Shrimp, or a full Western meal with Beef and Lamb if you wanted.

Apple Art.  

Other posts you may be interested in:

Taiwan Travelogue:  Driving to Hawaii
Local Color:  The Colors of Kenting

Photos:  Chris and Brenda Banducci

Friday, January 20, 2012

Taiwan Travelogue: Driving To Hawaii

Right now I’m sitting at my computer in Taoyuan City.  The temperature is 16C.  (61F)  I would say this is cool, but not cold weather.  I can function pretty well at this temperature.  Because of my health issues when it gets cold, I hurt a lot, I can’t grab a hold of things, I have more difficulty standing.  But 16C I can handle all that.  The week before last it was a lot colder.

That was the week we had chosen for our first ever, family vacation.  We’ve traveled to visit family, and we’ve gone together to weeklong conferences, but this is the first time we just took some time off and just hung out together.  So we decided to drive down the coast to Hawaii.

Well, we didn’t actually go to Hawaii, but it felt like it.  When we left, at about 10:30 am the temperature in Taoyuan City was 9C (48F), when we arrived at our destination the Chateau Beach Resort in Kenting at 5:47 pm, the temperature was 21C (70F).  Ahhhhh! 

We decided to drive our car.  I had wanted to take the High Speed Rail but thought it a bit pricey.  It’s $1330 NTD ($45 USD) one-way for one person, from Taoyuan to Zouying Station in Gaoxiong City.  Then it’s another 480 NTD for the shuttle from Gaoxing to the Chateau, for my family of four that’s $14,480 NTD (about $482 USD) Round Trip.  The car took about half tank of gas ($1100 NTD or $36.67 USD) and about $360 NTD ($12 USD) in tolls.  That’s about $97.00 USD round trip.  I guess I don’t need to point out that I’m not a jet setter.  I don’t run into Paris Hilton when I’m traveling. 

Garmin:  A Good GPS system
It’s about a five-hour drive from Taoyuan to Kenting.  The drive is easy and fairly relaxing as you drive the tollway almost the entire route.  A good GPS system that warns you in advance of speed cameras, tollbooths and exits is helpful; especially the speed cameras which are hidden all over the freeway.  Most vehicles here don’t have cruise control.  Well, most of the vehicles I’ve driven didn’t have cruise control and you can find yourself zipping along at about 130 km/hr on a 110 km/hr road.  I don’t know the settings of the speed cameras and I don’t want to find out the hard way.  I never speed…honest…really. 

We stopped at one of Taiwan’s excellent rest stops on the way.  If you travel by road a lot in California, then you may then you may have trouble believing that rest stops can be great, but in Taiwan they’re great.  Our rest stop had all the comforts:  Gasoline station, mechanic shop, several restaurants arranged in a food court, a store and a huge parking area.  We decided to have lunch right there in the rest stop.  I had a variety of foods, my wife had steamed pork buns (Bao zi) and small steamed dumplings (Xiao Long Bao).  The kids chose not to eat real food but got containers of Caramel popcorn.  We spent about an hour and slipped back onto the road again. 

The only part that was inconvenient, I thought, was having to stop at so many toll booths.  They’re spaced about thirty kilometers (18.75 miles) apart. So about every half-hour you’re stopping to pay toll.  Toll is $40.00 NTD (or $1.30 USD).  Taiwan also has an electronic toll paying system so that you can just drive through, without having to stop.  You pay into an account in advance and they deduct the toll every time your car passes underneath the electronic reader. I don't drive the tollways enough to bother with it so I just stop and fork out the cash.

Near Gaoxiong you exit the toll road and drive on surface streets about another thirty or forty kilometers until you reach Kenting.  Kenting is right at the southern tip of the island.  I thought the scenery looked a lot like the area area surrounding Mazatlan, Mexico. That makes sense since Mazatlan is at 23 degrees N in latitude while Kenting is at 21 degrees N.  Honolulu is 19 degrees N.  Taoyuan City is 24 degrees N. but feels like it’s a lot closer to the Arctic Circle in January.  Next Post I’ll finish off the kenting adventure with a bit about the Chateau Beach Resort.

Brenda's Lunch at the Rest Stop

Exercise Facilities at Another Rest Stop:  I don't think this is their intended use.

Rest Stop Ice Cream

Some Random Scenery on the Road to Hawaii:

I don't know what these are for, but they're cool!

A Hotel in Taizhong

Bridge Superstructure

Photo Credits:  High Speed Rail:
All other photo's Chris, Brenda and Emily Banducci

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Local Color: Taiwan Welcomes 2012

The Fireworks welcoming the New Year at the Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world.

Footage by davidcandlelight: