Taipei, Taiwan: Waterpipe Trail


Anyone who has been to Taipei knows that it is surrounded by mountains. I would bet that it is true on all sides, but I am only sure about the north, just before getting to the sea of Japan. So it goes something like this: a colleague asked me where I was going for the weekend and I muttered out something abotu Yangming Mountain and recommendations start coming and I took note. In Chinese, in my bad chinese, I believe one of the route that interest me is called the water pipe trail. It is not visible on the satellite maps, as it is a walking path up the mountain and ends up at the Chinese Cultural University, that large complex of building on the top of the mountain. Water pipe as it runs along a large pipe bringing water down the mountain. As I have now done the trip, I can say that it is a black water pipe that was constructed by the Japanese about 100 years ago.

This trip took me two tries. First was on a saturday and it was cut short by rain. Figured out rain, jogging shoes and mountains don’t get along too well, and so I postponed it. Sunday was different. Woke up to a bright cheery day, even though the weather forecast was not that optimistic. And so, I go again…

The easy rule for this adventure was to take public transport all the time and having a rough idea where I was going, minimum use of Google Maps and GPS was allowed. I knew had to get to the end of Zhongshan Rd (that would be section 7). On Saturday, I got off Beitou MRT station and walked 3 hours before I got there, thanks to 4 MRT station overshoot, essentially bad planning. But this is part of the thrill. This Saturday reconnaisance trip indicated that it would be possible to take a bus from Taipei Train station directly to the foot of the mountain at Section 7. Bus 220 does that.

Trial Starting point at Tianmu town
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Taipei, Taiwan: Guandu Nature Reserve


One very effective way to get attention is to distribute brochures. On this trip, it was a bimonthly pamphlet I found in my hotel room called “Spectacular Taipei”. It was filled with sections dealing with flowers, and floral expositions (Spring is about to arrive) and one thing caught my eye, and it was a map of a Nature Reserve just outside of Taipei and a few stations  before Danshui, what I call “Deauville of Taiwan”, and which I have been to many times. Best of all, it was reachable by the excellent Taipei MRT. On the map, Guandu looked like a small town, with a temple being the centre of attention, and a wetland park on its borders. Guandu straddles the Danshui and Keelung river.

Now I’ll confess I’m bored with Taipei city centre, so anything nature is interesting to me at this stage.

Guandu Town

Getting there is straight forward. Get yourself onto the Danshui Metro line, and while my brain is still fresh from the trip, that’s the blue line that goes up north. Somewhere along the way, some of the trains will terminate at Beitou and you will have to get off and switch to one that goes all the way to Danshui. Should be rather obvious when you’re in the metro. The tip here is that the MRTs to Beitou is almost always empty, as the whole of Taipei goes to Danshui on the weekend.

Guandu Nature Park:

When you get to Guandu station,  there are buses going to the Nature Park or the temple, but it’s not fun if you don’t push it a little, so I walk instead. It takes a good half an hour to get to the Nature Park entrance. But that’s mostly because I set off on a different direction and went through some nice tour of almost the whole of Guandu town.

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Keelung, Taiwan: Returning to the coast

Another view of the Hollywood-esque sign in downtown Keelung
27 June 2009

This is my second trip to Keelung. The first trip is here. So no long introductory pleasantries in this post. Tapping this out on my E71 as I go along, and with my fat fingers, the less I type the better it would be. Now that I’ve made my apologies, I’ll let my laziness take it from here. Will make the pictures do all the talking.

This weekend the port is devoid of any large ships, unlike the first time I was here

And before I start a post about Taiwan, why not start with a photo of the bikes!

By train from Taipei central train station. 43NTD by TRA train. The tickets can be bought at any of the TRA counters, but may be a lot quicker to go to the basement next to the entrance gate to the trains and buy the ticker at the vending machine there. First mistake of the day for me. First train starts just before 6 am. I took the 9:34am train. Quite obviously I woke up later than planned.

The weather forecast is wrong today. Was expecting thunderstorms but got greeted with a years supply of sunlight in a day. Its hot as hell and I have a large umbrella from the hotel with me. Not a day I feel like spending wholy outdoors out of the shade! Taking bus 301 to the Dutch City (Taibaizhuang). Fare seems to be 15NTD. The bus is a small mini bus with blaring local radio in Taiwanese. Loud advertising, and loud old 80s style songs.

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Keelung, Taiwan: Northern Taiwan Coastline

Keelung Harbour
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!

This

This is why I'm here: Coastlines...

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?

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Through Typhoon Jangmi (28 Sept 2008)


The newspaper here says that it is the strongest typhoon to hit Taiwan this year. On the map it looks like its big enough to engulf the whole country, and the time this will happen will be tomorrow, Monday. It has been raining the whole day today and occasionally there are strong gusts of wind, where umbrellas get entangled. If it gets any worse, that means I will get a holiday on Monday!

All doors are braced for the strong winds expected on Sunday