Category

SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL

Category

jiufen from keelungTaiwan’s summertime is notorious for its volatile weather. After a few days of consistent rain in Keelung I had exhausted most things you can do here on a rainy day. Not one to stay stuck indoors for too long I decided to find out how to get to Jiufen from Keelung. I figured why not move to a town for a day in the rain.

Although I enjoyed the day I do recommend you attempt to visit when it is nice weather. The views would have been stunning if it wasn’t for the mist and sea of umbrellas. There are areas to hike to make this a day packed with versatile activities. Enthusiasm wanes when you area wet through though.

Jiufen from Keelung

jiufen from keelungI am not one with an amazing sense of direction. Keelung fortunately has an amazing Information center at the bus station with many employees speaking English. To get to Jiufen from Keelung is so straightforward. You take the bus 788 all the way to the last stop. The cost is 30 NTD and the bus announces the stops in English also. You will arrive less than a minute from Shiqu Road (aka Jiufen Old Street).

The streets and alleys are narrow and today packed with tourists. The area was reinvented as a tourist destination in the 1990s following its attachment to several movies. The most well-known perhaps is Spirited away, where several of the buildings seem to have acted as inspiration for the movie. The other being A City of Sadness. This was the first film to openly discuss the 2-28 massacre and the White Terror era.

History of Jiufen and  Jinguashi

A beautiful town with a darker history. In 1893 gold was discovered in Jiufen. Following the Japanese control of Taiwan in 1896, the area developed into a prosperous gold mining town. During WWII the Japanese built a POW camp in Jiufen. Allied soldiers captured in Singapore were forced to work the mines in appalling conditions which resulted in many men dying. There is a Museum of Gold in Jinguashi that is worth visiting to better understand the history of the town. The museum is housed in an interesting location in the former offices of the Taiwan Metal Mining Corp. Many relics can be seen here including a giant piece of 999 pure gold weighing in at 220kg.

jiufen from keelung

What you should see in Jinguashi

jiufen from keelungComing all the way to Jiufen from Keelung meant I wanted to see more than the alleys and museum (both still would have been worth the trip). However Jinguashi offers more than this. Shuttle bus, taxi, walking, which ever is your preference, it’s not far to make your way down to the Golden Waterfall following a wander around Jiufen old street. Due to the  abundance of heavy metal elements deposited in the riverbed, the water flows a beautiful golden color. The cascading water is in stark contrast to its natural green setting. If you follow the stream down you can walk all the way to the Yin-Yang sea.

jiufen from keelungBefore you reach the sea you will enter a car park that is overlooked by the remains of Shuinandong Smelter; a refinery plant built during the Qing Dynasty and then was used by the Japanese during WWII to refine gold. Wandering down to the front this is not an ocean with a beach. But following the wall along I was lucky enough to make it down to where fisherman were out in the rain waiting for their catch. This area really is a place of natural beauty that makes a perfect break from the city.

jiufen from keelungMy timing to return to Keelung was poorly planned. I suggest going early to Jiufen from Keelung and either returning early or later in the evening. The traffic made the journey nearly two hours rather than our simple 30 minute ride to get there. I would also avoid bringing too much with you to carry as the narrow alleys don’t provide much in the way of space. All that being said, Jiufen is not a place to miss when you are in the North of Taiwan.

Follow on Bloglovin

jiufen from keelung

Google ‘a night out in Keelung’ and you’ll find endless information regarding the famous Miaokou Night Market or the Kanziding Fish Market. Yes, both are at night. Almost the whole night. But it’s not exactly what I had in mind for a Saturday night. I was looking for a different kind of neon night but where exactly to go on a night out in Keelung?

night out in keelung
Keelung Bar Crawl

Fortunately I was invited on a bar crawl. This is normally a polite ‘No’ from me. I like to choose the pace I drink in the environment that suits my vibe. But as I was minus the inside knowledge of bars in Keelung it was an immediate yes. A fairly enthusiastic one, even when a t shirt was produced for me to be “one of the gang.”

Being aware I was in a city, I was still surprised by how many places we visited for a night out in Keelung. My whole time here I have felt as though I was in a Port town as opposed to a city. Who knew Keelung had such a hidden network of bars tucked away in its alleys and narrow streets.

The definitive ‘Night out in Keelung’ list:
Alcohol Bar –  No. 23, Lane 3, Zhongyi Road, Ren’ai District, Keelung City, 200
night out in keelung
Alcohol Bar

The word for alcohol in Chinese is very similar to monkey and so it’s no surprise the logo for the establishment is a chimpanzee enjoying a glass of whiskey. This is one of the nicest whiskey bars I’ve been to and probably the nicest bar of the whole list. Slightly more pricey than the others, the variety and quality of whiskey that’s on offer is justification enough. Taiwan’s own award winning whiskey is on the menu here and a perfectly good reason to put this top of the list for a night out in Keelung.

Columbus Pub – 孝三路30巷23號 仁愛區, 基隆市 200
night out in keelung
Columbus Pub

This is definitely the place to go for those who like a little history on their night out in Keelung. Masked by the array of cocktails on offer is a story of how bars came to Keelung during the US involvement in the Vietnam War. Perhaps the original bar of Keelung, the walls proudly wear the history of its conception. If history and nostalgia aren’t your thing simply order one of the many western cocktails and toast with the locals.

Live House Bar –  200, Keelung City, Ren’ai District, Aiyi Road, 33號

The title says it all really. Live music, beer, you’ve got it all here. For me, the music doesn’t necessarily have to be my usual taste, if the bands having a good time and I’m in the right company, I can listen to most things.

So Fun Music Club –  基隆市仁愛區愛三路49巷38號2樓
night out in keelung
So Fun Music Club

A place for anyone who loves beer towers. Quite literally. There are also girls dressed to represent the Heineken brand. An easy place to sit with a group, drink and laugh. Not somewhere I’d feel comfortable coming by myself hoping to meet others as the layout really suits groups more. Maybe bar crawls aren’t such a bad idea after all.

Opus Two –  No. 19, Jing 1st Rd, Ren’ai District, Keelung City, 200
night out in keelung
Opus Two

A quaint British themed bar with random masks from Iron Man sums up this bar pretty well. It’s definitely a cozy place and I can’t imagine moving when it’s busy, but as a quick stop off on the route it serves it’s purpose perfectly. The staircase has the cutest pin board of Polaroids taken of fellow drinkers. I would have loved to have access to the camera to add to the Polaroids but the film is expensive and I’m pretty sure people would burn through it and result only in a capture of blurriness and forgotten memories.

 387 Music Bar – 仁愛區愛二路54巷11號, 200 Keelung, Taiwan
night out in keelung
387 Music Bar

The first place with a DJ. Tall, beautiful, female. This place immediately had a great vibe to it. Again not very big but I’m coming to realize that the bars here are all small. And down alleys which is why they are not the easiest to find! They all follow a nice route leading onto one another though so find the first and it won’t take long to discover the rest.

Fight Bar –  202, Keelung City, Zhongzheng District, Zhongzheng Road, 2號
night out in keelung
Fight Bar

With checkered floors that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland we have Fight Bar. This bar is small but on two levels. The first floor housing the bar and tonight a talented band. We manage to convince them to continue playing past the scheduled time and by the end of it the entire bar is singing. We finish on the pretty reckless. The second floor is a cozy seating area with a pool table.

Commecafe – No. 284, Xin’er Road, Zhongzheng District, Keelung City, 202

This is a place for the day and night. Come in the light and enjoy some delicious coffee. By night it’s a bar with a wall filled with empty Jack Daniels bottles and an acoustic guitar sitting in front. A relaxed vibe, it’s unfortunate we left this one till near the end of the night. Another easy bar to relax in as opposed to singing drunkenly along to the music. Fortunately for me, it’s at the end of the street where I’m staying so there will be a return visit.

night out in keelung
Commecafe
Q bar –  基隆市仁愛區仁一路293巷1號

Found down the smallest alley we enter the darkened room lit in red. The mood slightly changes here, feeling that you are in an upmarket bar that is designed and colored to create an atmosphere perfect for seduction. The bar in lined with local men and again this isn’t somewhere I’d come to explore alone.

 Big Machine – Ren Yi Road 49 Keelung, Taiwan 20141

The last on our tour at around 3am. Here you are able to order popcorn and chicken and play darts while horrifically drunk. All fun but potentially a hazard. None the less a good place to end the night. From what I remember the place seemed to fit the interior of a dinner but admittedly by this point I was a little drunk and not sure that my memory can be relied upon.

So there you have it. There are more bars of course, the names of which I don’t remember to match the location but I know we found a rock bar that shocked me. We entered from a lift and accidentally smashed a glass on our exit. Money in different currencies were displayed on the wall. I can’t tell you any more than that. It’s worth noting a lot of the drinking culture here is included with food so restaurants actually make a great place to drink with locals.

Now you know where to go on a night out in Keelung.

Follow on Bloglovin

Standing in my room, naked, waiting for an excessive amount of mosquito spray to dry. My phone goes off. “Fancy a trip to Yehliu Geopark?” This is my temporary housemate. He’s a few feet away in the kitchen. We start a dialogue through my door until I’ve dried off. Discussing the details; what time? shall we take food? how will we get there? These are details which are usually straight forward. But we are both impulsive travelers and combined our personalities are a little mischievous. It’s decided. Breakfast, pick up snacks, convince a bike rental place to give two foreigners a bike. Straight forward with a twist.

The mission
Yehliu Geopark
Yehliu Geopark

To rent a motorbike in Taiwan you need a Taiwanese drivers license. Mine is British, Chook’s is Australian. He has paperwork for driving in Japan though and we’re hoping this will give us some positive leverage. With neither of us speaking Chinese my initial thought is that this is never going to work. But then I hadn’t tried to challenge someones legal stance with Chook before! Chook knows people. He reads them perfectly. It helps that he genuinely loves people, for all their worth. Still, we are asking people to break the law partly in sign language, partly holding money out, and partly showing a smile and some leg. It would be shameful if it wasn’t so much fun!

Yehliu Geopark
Locals of Yehliu

Of course we could go to Yehliu Geopark via two buses. But buses are no fun, particularly when there is a coast line route. We fail initially but persist. After the third shop and third failure I’m starting to resign myself to the bus. “There is always a solution” echos in front of me. This time we go in each with money in our hands to lay out the deal. I flip my hair to one side and start playing with the owners dog. Chook approaches with his persistent charm. Same response. Hidden from the owner behind the counter I start to tap my partner in crimes leg. Quickly shaken off, he continues. I stand at his side to smile wide eyed and play my role. This is the longest we’ve stayed in one rental shop.

Persuasive charm

Without breaking a sweat, Chook is starting to win him over. Trying to act sensible in front of someone who you’re trying to convince to break the law is very difficult when you’re boiling over with excitement. The owner asks if we have a Taiwanese friend who could rent it in his name for us. It’s all over. We’ve won. “Aren’t we friends?” We have the biggest smiles on our faces. Two minutes later Bony and Clyde have the keys. “Never give up, there is always a solution”, this is one of Chook’s rules he’s kindly sharing with me.

The route to Yehliu Geopark
Yehliu Geopark
Yehliu coastal views

We leave the city behind us. By now it’s the afternoon and we’ve promised to return the bike by 6pm. Not wanting to lose any more time and with the roads being fairly quiet we hit an intense speed. Not exactly the most inconspicuous foreigners illegally on the road. We’ve already made a pact that if the police pull us over it’s a high speed chase. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware what we are doing is illegal and I’m not recommending it. But when someone looks at you and says yolo…..

Yehliu geopark
Mazu festival views

Overly excited we are both a mixture of screams of accomplishment and attempted singing of one or two lines from every song either of us can recall. At the speed we’re traveling we hit the coast within 12 minutes. Our first sensible act of the day is to pull over and apply suntan lotion. Coming from mainland China I didn’t have high expectations of Taiwan’s coast line. I am completely taken aback by how stunning it is here. I didn’t consider Taiwan to have a surfing community and I especially didn’t expect it to be in such easy reach of Keelung city. Back on the bike we continue for maybe another 7 minutes when the town of Wanli, home of Yehliu Geopark, welcomes us. Quite literally. The locals here are incredibly warm.

Geological formations
Yehliu Geopark
rock weathered patterns

Always finding comfort in the beauty of nature, I had never considered rocks to be beautiful. But then this is my first time to the natural landscape of Yehliu. At first I thought it was sand I was approaching when actually it is a unique weathered bay formed by the powerful ocean stretching around it. These rocks contain weathered rings that once again prove natures authority at forming patterns more striking than that of any artist. With honey combed mushroom rocks, decorated cliffs and a smoothly formed cave, we are distracted before we even reach Yehliu Geopark.

Yehliu Geopark
Yehliu cliff views

By the time we’ve finished using the rocks as our playground a festival makes an appearance on the road below. Not something we wan’t to miss we scramble down and move through the assembling crowd. The procession is full of life, music and love, Everyone smiles at us and welcomes us to Yehliu. They are celebrating their sea goddess Mazu. Photographing and half joining in we are rewarded with badges. I’m near ecstatic and Chook is off chiming the bells in perfect rhythm. Both of us can’t get over how perfect this spontaneous trip is shaping up to be.

Shipping Harbor
Yehliu Geopark
Yehliu fisherman boats

Side tracked, seeing the Yehliu Geopark might be a crazy rushed experience at this time of the day so we decide to continue on our spontaneous antics. We drive past the geopark and keep on the road, camera and eyes out looking for the next interesting location. Swaying in the air over a wall are the shipping lights I’ve become quite fond of. We pull over to investigate. Here is where one of us takes on the role of sensible adult. I’m determined to get onto a ship to take photographs and Chook’s prior experience is a road block to my plans. Fortunately this debate rouses the fisherman from inside the boats I thought to be vacant.

Yehliu Geopark
Making friends

We end up in conversation with the fisherman, mainly from the Philippines and I settle for photographing the area around the boat. I become captivated by a crabs desperate bid for freedom at a seafood restaurant nearby. Places to sample local dishes line the surrounding area, but we are losing time if we decide to keep our promise of a 6pm return. Referring to google map we try to find an alternative route home.

Journeys end
Caves in Yehliu

Thinking we’ve found a route in the mountains, I’m hanging onto the back of the bike, phone in hand and we steeply ascend into the mountains. Turning the corner we descend just as quickly and come out onto the familiar road! Apparently the mountain is just a loop to take in the scenery. We settle for the main road and it quickly becomes apparent that we are in the middle of rush hour traffic. Police are on the road everywhere. We are at the front of a queue of traffic lights manned by a police man and slowly trying to reverse. Putting my phone away I prepare for the possible chase. We’re ignored. With the hope that we are not worth the paperwork we speed on as soon as we see green.

yehliu geopark
Yehliu playground

Returning to Keelung with just as much excitement as when we began, we reach the rental shop at 5:58pm. The relieved owner clearly wants us gone quickly so we say goodbye, high five, and buy some more beer to fill our empty fridge. We may have missed our intended destination of Yehliu geopark attraction but the day has proven that having a spontaneous soul leads to incredible adventures.

 

Follow on Bloglovin
yehliu geopark
festival of Mazu
yehliu geopark
bid for freedom

Leaving the cosmopolitan city of Taipei behind I pack up and head towards the east coast. Going slightly North, in around 45 minutes the train reaches its destination. Keelung, the port city surrounded by mountains. If I was to compare Taipei to say Shanghai, Keelung would be Fuzhou. With many Fujian immigrants here familiarity of what was once home surrounds me. With my belongings strapped onto my back it’s time for walking in Keelung.

Getting around Keelung
Keelung for a Walk

Despite Keelung not being on my radar as a tourist city until now, public transport systems are great here. There are regular buses, trains, taxis, bicycles for hire…..my personal favorite will always be a scooter but unless you are extremely lucky (or charmingly persistent!) you will need a Taiwanese drivers licence to rent one. I suggest making friends. My favorite though is always walking. Walking in Keelung is a perfect way to absorb this city. Most sites are within 5 kilometers in every direction. Walking simply allows you to see so much more.

What brought me here was the opportunity to volunteer with Keelung for a Walk, a walking tour company that provides intimate tours of this secret port city. The tours involve personal interaction with all aspects of local life here. Walking in Keelung with Mila, the founder of ‘Keelung for a Walk’ gives you an authentic taste of Taiwanese culture. Her passion and enthusiasm for this city is infectious and inspirational.

Tours in the night
Miaokou night market

Fortunately travel, no matter how short the distance, always leaves me in need of a nap. There is a walking tour tonight at 11pm. I’m told we aim to finish around 2am, but 6am is the best time for the fish auction. I can’t imagine walking in Keelung is very exciting at 6am. Regardless I sleep and set my alarm.

Around 11:30pm the tour has gathered. Leading ahead, walking at an unmatched speed, is Mila. The city is alive. As I knew nothing of Keelung, I was slightly unprepared for the chaos of Miaokou night market. Our walking in Keelung tour starts at this famous market. You need go no further to sample from the largest selection of seafood in Taiwan. The alleys are filled with the sounds of the bustling crowd. Also, this is just the start!

The energy of a fish auction
Kanziding fish market

The main spectacle we are here to see leads on from Miaokou night market. As melted ice runs underfoot and the skies shine with lights usually found on shipping boats, we arrive at the fish auction. Kanziding fish market is the largest fishery distribution center in Northern Taiwan. I haven’t seen such an array of motionless color before. The selection is impressive and it’s clear the product is much sought after.

Mila is involved with various locals who all want to share Taiwanese life with visitors. We move through the crowds, the energy is almost overwhelming. Coming to various stands we pause for insight into the daily life of fishmongers. The locals of Keelung are very welcoming and it’s clear they are proud of their city and wish to promote tourism.

Fish auction

Following on from the fish auction it only seems right to try some local cuisine. Keeping with the theme of the night I enjoy a fish bowl as the morning dawns. Heading home it’s difficult to switch off after being in such a thriving environment of energy. Smiling, I’m happy to have accidentally found myself walking in Keelung.

Follow on Bloglovin
fish selection
fish on ice
famous local fish
artist village taipei
colorful studio

The weather is in it’s most volatile stage. Leaving the cooler days of spring and entering the humidity of summer leaves the skies open to a sudden down pour. Storms are always rolling in the clouds above. Today the rain is at least consistent. The skies grey since the sun attempted to rise. Lingering in a capsule hotel can bring on cabin fever. I’m not in the mood to shop. I read about an artist village on Treasure Hill and decided to walk in the rain until I found it.

Minutes in my shoes are wet through. I glance into shops in case I spot a very light weight waterproof coat. Traveling in rainy season when the climate is sub tropical means being as light as possible. Taipei has an amazing public transport system so do not be fooled into thinking the only way to this village is on foot. Regardless of the weather I always prefer to walk. Seeing the ‘everyday’ can only  really be done on foot.

artist village taipei
house of blades

The artist village is slightly tucked away. Although a spot frequented by tourist it is not like other commercial art scenes and so not sign posted. I decided to follow the graffiti. After a few uncertain wanderings down alleyways that lead to nowhere I saw the familiar gates to a temple. Having read that a temple resides close by I followed the route. Ascending a narrow path I entered a deserted collection of small buildings. I’m unsure as to how this area would look on a sunny day. It may be bustling with art seekers climbing up and down the many levels but today I’m surrounded in silence.

artist village taipei
world of imagination

The silence eerily suits the first sculpture I come across. A house of blades with a picture of a married couple. The structure is neatly composed of meat cleavers. There are a thousand messages a couple could take from this. The back drop is graffiti on the wall. Strange characters from the minds of creatives. This abandoned village is quite in contrast to its industrial surroundings.

I freely wander the alleys. Although it’s often my preference to wander alone, I’m slightly disappointed that the artist studios are all locked behind closed doors. Maybe it is just the weather or there are certain days that are better to visit. I would still recommend anyone looking to be inspired outside of the usual gallery to find themselves here, in rain or shine. Taipei has a few culture and art parks but this is one place that is unique against the rest.

artist village taipei
lonely bunny

The artist village, although resembling a forgotten place today, is actually a revamped area. Once being home to a community of squatters it is now a collection of studios for artist in residence to occupy for a period of 8-12 weeks. It is like walking through a nature maze intertwined with a haphazard collection of buildings, stacked upon each other and held in place with vines. The site itself is beautiful ground for photographers to walk and capture its quirkiness.

artist village taipei
IV drips and literature

Making my way down the staircases that occasionally end on rooftops, I find a platform overlooking a park. The small bridge crossing is unfortunately closed due to collapsing. I observe the walls of graffiti instead before heading out of this artist oasis back into the city. Although its raining and I haven’t seen a soul for at least two hours, Treasure Hills Artist village has been a perfect break from the bustling city. The area combines history with art and won’t disappoint to inspire anyone with a spark of creativity.

Follow on Bloglovin
artist village taipei
cinema
artist village taipei
resident bear
artist village taipei
graffiti walls
National Palace Museum paintings

In my youth museums meant old buildings that commanded silence and obedience. As I gained in curiosity this notion expanded to being transported to a world once only seen on the pages of encyclopedias. Walking under the fossil bones of creatures who no longer inhabit this earth opened my eyes to the wonder of museums and I’ve not looked back since. Museums are classrooms of topics and time periods that would perhaps lay undiscovered to us had we not stumbled into these buildings that often carry their own unique history.

National Palace Museums Ancient sculptures

Taipei, like most cities, houses countless museums. Whether it be the first museum to collect miniatures in Asia that takes your fancy or if you wish to delve into the world of Taiyuan puppet theater, Taipei has it all. Ancient artifacts, modern art, motion graphics and traditional crafts are all accessible in Taipei. If your time here is short and you want to wander through museums at your own pace rather than rush through a check list, the two I recommend are The National Palace Museum and The National Taiwan Museum.

The National Palace Museum

The National Palace Museum as a piece of architecture is just as grand as the collection of artifacts that it holds. The museum is home to the largest collection of Chinese art. It’s vast collection includes paintings, calligraphy, ceramics and jade objects. Much of the collection is on rotation but some of the most popular items are always on display and include the famous Jade Cabbage.

Famous Jade Cabbage

One of the most appealing aspects of this museum is the historical range of its collection. Even within a single category the pieces range over multiple dynasties. It is not just artwork on display here but the culture of the people it belongs to. Originally founded in 1925 in the Forbidden City in Beijing, the museum moved its collection in light of the impending Japanese invasion. After several locations the collection became firmly rooted in Taiwan and has been here for more than 60 years. No matter the age of the artifact presented, each carries a story.

The National Taiwan Museum
National Taiwan Museum

The National Taiwan museum was established in 1908 and is the oldest museum in Taiwan. It’s location is in 228 Peace Park. The museum is the only museum built in Japanese colonial era that, after wars and changes in government, remains open at its original site. Upon entering the museum you will find yourself in an elegant  Renaissance-style hall making for quite a mix in style between the exterior and interior styles. All part of this museums charm.

As with The National Palace Museum, there are permanent collections that are home to the National Taiwan Museum. There are also special collections that exhibit here and I was lucky enough to catch the Exquisite Stones of Formosa exhibit. This exhibition showcases the extraordinary collaboration of nature and artist to produce exquisite literary works on stone for decoration. These stones look like ink paintings of China’s stunning landscapes with vibrant colors that create depth on the smooth surfaces.

Stone art of Formosa
National Palace Museum Ceramics

Across the road stands another example of hybrid architecture. Gliding between 13 stout columns you can observe the blend of classical western and traditional Taiwanese pavilion style design elements of this grand building. Here is the Land Bank Exhibition Hall which is included in the ticket price of the National Taiwan Museum. It is the largest exhibition space of northern Taiwan dedicated to paleo-organisms. There are permanent exhibitions in evolution and architecture, history and ethnic groups and Taiwan’s bio-diversity.

National Taiwan Museum Stone art exhibition

If those museums don’t sound appealing to you you won’t have to go far to come across another. Taipei is a city that presents a perfect example of art and culture. But from one museum lover to another, I promise the museums listed will not disappoint and are but a fraction of what is on offer here in Taipei.

Follow on Bloglovin

 

National Taiwan Museum stone sculpture
National Palace Museum artifacts
Land Bank Exhibition Hall Evolution exhibition

With a skyline of contemporary buildings, crowned by the impressive Taipei 101 skyscraper, it’s hard to envisage a world outside of glass, steal and concrete. And yet Taipei’s modern structures are woven with the greenery of old trees reflecting in ponds. Songs of birds echo on the falling leaves that glide gracefully to sit on the water where turtles camouflage themselves with statuesque poise. A 10 minute walk from my hotel and I reach 228 peace park, one of the many parks you wander across when roaming the steets. Under various ruling this parks name has changed, becoming 228 peace park in 1996 in recognition of one of the pivotal events in Taiwanese modern history, which began here.

parks and pavilions

Strolling the pathways that lead to pavilions and shrines, this park is an eclectic blend of cultural history, modern art and memorials. Dark shadows move in the bushes and reveal themselves to be curious squirrels. Old men exercise among the trees as children point gleefully to every turtle they discover in the ponds. The park holds two museums; the Taiwan National Museum which currently holds a magnificent collection of cut stone art, and a museum dedicated to the 228 incident.

White Terror Memorial

February 28th 1947 was the beginning of an anti-government uprising. Violently suppressed by the government, thousands of civilians lost their lives. The estimated number of Taiwanese who fell is around 10,000. This marked the beginning of the White Terror period where tens of thousands more Taiwanese went missing, died, or were imprisoned. Being one of the most important events in Taiwanese modern history it came up in a conversation with a friend as we wandered through the park discussing Taiwan’s independent movement.

memorial in trees

I had walked in this park alone the first time I discovered it. I looked upon its beauty as I do with every park. I chose the grand building of the Taiwan National museum to explore over the 228 peace park memorial museum. If it wasn’t for exploring this park again with a local friend I would have looked at its memorials and appreciated them only as art and not symbols of the devastation once felt by the people of Taiwan.

The incident, once a taboo topic, is now openly discussed since the early 1990s. It has become the subject for many artists and musicians and stories told in both film and literature. Yet, I’m ashamed to say I knew nothing of it. Visiting as a tourist I feel you can be excused of educating yourself on every aspect of the country you visit, you have

Art of 228 peace park

less time and generally the desire to unwind from your daily life. But as a traveler choosing to call a country home for a period of time it would be reprehensible to neglect enriching yourself with the history that surrounds you and merely look upon the beauty of the places that hold the past.

There are many beautiful parks within Taipei that offer perfect refuge from the bustling city. But when you come across one such as 228 peace park stop for a moment. Look past the modern structures and see the memorial. See the story that lies here and know the people who have gone, not just those who are wandering the pathways along side you.

Follow on Bloglovin
Memorial art
modern memorial
228 peace park museum
Taiwan National Museum

One of my last blog posts; Hiking Tiger Leaping gorge, and meeting a friend a few days into landing in the diverse, cosmopolitan city of Taipei, sparked two separate conversations. Both quite sensitive politically and both far beyond my knowledge of the history involved.

Taipei city

I had stated that Lijiang was the start of a new adventure and a fair-well to China. Yet, my feet have landed on Taiwanese soil. My statement wasn’t total ignorance, but maybe incorrect to one and sensitive to another. The Peoples Republic of China is a united ‘One China’ and Taiwan is a state longing for independence. My closest Chinese friend felt that I should alter the sentence. I left it with maybe too little thought given to the notion that it may offend. A few days later I’m walking through Chiang Kai shek Memorial Hall with a Taiwanese friend asking if Taiwan considers itself apart of China. She explained the delicacy of the question and I realized the little knowledge I had regarding the situation.

Taipei winding streets

I wandered through the galleries and museums of Taipei to gain an insight into the history. Walking through the streets alone you become acquainted with the past that still lives here. Taipei is a city that has tremendous pride; in its triumphant and tragic history. Memorials stand proud and the buildings of influence of those that once ruled are restored and reworked in a way to give them life again.

Of course Taipei, being a cosmopolitan city, offers more than just its history. The city is progressive. Its tolerance is something I’ve not experienced in China. The openness of the people and their excepting nature of the LGBT community are just a glimpse of the positivity that Taiwan holds in its uncertain future. The people are the most warm and friendly you could meet. Linger for too long at a map and someone will be beside you ensuring you are not lost.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial

Living in Fuzhou, Fujian, I’ve missed turning a street corner and being able to find a gallery or museum. Taipei is full of them. From the vast collection of ancient artifacts held in the National Palace Museum, to the contemporary exhibition of motion graphics at MOCA. For any art lover, historian and culture seeker, Taipei is a city that won’t disappoint.

After a day of drinking in the culture the evenings come alive. Night markets, restaurants, clubs and bars; all are plentiful in Taipei and you are sure to find whatever it is that will satisfy your appetite. For me this is why Taipei is the most perfect blend of cosmopolitan life, warm, proud people and home of some of the most exquisite example of traditional Taiwanese craft. I highly recommend a visit. It was MUIU capsule inn that brought me here. My first experience of a capsule hotel and a revisit to working in design.  I can truly say Taipei offered the perfect environment for inspiration.

Follow on Bloglovin
National Palace Museum
MOCA Taipei
Longshan Temple

The alarm is quite unwelcome this morning. It’s 6am. Nearly falling down the solid wooden staircase of the dorm bunk I reluctantly make my way to the shower. It’s cold and wet. It looks as though its rained all night. There is one other making this journey with me. A Norwegian who is even less impressed by the weather than the Welsh girl. We meet again at breakfast at 6:30am. The usual eggs and toast doesn’t feel hearty enough for day ahead. 6:50am we’re shuffled out the door. The bus is waiting for us at the end of the winding alley. Already my footwear feels inappropriate for the path I shall soon be on. This is the most unprepared I’ve been for a hike. I’ve gotten used to China’s version of hiking; stairs leading to a view point up a hill. But today, it’s Tiger Leaping Gorge.

barren mountains

Settling in on the bus I remove the already wet layers that need to last the day. Nothing is waterproof. My hiking gear is all comfortably stored in my brothers attic back in the UK. I didn’t see myself really hiking while living in China. The only semi appropriate kit I’m wearing are a pair of merrell hiking sandals. They have the grip but it is raining and they are sandals. I also have little faith that this temperature will increase as the day goes on. The Norwegian is assessing my attire. I can’t blame him. I’m slightly judging myself. He points out we’re on our way to Tiger Leaping Gorge and begins to laugh. I try to convince him, and myself, that the weather will change.

monkey standing guard

Two hours into the bus journey and the rain hasn’t lifted. We’re nearing the Norwegian’s destination. He is on the full two day hike starting at a village called Qiaotao. I’m further down the road for the day hike; starting at a place called Tina’s Guesthouse. As I’m volunteering in Lijiang I can only give the day to this much anticipated trek, but with my kit and the weather I’m thinking this is the best course for me to take. I will explore the middle of Tiger Leaping Gorge then hike to BenDi Wan village which is the half way point of the hike. From here I can follow the numerous bends to bring me down to the main road for the bus to collect me.

Arriving at Tina’s slightly later than planned I ignore my hunger and start my descent to the middle of Tiger Leaping Gorge. I have 5 hours total for exploring the middle of the gorge and hiking to the halfway point and dropping down to the road. Going by the hand drawn map available at Tina’s my schedule is tight. In fact going by the map I need exactly 5 hours. I’ve been assured the bus won’t wait. I have to be there when it passes for it to stop. I’m feeling exhilarated already. I’ve excepted that if I miss the bus I will hike back to the halfway point and stay at a guesthouse. The less exciting part will be the remaining hike the following day in wet clothes and the apology to my Workaway host for not making it back to Lijiang.

tiger leaping gorge

Staying positive I pay the 10 yuan entrance fee to an old woman dressed in the traditional Naxi style to access the middle of Tiger Leaping Gorge. Aware of my time restriction I use the descent to break into a gentle jog. At times I lose my footing as my eyes absorb the scenery surrounding me. For the first time in a while I forget my destination. The setting is reminiscent of the weekends I would spend hiking in Cumbria. The deep browns, rustic oranges and barren trees create such a nostalgia.

fierce water

The gorge’s roar is echoing off the mountain walls. The route is a mixture of dirt track, scrambling on rocks and climbing up and down iron ladders wedged between rocks. There is no one else around. In the current weather conditions it would only take one misjudged step and the result could be catastrophic. Getting closer to the water the views are stunning. There are little huts with fruit sellers where you can take rest. There are also various access routes to get closer to the water that have been built by the local families of the area. For a small fee of 10 yuan you can walk across a wooden bridge that shakes and bounces simultaneously. I also get a ticket for 15 yuan to climb the iron sky ladder near the end of the route.

hand made bridges

Reaching the closest point to the water I sit in silence and observe natures power. The water rolls like white horses galloping out of the sea. The Gorge runs for about 15km in length and at its highest point has a maximum depth of 3790m. The river running wildly through the gorge is called Jinsha River. The story goes a hunter chased a tiger through the gorge and at its narrowest point the tiger leaped to the other side and escaped the hunter. Hence the name ‘Tiger Leaping Gorge’. Feeling the pressure of the chase of time I get up and begin the search for the sky ladder. There are a few locals in the huts boiling tea and after my best impression of climbing a ladder in thin air I was directed to my intended destination.

sky ladder

The sky ladder is a vertical climb. My own weight is pulling away from the ladder with a wire tunnel surrounding me as my only support. with a heavy breath I reach the top and crawl back on to the dirt track. The route from here is a steady incline back to Tina’s. I’ve made it in good time, spending an 1 1/2 at the middle of the gorge. The jog bought me an extra 30 mins to my anticipated time to dedicate to the high trail. Reaching Tina’s and still ignoring my hunger I cross the road to begin the second part of the expedition.

Initially taking the wrong route I find myself in farm land face to face with a caged monkey. There is a moment of silence from us both until I remove my phone for a picture. The monkey begins screaming and shaking against the cage and I realize this is a version of a guard dog. Turning back I look for the now obvious route and for the first time meet people on the path. They are returning from the two day adventure and so finishing at Tina’s where I started. There are painted arrows and colored cloth hanging from trees to aid in the navigation of the high trail.

high views of tiger leaping gorge

Various routes present themselves throughout this hike due to locals trekking with horses in the area. During peak season and in the earlier trail at Qiaotao the horses are available to ride to the top. This isn’t something I would recommend as I feel if you’re here you are here to hike and work for the stunning views from the top. As I get into my route there is no sign of horses or any more hikers coming to the end of the trail. I spend the rest of the hike alone. This is the perfect environment for me, alone and isolated in nature.

hiking in clouds

As the weather continues to decline I ascend into the clouds and feel the cold numb my skin. By this point my clothes are damp and the sandals provide no comfort. My fingers are becoming numb and I’m becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of this condition. The result of this thought process is a quick picture to my brother of my location and a break into a steady jog. At times the path narrows and I need to walk hugging into the cliff face. I continue my run until I warm up while desperately trying to keep my footing and take in every spectacular view that each bend offers. This journey could be just as difficult in Yunnan’s summer heat. I recommend everyone to come far more prepared than I.

narrow path

As the heat begins to comfort my body I reduce my pace to a brisk walk and enter the village of BenDi Wan. Its the afternoon and I feel my presence is unexpected. I don’t notice any life other than the sounds of nature and so don’t stop for a meal. I’m also concerned on my time frame and so walk on with a banana and find the bends to descend to the main road. Slipping at regular intervals but catching my balance I make my way down the path that seems to never end. When I finally reach the road I am 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Taking the time to eat the food that I at least did prepare, it is not long before I start cooling down.

mountain peaks in clouds

The bus arrives as I’m circling the road in an attempt to keep warm. I meet a gentleman from Nepal who was also on the bus when I arrived. We talk about hiking trails the world over and future destinations are logged in my memory to research for new adventures. This is my last trip in China for sometime and I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect location. The culture of the minorities in China have always appealed more to me for their traditions and history. The Naxi people of Yunnan are incredibly welcoming and humble. Leaving Lijiang is a start of a new adventure but a very sad farewell to this country I have had the privilege to call home for the last nine months.

Follow on Bloglovin

After visiting the highly commercialized Lijiang Old Town at night I decided I wanted a more authentic experience of Naxi daily life. Enticing with its bright lights and buzzing sound of life well into the night, Lijiang Old Town for me has lost some of its charm. Rather than being given a glimpse of Naxi culture to appreciate, you are often over charged for the same trinkets that line the alleys. At night the water turns to wine as the clubs open and the youth enthusiastically open their wallets and jump up and down out of sync with each other as their inhibitions fade into the night. A far cry from the slow lifestyle used to describe the warm and welcoming Naxi people. So today is a day for exploring ancient towns. It is a scenic walk to Shuhe followed by a visit to Baisha which sits at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Lijiang Old Town

Leaving October Inn I wind through the whimsical alleys. There are flowers hanging from baskets and leaking droplets of water onto the dusty ground. Stone, wood and slate make a striking combination to the old architecture that makes up this part of Lijiang. It is never just my destination that is the scenic pleasure of the trip. Lijiang offers such beauty and is best explored on foot or by bicycle. With the many short cuts the alleys give way to it is not long before i reach the south gate to Lijiang Old Town. It is the more ancient towns that I head for today though so I wander down the road and towards the North entrance of Black Dragon Pool.

Shuhe entrance

A lot of the old part of Lijiang sits in contrast with the new architecture that is springing up everywhere. Unfortunately if there is one thing that never seems to stop in China, it is construction work. The modern design is sensitive to that of its surrounding style but together there is a clear divide between the old and new. What is slightly less obvious are the partial towns that are being developed in the style of old. If it wasn’t for witnessing construction and seeing merchants start the beginnings of setting up shop, I would have mistaken these fusion builds for old, near abandoned relics of a town that is no more.

Shuhe architecture

Leaving Black Dragon Pool in my rear view I’m in owe every time the town opens up to reveal Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. I have no real hiking kit with me in China otherwise it would be those snowy peaks I’d be reaching for as today’s accomplishment. For now, it is ‘the hometown of springs’ for my first destination. The ancient town of Shuhe. Shuhe is one of the earliest settlements of the Naxi people and an extremely well preserved example of a town along the ancient tea route.

horses in Shuhe

Without Tom I wind up walking to the main entrance of Shuhe and needing to pay the admittance fee of 40 yuan. There are many routes in for free but it is knowing where they start. The ancient towns do also fall on the bus route of numbers 6 and 11 for Shuhe and number 6 at the last stop for Baisha. If you take the bus to Shuhe I recommend walking to Baisha. It takes less than an hour and you’ll wander through one of the deserted fusion towns I mentioned earlier.

One thing that caught my attention wandering through Shuhe was the small open stalls that held locals playing small hand drums and playing a beat more familiar with African culture than Asian. Each time I passed one of these drum stalls I could have sworn the same song echoed out of them. Altered by the lost rhythm of the tourists that clambered in to join them. Live music is also a constant present in the streets of Shuhe with some incredible talent coming out of coffee shops and restaurants. I stop for lunch after hours of wandering. I’ve chosen The Cafe on the Creek to enjoy the calm of the water than runs through the town.

charming buildings in Shuhe

Once I’ve had my fill of food and Yunnan’s delicious coffee, it’s back on my feet and to my favorite app MAPS.ME to find the route to Baisha. Walking through rural areas give a better impression of life for the Naxi people. I pass two old women in their traditional dress and can’t help but admire how hard they seem to have worked their entire lives. I hold my phone up for a picture but they decline and I move on with only a memory of their image. The road to Baisha is open and stunning rural landscape. The town of Lijiang does offer such a balanced blend of modern, ancient, convenience and escape.

architecture in Shuhe

Getting closer to the majestic snowy mountain, I stumble into Baisha. It is later in the evening now so the town is incredibly quiet. The silence is penetrated by the growl of a dog as I try to quietly wander into the very closed Naxi Embroidery Institute. It is the most influential embroidery institute in Lijiang and aims to promote, preserve and develop other ethnic minority cultures, including Naxi, Dongba culture and Tangka culture. The dog manages to rustle up the attention of a young student who enters the courtyard. I apologies and begin to leave when he attempts a dialogue in broken English. The result is a private tour around the gallery of embroidered artwork. There are pieces in there that so closely resemble the delicacy of oil paintings that I linger staring as close as I can to the glass box they sit in.

route to Baisha

I only capture one photograph of the gallery; I’m informed photographs aren’t allowed so I apologize and try not to take up too much more of the students time. Baisha is the smaller of the ancient towns and it’s not long before I reach the end of the road. I seek a local to aid in locating the bus stop as the walk back to Lijiang and up the hill to October Inn was only a little shy of three hours! I’m loosing light also and so I patiently wait nearly 40 minutes for the number 6 bus. There are mini vans that can drive you for 50yuan which if you fill the car isn’t so bad, if you’re happy to wait though the bus is a mere 1 yuan for the return journey.

style of Baisha

Exploring the ancient towns has left me which a rather big appetite. Upon my arrival I smell Toms cooking and sit with my fellow travelers to discuss the days adventures. There are an American couple who arrived back from Tiger Leaping Gorge. After hearing their stories I book my bus ticket for the day trip to the gorge. The weather ahead is planned for rain and I don’t have hiking gear on me so going for the day, although slightly disappointing, is by far the sensible option. So come back to visit the Solo Pursuit for the adventure of Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Follow on Bloglovin
Naxi Embroidery Institute
embroiders tables
embroidery gallery