Showing posts with label keelung_mountain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label keelung_mountain. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Keelung: Heping Island Day Trip

Brendan, Joseph and I went to Heping Island on Sunday, when all three of us felt a bit under the weather (Joseph got sick later that day, I came down with it yesterday and am off work today, and Brendan is still fine).

I'll probably blog a lot today because I have no voice, can't work if I can't talk, but am fine on energy!

Joseph has already covered the basics on how to get there and what to see, so I'll focus this post mostly on photos. Heping Island has two main things to see: a seaside area with cliffs and odd rock formations reminiscent of Yehliu.

Our initial impression was disappointing - the main entrance to the park is under construction and you have to walk through it to get to the seafront, which was cool and grey, and not particularly attractive. The walk to the construction site entrance is lined with murals which are spattered with graffiti:

Clearly this guy doesn't have much experience with 奶奶.

There were some snorkelers about. They were clearly insane.

Wandering a little farther along, being careful not to slip on increasingly treacherous rock, we came upon the Yehliu-esque area.

It was nice, and had some cool stuff going on, including lots of fishermen and snorkelers playing about the edges, but other than being quieter and less built-up than Yehliu, it was basically a smaller version of...well...Yehliu.

We then hopped on an old cannister to scale the fence to the "closed off" trail around the cliff that everyone was still using. The view got better from here, looking down over an odd old cement pagoda and an expanse of striated rock.

Across the way we could see two caves - one of which was an actual cave and the other just a dark crevice. The cave had a man-made entrance plopped down in front:

...and is called the "Cave of Foreign Words" - inside is dated graffiti in a number of languages. Apparently there are old Dutch and Portuguese carvings in the rock, but the oldest dates we could see were from the 1870s.

Don't worry about the "Military Activity Site" warning - it's old and no longer enforced. You can go in. Bring a good flashlight.

Back across the rock are two shrines underneath the pagoda, one appreciably larger than the other. Both are built of and around natural rock formations for 石頭公 - rock spirits. One was decorated with Buddhist and folk Daoist icons with a red-painted rock, and plastic and paper cartoon rabbits adorned the sides, presumably in celebration of Year of the Rabbit.

A rock spirit.

The smaller of the two shrines.

The incense urn, cemented to the rock, of the larger shrine (the first rock spirit is above it).

The red rock in the shrine.

Outside the shrine we came across these faded words once painted in gold. "Xin" was the only one we could decipher.

We also discovered what appears to be coral - please correct me if I'm wrong on that. It sure looks like coral and is the right color, but aren't we too far north for that? Wouldn't the water be too cold? Maybe the snorkelers knew a thing or two after all...?

After exiting the park back through the construction and past a random karaoke bar, we stopped for lunch, which was good despite the fish-mash rabbit in my soup:

We passed one of the oldest preserved structures in northern Taiwan. Not far from the bridge to Heping Island is a well used by the Dutch in the 1600s that is still in use today: you can see, despite its age and impressive history it's not that exciting to look at.

We then walked to a fort (I forget the name) built at the turn of the 20th century by the Japanese. To get there, you walk back towards Heping Bridge then hang a left at the seafood market. Keep going until you reach a little fallow area and then turn up the hill. Keep going and turn up another, steeper hill to the right, which leads through a very poor aboriginal area (I hesitate to say "slum" but that's what it is). Yes, there's a lot of poverty here and it shows a side of life in Taiwan that most foreigners never see, and don't care to see, but it is safe. People sitting outside chatting (not sure of the tribe and therefore the language, but my best guess would be Amis) greeted us warmly.

The first part of the fort is at the top of the village hill, and is not very impressive (really, it's just an old house structure without a roof). If you go a little further up, you reach some more stone fortifications, which are mildly more interesting and you can poke around inside.

Keep heading up, and it gets more interesting still: old brick and stone fortifications in a distinctively early 20th-century style with more extensive poking around (it's muddy and full of bugs, so if you, like a certain infamous Canadian woman, freak out about insects, you may not want to go inside).

Climbing the stairs to the top of this set of fortifications, you reach the top of the hill and get a gorgeous view. On one side, a stretch of ocean.

Ahead of you, Keelung Island.

To the right, a view of Jiufen, Jinguashi and Keelung Mountain and beyond that, the Bitou cliff peninsula.

We wrapped up as twilight was setting in and headed down to get coffee before going to the Miaokou Street night market - we weren't hungry enough to tackle it yet. As we chilled out in Cat's Cafe (right at the base of the road that heads up to the giant Guanyin and Ghost Month temple), which used to be a straight-up coffeeshop but is now turns into something of a small lounge bar at night.

Of course, the night market is always a blast. We got cream crabs:

...and among other things, tried some of these babies ("zhu ha", apparently) cooked up so they were a little more solid and a little less...err....snotty. (They were good).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Postcards from Jiufen

A few weeks ago, we took my kid sister to Jiufen - she's here for a year, studying at Zhengda's Chinese language learning center, and has never been to either Jiufen or Jinguashi. We only made it to Jiufen (though we had planned to visit both towns) because we ended up climbing Keelung Mountain and it took us well into twilight to do so.

Getting to Jiufen was an adventure in itself. We arrived at Taipei 's Main's railway platform at 10:42am, exactly two minutes after the local train to Ruifang had departed. The next one wasn't coming for an hour. Why did we get there so late? We all agreed that we wanted to sleep in a little and not drag ourselves out of bed at 7am. Rather than wait on the platform for an hour (b-o-r-i-n-g) and giving our day a sour start, we boarded the next train, which terminated at Qidu, figuring we'd find a way to Jiufen from there.

When we got to Qidu, all seemed lost - we were simply going to have to wait 40 minutes for that same local to Ruifang (the base from which to take a bus/taxi to Jiufen). The station master didn't know of any other way. Fortunately, at that moment, a nice girl who grew up in the area was heading through the station on the way to visit her mother. She told us that the place where she was planning to meet her siblings to head to their laojia (ancestral home) happened to have a bus stop where the bus to Jiufen came. Woohoo! We climbed in a taxi with her and her recently-rescued stray cat, Meimei, and headed for a 7-11 on the border of Taipei and Keelung Counties (what else would you expect to be there?). She met her siblings, all of whom had adorable pets in tow, and we gave her some cash for the taxi and boarded the bus to Jiufen, which came soon after. Success!

Below are some photos:

Clay masks along the 'stair street' at Jiufen...most people who've been there have passed this house. Someday I really will go inside.

Jiufen and Jinguashi are noted for having lots of old-style houses, most of which have been coverted into museums, teahouses, cafes and other tourist amenities. While I prefer authenticity to convenience, I guess it's a better fate than being torn down or cascading into ruin.

Brendan and I have been to Jiufen several times (I believe this was my fourth visit) but as Becca hadn't, and wanted to buy gifts, souvenirs etc. from Taiwan, we took her down the tourist street. While I'm not too fond of it (you can get the same stuff almost anywhere) I do like their fancypants soap store, which sells great facial soaps made from herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. I also got a new pair of beaded flipflops for summer and a travel accessory bag made of fake 'Chinese silk'.

The good thing about the market is that there are also lots of different foods on offer. We particularly liked the cup of squid and the deep fried chunks of giant mushroom.

Delicious pickled mango!

Gooey snacks - if you look at the colors, you can see that she's making taro and sweet potato goo-balls, which is a popular flavor combination in Taiwan. And, for some reason I've never figured out, Taiwanese people seem to love gooey snacks...the chewier the better.

The bad thing is that on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, it was packed to the point where even the Taiwanese people there thought it was too crowded (wow). There were times when you couldn't move at all. A good warning to try and visit on a weekday, if at all possible.

Crowds and crowds

Afterwards, hot and tired from the pushing crowd, but well-fed on squid and fried mushrooms, we headed to one of Jiufen's famous teahouses to relax in the sun and have a cold drink. We were the only ones out on the deck except for a couple lounging under the awning, far from the sun...another thing locals seem to hate is getting a tan. But after a winter of clouds and drizzle, we were basking in it.

Traditional buildings have mostly been converted into teahouses. Above is one with Keelung Mountain in the background.

Doesn't that iced green tea look great?

From our balcony perspective, we also got to enjoy Jiufen's famous views over the northeast coast (I actually prefer Jinguashi's views to an extent, but Jiufen's are lovely too).

Afterwards, as the afternoon waned, we decided that we had just enough time to make it to the top of Keelung Mountain and back before sunset. Keelung Mountain is shown in the background of one of the photos above, and it doesn't look all that difficult, does it?

Did we really think we'd have time to make it up and back this late in the day?

Well, it's not a tough climb, per se, but it is all stairs which meant that my knees were creaking as we ascended. It also took longer than we thought.

On the road to the trailhead

Along the way, you can see views of Jiufen on one side and Jinguashi on the other, with strategically placed pagodas from which to view them both. At ground level, the lower levels of the mountain are littered with tiny shrines. As you ascend, the view expands on either end to include Bitou Cape on one side and Keelung City on the other.

Jinguashi on one side...

...and Jiufen on the other

Me and Brendan with a view of Jinguashi's coastline

Tiny shrines dot the sides of Keelung Mountain

Pagodas on the way up give you a chance to rest and enjoy the view.

This may not look like much, but look in the wide valley on the righthand side. Do you see a little stick poking out? That's Taipei 101, as seen from the north coast of Taiwan!

Views of Jinguashi

The sun set on our way down.

As you can see, we didn't quite make it up and back before sunset. It got darker as we descended, and by the time we hit the final pagoda, night had fallen. We walked the rest of the way with barely any illumination, but with the lights of the northeast coast twinkling in front of us, and those of ships out to sea behind us. In the distance we could see the city of Keelung lit up brightly.

We took the bus to Keelung Night Market for dinner, though after all that snacking we weren't very hungry. But Keelung is a great night market spot, so we made room for some delicious, fresh seafood.

Lots of oranges!

Mmmm, sea urchin sashimi. My favorite!

We had sea urchins (visible above), cream crabs (crabs cooked in cream and butter with onions and other seasonings), clams, sweet potato leaves and beer. It was delicious!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Some alternate views of Jinguashi and Jiufen

Everyone who's been in Taiwan awhile knows the standard photograph, the usual postcard, and the run-of-the-mill walks through Jiufen. The touristy market street (which I kind of like - there's a good herbal soap store), the gorgeous view over the bay, the stair street and possibly a hike up Keelung Mountain are the must-do activities.

We spent our day a little differently. We made some time for the market and stair street, but also explored the old residential parts of Jiufen in a drizzling gray rain (head left at the end of the market street and then keep going, making an eventual righthand swing around the side of the mountain to where the Jiufen residents live), went up to a Japanese shrine above Jinguashi and walked around to the other side of Keelung Mountain for some gorgeous ocean views.

To get to the viewing platforms you have to take the bus from Ruifang to the very end of the line past Jinguashi. If the driver is nice he'll take you a bit farther so you won't have to walk uphill.

For the Japanese shrine, the entrance is not far from the Gold Museum and requires walking up a lot of steps with no shade.

I wish I still had my photos of Jiufen, but due to a recent computer crash, they're gone. I do, however, have these:

Isao on the overlook along the far side of Keelung Mountain (Jinguashi)

Sasha at the entrance to the Japanese shrine (between Jinguashi and Jiufen - closer to Jinguashi)

At the end we did do the tourist thing a bit - what can we say, it's fun! That's why it's "the tourist thing" in the first place - and finished off with tea and a great view.

Sunset in Jiufen - Sasha, Amy, Sun, Joseph, Brendan, Isao, Eduardo, Sharon