Saturday, April 19, 2008

Day 6 :: Taipei > Yeliu > Chiufen > JingGuaShi > Golden Falls > Yingyang Sea > Nanya Rock Formation > Bitou Cape > Zhongzheng Park for Keelung Nightsc

On arrangement with cabby Mr Yang, we set off at 8.30am. As forumers have said he is quite humble and we found him to be delightfully chatty and informative on Taiwan.

When we hit the National highway, he explained to us the highway system in Taiwan and how they are divided into the national & provincial highways and the numbering system: 1,3,5 vertical and 2,4,5 horizontal. When we passed the flood walls, he told us about the flood that went over the walls when Ma Ying Jiu was Mayor that caused so much damage due to dereliction of duty officers to pump out the flood waters that the city had to come up with a compensation plan (NT30-50k?) for the affected residents depending on the flood water level in their house.

As we meandered along the roads in the northeast coast, he yakked about the 疯狗浪 underwater turbulence, fisherman, Keelung Port, fishes, the only hotel at the prime sandy beach, surfers and their favourite surf beach, road construction and maintenance costs which somehow segued to politics and grumbled about wasting taxpayers money to change the dustbins with rectangular opening to round ones due to emergence of cases of citizens suing the govt for having cut themselves on the sharp edges on the openings. It was a pleasure to ride with him.

We reached Yeliu Geopark at around 9.30am, passing by the bus stand. Glad that we decided on a cabby and do not have to walk the distance as we planned to cover many places for the day. After warning us not to cross the red lines in Yehliu as it is very dangerous by relating the true story of a naughty china tourist ignored the advice of his tour guide and was hit by a sudden wave in the past (his body was never recovered), he dropped us off at the entrance. It was excellent sunny weather with light breeze and minimal tourists and perfect for photo ops that we managed to take a shocking amount of pics in 1.5h. Time went very quickly and loads of tourists were starting to come in at around 10.30-11pm with the breeze gradually whipping up into a roar, churning up bits of sand, so we decided to leave at 11+am for Chiufen.

Contingency plan to Yeliu by public transport: Option 1: @ Taipei Intercity Bus Terminal國道客運台北總站 ─ 金青中心 (經由中山高) Duration ~1.5h Cost: NT102 Option 2: @ Taipei TRA station take the train to Keelung TRA and change the Keelung Bus to Yehliu. (Good if intending to go to Yeliu & Keelung only, savings on round trip tickets) According to guide book, travel time for this option is supposed to be the shortest 35min for train + ? for bus but uncertain about bus time. Cost : 66+45=NT115

Of course when going to Chiufen, no respectable tour guide would leave out the story of the 9 portions and the part on GOLD mining. When we arrived at Chiufen around 12pm, it was decided the top priority was pampering our stomachs with balls before taking in the scenery. We tried the 豆干包tau guah pau (thumbs up but felt it was a little similar to阿给Ah Ge) and fish balls from another stall before the famous Gongwan stall as we had eaten the latter before. Also sampled all the flavours of traditional Hakka 凉糕liang gao (not sure if its konniyaku). We liked the black glutinous rice cake and the taro/redbean layered cake and therefore bought some for snacking. We also sampled the dried shrimps and spicy anchovies (ikan bilis lah!) that is rather similar to the ones you can find in any singapore nasi lemak or economy rice stalls and of course came away less than impressed. Ang Zhao红糟Meatballs, taro balls and the vegetarian meatballs are on our MUST eat list. As we went past the cafes at the top of the stairs, the aromatic scent emanating from all the shops made us miss the coffee in Singapore. Good weather, clear view of the surrounding mountains and sea, quaint architectures and scrumptious foods. What better could we ask for?

At around 2.30 pm we left for the Jinguashi Gold Ecological Museum (NT100, NT70 for YTC holders) which was not factored in our original plan. Since it was on the way, we got down for a short walk. Good scenery but as it was originally a mining area but attractions are rather spread out and accessed by stairs so it can be quite tiresome for seniors. The gold bullion thing was rather similar to the one in Toi Gold Mine, Japan. There is even a trail leading to teapot mountain and POW area and another tantalizing one that goes UP and UP to the Shinto Temple. If you have time, please do make the effort as I heard the view is fantastic. The landscape there looked oddly Celtic/ Scottish? from below and we whimsically expected Mel Gibson (think Braveheart) to charge out any moment but due to time constraints we decided to opt out.

Tip: you can get a good shot of the Earless Teapot if you stand somewhere near the old power turbines or the dustbin beside the museum. :P

The Environmental Education Center and Crown Prince Chalet was nothing special to us and the Ore Refinery Center was closed for renovations so there was nothing to see over there. However, it promises to be interesting so perhaps you can have a look-see and tell me?

All in all, our personal fav was the restored Benshan 5th Tunnel NT$50 (where you will be inducted to the life of a miner) and that made the trip worthwhile.

Chiufen > Jinguashi by public transport: @ the very obvious Bus stop opposite 7-11 take「基隆-(瑞芳-九份)-金瓜石」線or「瑞芳-金瓜石-水湳洞」bus to Jinguashi. Cost: NT32

Left around 4.10pm for the minor destination: Golden falls is basically heavily groundwater polluted by heavy metals and is toxic due to that fact. Ferric precipitate coated rocks contributed to the name. If you use a sharp rock to scrape at the riverbed, you will find that the underlying area is of a different colour. I don’t know how heavy is the pollution or if it is within acceptable thresholds for humans but I would not recommend anyone playing in/with or drinking the water (yucks!) no matter how natural it is even though Mr Yang told me that other tourists did. We spent around 15mins there before setting off to Yingyang Sea. I’m not sure how you can access this by public transport except by walking down the snaking road or walking up from the bus parking lot (open on weekend)??

Reach the viewing spot for minor destination: Yingyang Sea near ShuiNandong parking lot at 4.40pm and spent about 5mins for photo ops before heading for Nanya. Apparently it wasn’t that polluted when the mines are in operation in the past and the area was rich in seafood. On the right was an abandoned harbour/wharf that had lost its popularity in favour of deeper harbours in the nearby Keelung that can accommodate bigger ships. A former favourite spot for fishing aficionados, it is now banned due to serious pollution. Behind the spot are the creepy ruins of the 13-level Ore Refinery that looked like the film site of some post-apocalyptic/spooky movie.

4.50pm Reached Nanya Rock Formation. Unlike Yeliu it is caused by cross-bedding. Lots of photo ops for such a small location.

> 5.25pm Reached Bitou Pedestrian Trail. It was supposed to take about 1h up and down but the day was getting dark so we decided to take a shortcut by using Bitou Mtn Trail near a Temple to get to the observation post. It wasn’t the lighthouse but we figured it is better than nothing.

While it looked shorter on the map, it was a steep climb up compared to the gentle winding path of the former and we didn’t spot any goats (mentioned by Yang) scrambling up from this direction either. We got up there in 15mins even though it certainly didn’t feel that way when we were climbing.

At the top, we were rewarded by a sweeping view of the Keelung Mountain, the fishery and Island as well as the vast stretch of water. Felt like we were the only people in the world when we looked down on the dense canopy behind us below. As chilly wind was picking up the rain and whipping it into the observatory, we decided not to linger for long.

It was a fruitful and enjoyable day made even better with the cabby. Trinkets

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