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
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
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
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.
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.