Taiwan: Jiufen and Keelung

While I was out on my own in Taipei, my friend contacted and let me know that a friend of his wanted to show us around Jiufen and Keelung.  This was great news because Jiufen was my top destination for this trip but I was a little concerned about getting around since it’s out in the mountains and I wasn’t too sure how to get there.

We met with Chi early in the morning the next day and took a bus to Jiufen.  I was a little worried because the weather was showing that it was going to rain the entire day.  Chi reassured me though that it almost always rains in Jiufen and it’s “not really as bad as you think”.  She was right, despite the rain, it wasn’t too bad so I wouldn’t let that stop you if wanted to go there.

Our first stop was the Gold Museum. Other than being known for being an inspired location from “Spirited Away”, Jiufen was known to be a gold mining city back in the day.  The museum itself was pretty interesting and had a lot of cool displays.

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A preview of what’s to come.

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The designs in the museum were really nice.

When we got out, it had begun to rain again.  However, I didn’t mind it because the clouds and mist the rain brought out gave Jiufen a mysterious atmosphere.  By the time we got to the top of the area, it gave this feeling that we were above the clouds, in some mysterious land surrounded by mountains.  I took tons of photos, the ever-changing clouds made it feel like I was in a new area every time.

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Jiufen is also well-known for its teahouses.  While it was a little expensive, I felt that chatting and drinking tea while looking at the great view from the window would be a great way to pass the time.  It was worth every penny; just relaxing and watching the sky has become one of my favorite travel memories.

Wee, teahouses.

Wee, teahouses.

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After we rested, we checked out the rest of Jiufen, which is an area that has lots of tiny knickknack shops, souvenirs and food.  It’s pretty crowded so you will be fighting crowds trying to get in to places.   If you like shopping and eating, you will enjoy it here but I was pretty much done after eating a few things to eat.  There is a lot of stuff but I hate being in crowded places.

Finally we decided to head to Keelung.  We were supposed to go to another area but because we had relaxed in Jiufen for so long, we wouldn’t have enough time .  I didn’t mind.  We continued our day by visiting the famous Keelung market and getting bullied by Chi and her friend to eat some stinky tofu, a local delicacy.  Honestly, it tasted normal and because my nose is usually stuffy, the smell wasn’t bothering me much.  Needless to say, the two were bored at my reaction.

Keelung night market.

Keelung night market.

The port is nice too.

The port is nice too.

After hanging around and eating, it was time to head back to Taipei.  We finally parted ways with Chi and I was a little sad; she was great to hang around with and was very helpful in showing us places most people wouldn’t be aware of.  Taiwanese people are so friendly!  I could see what my friends who had visited Taiwan before were talking about after today.

Jiufen was definitely the highlight of my trip to Taiwan.  Although it is crowded and will probably take you most of the day to explore, it is worth it.  Don’t let the rain drive you away either.

Thanks for a great trip guys!

Thanks for a great trip guys!

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Taiwan: Taipei

Winter break was one of the rare moments where I was actually on break. Because of grad school, even though I might get some time off of work, grad school classes will still be in session, leaving me to study throughout the days.  Last winter break though, I was completely free from both work and school.  As usual, a lot of people left the country, leaving me wondering what to do.  Remembering that my friend invited me to let him stay with him in Taiwan whenever, I quickly planned a trip to Taiwan.

I flew into Taipei on New Year’s Eve.  I was a little nervous at first because A) this was my first international trip alone and B) I was meeting my friend at his house, which meant I had to travel for 1.5 hours relying on just myself.  Getting to his place was surprisingly smooth though, and the train staff was extremely helpful.

As soon as I met up with my friend, we were off to see the festivities in Taipei.  Taipei 101, the country’s famed skyscraper/observation tower has fireworks launching from the top when the New Year rolls in.  My friend suggested that we watch it from a local park due to it the amount of people that would be in the building’s area.  The park itself was interesting—people were grilling and launching their own fireworks while there was an outside event which basically was a club under a bridge.  I chatted with a lot of Taiwanese people and random people throughout the night.  It’s been awhile since I encountered people who were so friendly and outgoing.  This was to be a reoccurring theme throughout the trip.

The following day I suggested we go to Elephant Mountain, a “mountain” (but really, just a long set of stairs) that is right outside Taipei 101 and gives a view of the entire city.  While walked towards the mountain, I couldn’t help but enjoy the spring-like weather in December as well as the palm trees scattered throughout the parks.  I don’t know why, but it reminded me a lot of Peru, my home country.

The climb itself wasn’t too hard, just time-consuming and crowded.  We headed up around sunset to get the best view.  It was the right decision.  I could’ve been up there forever.

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Afterwards my friend showed me the various night markets around the city.  Night markets were definitely one of my favorite moments of the trip.  There is just an abundance of different kinds of food everywhere and it’s cheap.  We ate there just about every evening.  One of my favorites was chunks of blowtorched meat.

During the trip I had a day to myself.  I basically went to all the famous spots in Taipei.  Getting around is really easy because of their awesome subway system.  Also, every station has free Wi-Fi and charging stations.  Stuff like this really blew my mind because even though I was on my own, it was really easy to navigate around thanks to these things.

One of my first stops was The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.  Apparently every hour there is a changing of the guard which is very detailed to the point.  I stuck around to take a video:

 

Outside was nice too:

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A closeup of the statue.

I caught some other landmarks along the way:

Temples here are really beautiful.

Temples here are really beautiful.

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While I was walking by, I noticed there was another ceremony of raising the flag down so I stopped by to have a look:

Next time I’ll talk about my unforgettable visit to Jiufen.