Wikipedia opens the article for Keelung as a major port city situated in the northeastern part of Taiwan. Fine. That is not the reason I wanted to check out the town during the idle weekend in Taipei, but more because the town has nice rocky coastlines and most importantly food. More on that later. Being close enough from Taipei, it doesn’t require a long commute to get there, and from what I can see it looks like a different world altogether from the capital city. Do-able in a day, nice coastlines, and food. That seals it for me!
All great leap starts with a small step. Finding how to get to Keelung from Neihu is not that difficult. Its not fair, I know, but that starts by asking a secretary in the local office. After a few minutes the email came in and it is simple enough. Although it is possible to catch a train, the easiest solution would be to go over to the bus stop on the main road close to Miramar Neihu (look for the out of place giant ferris wheel) and catch a “Capital Star” bus (http://www.capital-bus.com.tw/). And if you have seen the buses in Taiwan, they are usually nice buses with ultra tacky colours, graphic designs and an interior only a pimp could love. Hope I don’t get that in the golden star!
Started off the day early, 6am and having soya milk and buns at a popular 24 hour local corner shop near Miramar. It is one of those place I never remember the name, nor do I care, but I can tell where it is on the map. For Taiwanese out there, maybe you know where it is when I tell you a couple years back some gangster got gunned down. Tofu? Get it?
So back to the point. Capital star bus that goes to Keelung is easy enough to find. It stops at the first bus stop below the new elevated metro line just in front of the Miramar. Price to get all the way to the end at Keelung train station would be 41 NTD. That is also sometimes called “dirt cheap”. The frequency for this bus is frequent enough. Let’s say it seems to come often enough not to worry at all. This is a slightly better version of a public bus, not the tacky pimp-mobile. LEDs, LCDs, it has all the 3 letter acronyms!
Fast forward, the trip is basically leaving Taipei, go through a small mountain range, and end up in Keelung. Quick enough to be uneventful and unworthy of any transit photographs. The final stop is at the train station. And since it is still early in the morning, and a Starbucks is in sight, nothing better than a hot cup of coffee while waiting for the darn rain to stop. And the forecast today is not that great. Drizzle at best all day long. Armed with a hotel umbrella, it doesn’t matter. And so before I move on, the arsenal today is a move-light pack filled with a Ricoh GRD (all colour photos are coming from this little wonder) and a Leica M6 with a Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH loaded with ERA 100 film. Shall I say the Summilux is the best 50mm out there? Maybe I should. But everyone already knows.
After the morning coffee, and a little finger to the weather which continues to drizzle, its time to walk around the train station looking for bus to get to the coast. There is a tourist center here that speaks reasonable english and helpful people manning the place. What would you expect from a tourist center, I mean. The plan was to see the rock formations at Heping island, but was told its closed. No reasons, maybe too early in the morning, or maybe because of the weather.
Nothing stops me, not the rain, not the closure of the original destination. Picked a route and jumped onto a local bus and before long got off at a stop which is not too far from the town, but still about 10km away. Far enough to walk back along the coast, which will be the adventure for the day.
The bus dropped us in the middle of what looked like nowhere, and it is time to track back. There are breakwaters everywhere and anglers fishing away in the stormy seas. The rain continues and the wind whips up large waves in the sea. Perfect time to catch a photo or two of the tempestuous seas while walking along highway 2 (Beining Rd) towards Keelung. I had my google maps on my E71 active at all time and it was possible to see that in front of me is a peninsular called coastal park called Ba Dou Zi. I’m sure it has an English name but I will follow whatever is on the map.
On there way there, I would pass a safe harbour filled with fishing boats. The gmap shows the location. The only thing strange about these fishing boats are the numerous lamps that seems to line the wires above the boat. Now, common sense would tell me that this would be useful for nighttime fishing for some marine creature that loves light. I’ve seen fishing documentaries on Discovery and I’m sure this is not for the Alaskan crabs! Doesn’t matter. Looks strange, so deserves a picture or two. There are some sailors hanging around the deck of some of the boats, and they are quite clearly Indonesians, given away by the language they speak.
And so on to the park. There are not that many people in this weather, just me and a colleague. Cliffs are all around us and after a while we realised it is not possible to walk around the to the other side of the peninsular and we had to turn around. But enough photos showing the strange what-nots at this peninsular.
Time now to walk back to Keelung along the coast. The bus took a nice 30 minutes including all stops to get to where we got off, and it will take almost the whole day to walk back to the town. And so we continue back on highway 2 stopping over for lunch in a small local eatery, nothing much to remember. And before long, and by that I mean a few kilometers, stumbled upon a large seafood food. GPS locations are stored in my Nokia E71. This look like the type of place where you select your live fish and they cook for you in the restaurant nearby. The only issue is there are a lot of the same restaurants lining the place so when you have plenty, you have annoying touts. Since we had lunch before we got here, no food for us here. It is one of those place that you know is built for the tourist, bus loads of them.
Going off for the long walk back to Keelung we passed a university, and a generally sleepy town. It was a nice walk, on a rainy day. Along the way there were ancient French cemeteries and relics from the past, but I won’t go on and describe them all, I’m sure a search on the internet on Keelung would reveal more than what I will type here. That’s beside the point anyway. And before long, containers were in sight, signalling that the port is close. From the satellite photos I could see that there is a container port just before hitting the harbour proper. The harbour is at the end of an inlet, which probably how the port of Keelung is protected from the typhoons and storms.
At the container port, two large ships were visible. First was a large submarine cable-laying ship with a Norwegian name, which I cannot now recall. It’s not that difficult to tell its purpose, the rear of the giant ship has 2 strange looking channel where the cables exit. The second ship is a large, huge, no… giant colossal passenger liner. Could see clearly it’s called the Diamond Princess.
A quick on site googling tells me that it is one of the largest passenger ship around, owned by P&O liner. So, this is what people on cruises do. They land in foreign land, then they dressed up as tourists and go ransack the whole town. There is a little micro economy, nay, micro town set up around the ship landing site just to cater to their needs. So we stood there admiring the ship from outside, and just at the right time the door started to close, quite impressive really. And before long it was pushed sideways, and it was quite obvious there are side propulsion system on the ship. The impressive thing about this ship is the speed it was able to move. After getting pushed starboard side, it started disappearing away from sight. We stood there in awe. Like a local seeing a giant ship move for the first time, which is the case for me. It’s one of those moments, like seeing a plane take off and wondering how something that big was able to take off.
Check on the watch, and its close to 6pm and that can only mean one thing. Taiwan, famous for one thing, and that’s food and no where better to try it than the night market. Obviously this was researched well before we were in Keelung, and Miaokou Night Market is where we wanted to go for dinner. The good thing about walking 10km is to be able to eat as much as we wanted without worrying about the side effects. The best way we thought to do this would be to try one small dish in every store. At the end of the night we stopped in at least 5 stalls, all different dishes. Well satisfied. And with the full stomach, it was time to take a short walk back to the train station, and taking a train back to Taipei, leaving the station at around 8pm.
This trip was well worth the day. Now that we are a little more ambitious, the next trip will involve more of the coast. An idea in my mind involves biking the coasts. But hopefully next time the weather would be a lot better than this weekend!
*end of post*