Selina was working on the monday so we couldnt set off to Keelung until later in the afternoon, the weather had changed considerably, it has been sunny and very hot most of the time on this trip but now it was cooler and the rain had arrived when we got to Keelung. We were staying at the Harbour View Hotel for a couple of nights which overlooked the port area of Keelung. The city seemed quite old and scruffy and around the harbour it was really busy for traffic, the main bus and railway stations were situated here which makes it handy for visitors i guess and there were subways and overhead walkways for pedestrians which were essential, there seemed to be more taxis here than other places id been too, being a taxi driver myself it always fascinates me how these guys operate, i dont think id fancy just driving around all day touting at bus stops, pulling over everytime i saw a foreigner, even just standing having a fag on the street i had the taxis pipping at me, stopping in the middle of the road with no concern for any traffic behind them. I think id rather just sit in an office chatting and watching tv until the phone rang. We had a walk around the night market sampled a few local delicasies then back to the hotel as the rain got heavier and heavier. The next day the weather was the same the plan was to take the bus up to Jinguashi to the gold ecological park a museum park telling the story of the gold mining that used to be carried out in the area. The bus journey was over an hour up into the hills, you can get the bus from the harbour front in Keelung and they are pretty frequent, all the buses pass through the town of Juifen and then up to the ecological park, then turn round and come back again. We stopped in Jinguashi for a couple of hours and wandered about in the rain, the Japanese first opened the mine when they colonised Taiwan theres still some evidence of Japanese architecture and design looking at some of the buidings, you can see relics of the old mine and how it used to work, where the gold was refined, you can enter one of the mining tunnels and try and picture life as it was when the mine was open. Theres also a memorial for Allied prisoners of war who were made to work there in unbelievably atrocious conditions, they were sent to the areas where it was least favourable to work in 40c heat with little food and if they didnt work hard enough they were beaten with mining picks. From there we took the bus to Juifen a fascinating little place very poular with tourists. Juifen was once just a small village that thrived in the gold mining hey day, i can imagine this place gets really busy at weekends or holidays, everybody wants to walk up the old street a narrow alley full of shops and stalls that meanders up the side of the hill, the place was full of Japanese, Chinese and tourists from Hong Kong, we walked up to the top i had spied a stall that made peanut brittle and bought a big bag, at the top we stopped for lunch at a restaurant which clung to the side of the cliff, on a clear day the views would have been wonderful, but it was nice to sit there for an hour and relax and watch the buses trying to pass each other on the narrow winding road below.
Wufenpu is a womans paradise for shopping, its situated in a block across the road from Songshan station,there are entrances all over and once inside the aisles form a criss-cross pattern. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of stores mainly selling womens fashion, handbags, bags of every description, jeans, hoodies, jackets, dresses etc, you weave your way up and down the aisles some of which are numbered, its easy to get lost and trying to find a particular shop is like looking for a needle in a haystack. We spent about 3 hours inside there up and down across and then back across all good fun. My quest was to buy myself a leather jacket and some polo shirts, there were mens and childrens clothes shops dotted about some of the quality was good, id say most of the gear was low to mid range, i kept away from the low when choosing my jacket eventually i bought one for TWD2400 i bargained the assistant down TWD300 in the process so it cost me about £50, i was pretty pleased with my purchase id got about 30% off it was decent quality and will keep me warm if we keep on getting these freezing cold winters in the UK. So if you are in Taipei head for Wufenpu if you want to do a bit of shopping its where all the local market traders go and do theirs you will get a discount if you are prepared to bargain and if you want bulk theres plenty of people you can do a deal with. What i liked was we werent hassled to go inside the shops and once inside the assistants didnt bother you unless you went to them.
We bought some giant prawns and baby octopus absolutely delicious.
On saturday afternoon Selina took me to the Yongan Fish Market, a busy bustling little place where the days catch is on sale. There are numerous stalls selling the fresh fish and other stalls which sell the Taiwanese equivalent of Fish and Chips. Small fish pieces of squid and octopus deep fried in a spicy batter with chunky Taiwanese chips washed down with a delicious fresh lemon juice.
The Taroko Gorge is absolutely stunning and if you do visit Taiwan you must make this part of your trip, like the Sun Moon Lake these two places are my favourites in Taiwan so far. The half hour bus journey from Taroko to Tiansiang gives you a taste of whats to come, the highway meanders through the gorge through many tunnels some a 1000m long over bridges and through some pretty dodgy areas where rockslides are common, i can imagine in bad weather this road would be shut pretty quickly. You can see debris from falling rocks on the roadside, there are 7 or 8 points along the way where the Tour buses stop and everybody is out taking photos. We spent over an hour in Tiansiang taking pics from various vantage points, theres not much there apart from a 5 star hotel a post office and a restaurant where we had an excellent lunch before we walked back along the roadside through the gorge, the plan was to walk for a couple of hours then take the bus the rest of the way, theres only 4 buses all day up and down the gorge and as we found they were doing some work in several places closing down the road for 50 mins in every hour in the afternoon. We must have walked 7 or 8km before getting the bus stopping many times to take photos, i crossed the rope bridge which i didnt feel too comfortable about, it seemed to wobble about a bit and the railings were not very high, i turned around to see Selina shaking the ropes laughing. We got back to the hotel and checked in and rested our weary feet, we decided to have a little bike ride into the gorge the following morning before leaving, the hotel had a few bikes outside which you can borrow.