Planning the big trip, and days out in Yangminshan / Jinshan, Wulai, The North Coast, Keelung, Jiufen
17.08.2008 - 21.09.2008 35 °C
After living away from home for a year and 8 months it's time to plan the big trip and get organised for leaving. I spent a few hours in the International bookshop during my summer break, researching possible destinations and taking notes from travel guides about visas and inoculations. Getting visas in Taiwan is likely to be a problem. Due to Taiwan's ambiguous political status, many countries do not have embassies or representation here. I'm hoping that my travel agent will be able to help me or maybe I'll have to get them in a more 'connected' country after I leave. At this stage I'm trying to plan, without panicking too much.
The public transport in Taipei is regular, cheap and pretty reliable but the only real way to explore freely is by having a scooter. There are a number of places on the outskirts of Taipei that are worth visiting as an escape from the polluted city life of Taipei.
A short ride away from the Shilin district is the road to Yangminshan. As soon as you reach this area you can smell the sub-tropical vegetation, and even with all the cars, buses and scooters traversing the same curvy mountain roads, the air is much cleaner than in the city. On our first trip we were heading through the mountains towards Jinshan on the north coast of Taiwan.
It was our first hunt for a beach in Taiwan and we were looking forward to going swimming. I had heard that many of the beaches had lifeguards who, rather than save lives seemed to take the 'prevention is better than cure' approach by policing a shallow roped off area of the water. At Jinshan (or Surfer's Beach as it is called) it was possible to swim as far as you like.
We were quite disappointed with this beach. It was typically Taiwanese, with sausage stalls at the entrance, smelly toilets with no toilet paper and litter all over the beach. The water was relatively clean but it certainly didn't meet the standard we would have hoped for. The slightly embarassing thing was being surrounded by 'surfers', or at least people looking the part on surfboards, but without a ripple on the water!
Our next excursion on the scooter was a few weeks later, this time to Wulai, an aboriginal village in the South of Taipei County. The weather was amazing and we spent the whole day swimming in the river there. The area we visited is only 5 minutes walk from the main village, which makes it possible to get there by MRT and bus from Taipei City.
The scenery on the way to Wulai is lovely and you pass by a number of riverside villages. 7-11s are conveniently on the roadside at each village on the way and in the main tourist village you can eat at local restaurants or buy aboriginal souvenirs at the local shops.
In true explorer fashion, we set off on the scooter a few weeks later to find Jiufen, an historic village in the mountains north of Taipei. I had visited the village last year on the bus but unfortunately chose the wrong mountain this time round. We ended up driving through Yangminshan, round the north coast, through Keelung and finally up a different mountain to Jiufen. The journey was 3 hours there and 45 minutes back home (the correct route!). The bus ride to Jiufen was a little over an hour if I remember right and left from a bus stop by one of the subway exits at Zhongxiao Fuxing.
Across from Jiufen village is Mt Jilong (shown above). It is apparently about a 30 minute hike to the top. We were a little tired from the journey to do the hike that day but we're planning to go back soon. Jiufen is a tourist village, which means there are lots of little souvenir, clothes and food shops as well as a number of tea houses with amazing views to the sea. On a clear day the view from Jiufen is beautiful. There are viewing platforms where you can watch the sunset, and take photos unobstructed by buildings.
After a beautiful spell of weekend weather we hit the heart of typhoon season and were rained in for a few weeks but now the weather is cooler we're looking forward to doing some hiking in the mountains surrounding Taipei City where we live.