My Taiwan Chronicles – Day 3

Outside Taipei in a Day

I joined a day tour to places outside of Taipei. Thanks to KKDay Tour, I was able to experience Yehliu, Shifen and Jiufen on my third day in Taiwan.

My initial itinerary was to visit these three places on my own, relying on tips and directions from blogs. To get to these places, I need to travel by bus and train with Taipei Main Station as the reference point. I need to choose between my orientation skills and travel convenience, so I choose the latter to save time and energy.

The KKday Tour has an English-speaking guide. The tour cost TWD 1,000 for a visit to Yehliu Geo Park, Shifen Waterfall, Shifen Old Street and Jiufen Old Street. Meeting and pick-up place for this tour is at Taipei Main Station, East Gate 1 from 8:40am to 9am.

If you have a spare time before the tour day, familiarize yourself on the location of East Gate 1. Taipei Main Station is an integrated terminal for the MRT (Red, Blue and Green lines), Taoyuan Airport Express, the high-speed railway, and the bus station. It would save you some time in locating the meet-up place and lessen the chance of missing out on the KKday Bus.

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I was already at the Taipei Main Station at 8am. But it took me more than 30 minutes to locate East Gate 1. Luckily, with the help of internet, I arrived at the rendezvous in the nick of time. The tour guide began the roll call 20 minutes before the departure time. At 9am, the bus started to roll for the first agenda of the tour: Yehliu Geopark

Yehliu Geopark

Yehliu is located about 40kms from Taipei. Before reaching the Geopark, you would pass by the town’s wharf where traditional fishing boats were docked. Yehliu is more like a cape at the northern tip of Taiwan, a promontory surrounded by rough seas and strong winds for most of the year. Its geographic situation has led to the creation of odd and curious rock formations. It is one of the most popular sites to visit in Taiwan. Tourists come in bus loads.

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It is advisable to bring umbrellas to shield you from the harsh sun. Bring the sturdier types because the wind is a bit stronger at the Geopark. This landscape is divided into 3 parts: Area 1 is where the mushroom and ginger rocks are. Area 2 is where the Queen’s head, elephant rock and fairy’s shoe are the highlights. Area 3 is a narrow portion of the park, with platforms placed near cliffs on one side and the rough waters on the other.

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The queue for the Queen’s Head

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Mushroom Rocks at Area 1

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Boardwalk to Area 2

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Rocks and Bridges

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Highlight Rock Formation

The good thing about joining group tours is that you don’t have to worry about queuing up to buy ticket to the Geopark. The tour guide will buy the tickets in one batch and you just have to pay her as soon as you return to the bus. By the way, the guide will not accompany you to all the areas of the geopark. You must explore the site for an hour tops. Entrance to Yehliu GeoPark is TWD 80.

Shifen Old Street

The stop of the tour is Shifen. As explained, we would be visiting the Old Street near the Shifen Old Station, and the Shifen Waterfalls. The bus dropped us off at corner near the Nanshan Bridge. From there, it was an uphill walk towards Shifen’s historic street.

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Choose your own adventure, or choose both

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Stores along the rail track

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When in Shifen Old Street, release a sky lantern

Shifen Old Street is actually a railroad portion that is flanked by varied shops on both sides. The charm is on this atmosphere framed by shops selling colorful sky lanterns and tourists writing their wishes and intentions on it, releasing them lanterns up in the sky. Add to the charm are the passing trains heading to the nearby station.

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Wish, Smile and Release

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Them sky lantern

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Miniature sky lanterns

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Path to Shifen Waterfalls

The Old Street belongs to the Pingxi District and is used to be a part of the coal-mining industry during the Japanese occupation. The railway track (Pingxi Line) runs through this portion. Releasing the sky lanterns are only allowed in Pingxi and not anywhere else in Taiwan. The best time to experience the sky lanterns is during the Pingxi Festival probably around the 15th day from the Lunar New Year.

Shifen Waterfalls

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One of the two hanging bridges leading to the Falls

When in Shifen, don’t miss out the breath-taking waterfalls. Shifen takes pride of its waterfalls, which is one of the most scenic in Taiwan. The hike going to this cascades though would take a bit of effort and time.

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Shifen Waterfalls

From the Old Street, you need to walk for at least half an hour, passing through 2 hanging bridges to cross the Keelung River. There are several viewing decks for the Shifen Waterfalls. Never mind that you hiked for 2.5kms to the falls. The view is very amazing.

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Mesmerizing. Alluring Shifen Cascades

Jiufen Old Street

We needed to go back to Shifen Old Street. A hike of another 2.5km is needed to get back again to the junction near Nanshan Bridge. Jiufen is about 29km from Shifen and would be another hour of travel. Jiufen is located in Ruifang District, a highland area at Taiwan’s northeast. At Jiufen Old Street, you’ll enjoy the charm of the old Japanese gold mining village.

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Jiufen Hills

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Temple near Jiufen Bus stop

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Reminiscent of Jiufen’s Gold Mine era

Jiufen is known for its glorious past, as a gold-mining village and the Japanese influence in their culture because of the Second World War. With the mining operations stopped in the 1970s, the town has slid down to oblivion until a couple of films used it as the setting that Jiufen start to become popular again.

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Old Street starts here

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Red bean cake freshly baked

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Bizaare seafood treat

Currently, Jiufen’s Old Street is the major draw for tourists. It is now lined with a variety of food stalls, souvenir shops, cafés, hostels and whatnots. The entire length is adorned with red Chinese lanterns and the atmosphere is filled with the aroma of a brewing coffee, grilled squid and sausages or the dreaded stinky tofu.

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Do the Stinky Tofu challenge

We arrived at the Jiufen a little almost 4PM. Our tour guide explained that on weekends, the buses are not allowed to go near the old street, so our tour bus is only up to Park 9. From there, we need to ride a public bus going up to Jiufen Old Street bus stop for TWD 15 pax. We were given a choice to either return to Park 9 before 4:30PM or stay longer at Jiufen Old Street and go back to Taipei on our own. The guide encouraged us to stay and to completely explore the place. To go back to Taipei, you need to ride Bus 1062 for Zhongxian, TWD 100. From there, the MRT station is just minutes-walk away.

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From Jiufen, it’s Taipei City once again. Getting off at Zhongshan and taking the red line to the most popular night market for food in Taipei: The Shilin Night Market.

Shilin Night Market

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Mural from my hostel

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Shilin Night Market

I managed to walk the length of this market, marveled at the vast selection of street food, carnival booths for shooting balloons with guns or darts, to souvenir items, clothes, fruits and restaurants. This place is the best representation of a Taipei nightlife and tourists get to experience this unique Taiwanese culture in the arms of Shilin.

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Even the lechon (roasted pig) has a place in Shilin

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Huge sausages for sale

Day 3 in Taiwan is a wrap. Time to rest my weary feet.

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