NORTH AND WEST OF TAIPEI
North of Taipei are some spectacular terraced rice paddies that look like three-dimensional computer-generated contour maps. The northern coast is known for its quaint towns, beaches, rock formations and harbor cities. Kuantu National Park (northwest of Taipei) is major stop for birds migrating between southern Asia and northern China. Located in Kuantu Marsh, where the Keelung and Tamsui rivers meet, the park has several observation station setup around the perimeter of the park. The best time for bird watching is around low tide. Chihnan Temple (18 kilometers north of Taipei) is one of the largest and most beautifully situated Taoist temples in northern Taiwan.
Yangmingsahn National Park
Yangmingsahn National Park (40 minute from Taipei by car or bus, east of the Tamsui River just north of Taipei) has waterfalls, volcanic craters, fumaroles, flower gardens, lakes, wildlife, six and numerous hot springs. The best time to visit is in April when cherry trees and azaleas are in bloom. It can be crowded though. There are numerous hiking trails, including one that goes to the parks's highest peak, 3,739-foot Mt. Chinsing (Seven Star Mountain), which offers a wonderful views of local valleys and rice terraces, Taipei and, on clear days, the ocean.
Over 151 species of butterfly are found in the park. They are particularly common around Mt. Tatun and Mt. Mientien in an area known as Butterfly Corridor during the months of May and September. Visitors also enjoy the Bird Watching Trail, where 20 different species of bird can be seen on an average day. Some of the hot springs boast belching steam and yellow crystalline sulphur formations. At the visitor’s center there is a seven-meter-wide clock made of flowers. Water runs around the flower clock and music is played every hour. Opposite the clock is a statue of Chiang Kai-Shek; on both sides of the statue are the cypresses planted by president Chiang himself. The Xinhai Guangfu Building was completed in 1971, right in the center of the park. In addition, there is a statue of Wang Yang Ming, the famous 17th century Chinese scholar.
Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times: Yangmingshan is a “gently sloping dormant volcano that sits in a national park on Taipei's northern edge. The rangers at the main visitor's center can give you advice on the dozens of trails. If the weather is clear, consider walking up to Mount Cising, which at 3,674 feet is the highest summit in the greater Taipei basin. The wind-swept high meadows are covered in waves of silvergrass, and the views could well inspire you to start planning your return trip to Taipei.” [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, December 9, 2008]
Yangmingshan National Park is located in the north of Beitou. Yangmingshan was called Caoshan (Grass Mountain) during Japanese occupation of Taiwan, because it was covered with grass and seldom visited. After World War II, the KMT government renamed the mountain Yangmingshan and built a park here. Yangmingshan National Park is the only park in Taiwan that has volcanic geography and hot springs. It is next to Shamao Mountain and Qixing Mountain with Datun Mountain on the right and Guanyin Mountain in front. The total area of the park is 113 square kilometers.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. Take the THSR or train to Taipei Station, continue by Royal Bus (bound for Jinshan) to the Yangmingshan National Park Administration. Taiwan High Speed Rail; 2. Take the MRT to Jiantan Station, continue by Bus Red-5 to Yangmingshan stop. Then take Bus No. 108 to Tourist Center stop; 3. Take the THSR or train to Taipei Station, continue by Bus No. 260 to Yangmingshan stop. Then take Bus No. 108 to Tourist Center stop. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1? Exit at the Taipei Interchange Prov. Hwy 2B Bailing Bridge Zhongzheng Rd. Prov. Hwy 2A Zhuzihu Rd; Address: No.1-20, Zhuzihu Rd, Beitou District, Taipei City (Yangmingshan), Tel: -(2)-2861-3601.
Yangming House (on Yangming Mountains) was a hot-spring villa during Japanese occupation of Taiwan. Late president Chiang Kai-Shek loved the beautiful scenery here and built Zhongxing Hotel to accommodate foreign guests and to spend the summer; the hotel was later reconstructed as Yangming House. As Yangming Villa and Zhongshan Building were constructed nearby, important government officials often gathered here, making Yangming Mountain (Yangmingshan) the decision center for the government. After the death of Chiang in 1975, historical KMT documents were moved from Li Yuan in Caotun, Nantou to Yangming Mountain (Yangmingshan) for exhibition in memory of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and late president Chiang Kai-Shek. As late president Chiang had respected and admired Mr. Wang Yang Ming, the building was named Yang Ming In 1996; KMT donated the Academy to the Ministry of Interior, providing a recreational and educational space for Taipei citizens.
Yangming House is a 2-story, traditional Chinese building. The theater, VIP rooms, offices, and restaurant are on the first floor. The second floor was used by Mr. and Mrs. Chiang and their paintings and some personal belongings can still be found here. On the wall of Chiang’s bedroom, there is a wedding photo taken in Shanghai on December 1, 1927. In addition, there are other photos of the couple visiting different places.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) Royal Bus (bound for Jinshan) Yangming Mountain (Yangmingshan) National Park Administration; 2. THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) MRT Jiantan Station Taipei City Bus (Red 5) Yangming Mountain (Yangmingshan) Taipei City Bus (No. 108) Visitor Center; 3. THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) Taipei City Bus (No. 260) Yangming Mountain ( Yangmingshan) Taipei City Bus (No. 108) Visitor Center; By Road: 1. Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Taipei Interchange Prov. Hwy 2B Bailing Bridge Zhongzheng Rd. Prov. Hwy 2A Yantou Hwy Shamao Rd. Hushan Rd. Sec. 1 Zhongxing Rd; 2. Nat'l Hwy 3 Exit at the Zhonghe Interchange Prov. Hwy 64 Prov. Hwy 106A Prov. Hwy 3 Huan River Expressway Minzu W. Rd. Prov. Hwy 2B Bailing Bridge Zhongzheng Rd. Prov. Hwy 2A Yantou Hwy Shamao Rd. Hushan Rd. Sec. 1 Zhongxing Rd; Address: No.12, Zhongxing Rd, Beitou District, Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2861-1444.
Datun Volcano Group
Datun Volcano Group area (part of the Yamingshan National Park) is known its landscape of post-volcanic activities such as steaming fumaroles, crater lakes and hot springs. It is one of the three major volcano groups in Taiwan. Between the late 14th century and 17th century, indigenous Ketagalan people mined sulphur from here during the Ming Dynasty
Covering a total area of 11,455 hectares, the Datun Volcano Group is located at the northern rim of the Taipei basin. Composed of more than 20 volcanic peaks, the Datun Volcano Group first erupted between 2.8 million to 2.5 million years ago. A second wave of eruptions, which was on a larger scale, occurred some 800,000 years ago. Volcanic activities did not cease completely until 200,000 years ago.
Volcanic eruptions, as well as the effects of the rain, wind and sun, have created Datun's diverse topographical features. Lava once poured from craters that now stand as conical notches at around 1,000 meters. The diverse topographical features in turn have created a unique ecology with various types of plant and abundant wildlife, including indigenous species such as Taiwan quillwort, a leek-like plant, and the endangered Formosan blue magpie. The area is also home to 120 bird species, 21 amphibians, 48 reptile species and 191 butterfly species. Because of the area's value in natural resources conservation and research, it was designated as one of Taiwan's 18 potential World Heritage Sites in 2003.
Jin Mountain Hot Springs
Jinshan (far northern Taiwan, northeast of Yamingshan National Park) experienced a a major earthquake during the Tongzhi period (1862~1874) of the Qing dynasty, and this earthquake created fissures in the rock stratum and from these fissures the Jinshan hot springs were born. One of the most popular bathing areas dating back to the Japanese period is the Governor-General Hot Spring on Minsheng Road. In recent years, several large hot spring hotels have sprouted up here turning Jinshan into a major hot spring destination.
Jinshan (Jin Mountain) is also home to one of the few submarine hot springs in the world. The water originates from the Datun Mountain volcanic range and flows past Macao, Jinshan, and Wanli before emerging off the coast. The Yangmingshan- Jinshan Highway is a scenic mountain route that links the peaks of Yangming Mountain (Yangmingshan) with the coastal hot springs of Jinshan.
Jinshan is also known for the duck meat sold at the Jinbaoli Duck Meat restaurant across from Guang-an Temple. The restaurant began as an unassuming little noodle stall in front of Guang-an Temple and grew into it current form. Fate would bring the owner together with a duck farmer in Jin Mountain (Jinshan's) Zhongxiao (Jhongsiao) Beach area, giving birth to a duck meat empire. At the Zhongxiao (Jhongsiao) Beach duck farm, ducks are raised over 130 days, or nearly twice the general breeding period of 70 days, and fed wheat, corn and lard. When boiled, the meat is chewy and doesn't have any offensive smell. The restaurant has a limited daily supply of white duck meat, and business tends to pick up in the afternoon. Come early or you may miss out.
Spring Types: 1) Sulfur salt springs (submarine hot spring), clear and slightly yellow, with a salty astringent taste; 2) carbonic acid springs, suitable for bathing; 3) sulfur springs, Pungent sulfur smell, translucent milky white or gray;and 4) iron springs, suitable for bathing.
Yehliu (1 to 2 hours from Taipei depending on the traffic, 10 kilometers northwest of Keelung) is famous for its yellow sandstone rock formations. Created by wind and water erosion, the formations look like mushrooms, crowns, pots, candles, animals, humans and other things. There are also sea trenches and holes. It is possible to hike through the rock formations and along a nearby rocky promontory. Yehliu also has numerous restaurants, snack and souvenir vendors and a entertainment center with dolphin and seal shows and a high diving display (See Below). Yehliu is crowded on weekends and holidays.
Yeliu (Yeliou) is a cape of about 1,700 meters long formed by Datun Mountain reaching into the sea. This area is now within the Yeliu Geopark. When seen from above, the place looks like a giant turtle crawling into the sea and is called "Yeliu Yeliu is divided into three sections. The first section has rocks named Queen's Head, Fairy's Shoe and Candle. The second section is the home of Bean Curd and Dragon Head rocks. The third section has sea-eroded cave and a seal shaped rock.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) Kuo-kuang Bus (bound for Jinshan Youth Activity Center) to Yeliu (Yeliou) stop; 2. TRA Keelung Station Keelung Bus (bound for Jinshan) to Yeliu (Yeliou) stop. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 3 Exit at the Jijin Interchange Prov. Hwy 2 Yeliu (Yeliou); Address: No 167-1, Gangdong Rd, Yeliu (Yeliou) Village, Wanli District, New Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2492-2016 (Yeliu (Yeliou) Tourist Center).
Yeliu Ocean World
Yeliu Ocean World (northern Taiwan, northwest of Keelung east of Yamingshan National Park) is the first marine park in Taiwan. There are over 200 species of fish and many kinds of marine life. There are dolphin shows, sea lion show, whale shows, springboard diving shows and water ballet shows. There is an ocean tunnel which allows visitors see a variety of fish in an aquarium.
Yeliu (Yeliou) Ocean World is located along the beautiful North Coast near Yeliu a scenic area with abundant natural resources. The performance auditorium for the dolphin and sea lion shows holds over 3,500 people. On holidays, the place attracts many visitors for the show. The Sea Animal Exhibition Hall has live sea creatures in reconstructions of different sea habitats. The Sea Animal Museum has samples of many sea animals along with simple language explanations.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) Kuo-kuang Bus (bound for Jinshan Youth Activity Center) to Yeliu (Yeliou) stop; 2. TRA Keelung Station Keelung Bus (bound for Jinshan) to Yeliu (Yeliou) stop. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 3 Exit at the Jijin Interchange Prov. Hwy 2; Address: No. 167-3, Gangdong Rd, Yeliu (Yeliou) Village, Wanli District, New Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2492-1111.
Tamsui and Its Fort and Mangrove Swamp
Tamsui (northwest of Yamingshan National Park and the Taipei basin) is the original European seaport. Today it is a quaint seaside town with the old Dutch fort of San Domingo, restaurants with fresh seafood, reasonably priced antiques and beautiful sunsets. Tamsui is a popular day trip destination from Taipei.
Tamsui Church, the birth place of the Northern Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, was built by Reverend George Leslie Mackay to serve the church's growing followers, carry out religious services, and give medical care and educational seminars. The current Tamsui Church building, with pointed pillars, arched windows and strengthened brick work, was designed and supervised by Reverend G.W. Mackay in 1932 after his father, Rev. George Leslie Mackay, passed away. With these unique Eastern and Western features, the fort and its surrounding buildings have been listed by the Ministry of Culture as one of the 18 potential World Heritage Sites in the country.
There are good views from the overlook platform of sunsets. Nearby on Old Oxford School, there are well preserved old buildings. When one walks among these buildings, he (she) would feel that times have turned back. On the old streets along the riverbank, there are restaurants serving tasty local dishes, such as fish dumplings, Agei (fried meat pastry) and hard eggs, etc. Visitors can take a boat ride between Tamsui and Bali, which is famous for peacock clams.
Getting There by Public Transport: THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) Taipei MRT Tamsui Station. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Taipei Interchange Prov. Hwy 2B Tamsui; Address: Tamsui District, New Taipei City; Tel: -(2)-2622-1020, Visitors Center: MRT Tamsui Station, Tel: -(2)-2626-7613, No. 1, Zhongzheng Rd, Tamsui District, New Taipei City;
Fort San Domingo
Fort San Domingo (in Tamsui) was built in 1628 by the Spanish, who tore the building down before they were expelled from Tamsui by the Dutch in 1642. The Dutch then rebuilt a fort called Fort Antonio near the site of the demolished Fort San Domingo. The castle-like fort we see today is the Dutch fortress, Fort Antonio, which is a two-story, cube-shaped building, measuring 15.25 meters on all four sides and standing 13 meters tall. Following the Opium War of 1868, the British leased the fort from the Qing government to use it as their consulate. Later, they built a Victorian-esque building next to it as the consular residence.
Tamsui used to be called Huwei. It is a derivation from the ancient tongue Hoba. It means the river outlet. Tamsui is surrounded by mountains and rivers. Because native Taiwan people called the Dutch people Hongmao (people with red hair), Fort San Domingo (Fort Antonio) became known as Hongmao Castle to them. It was also called Huwei Castle. The fort is made of red brick. Some of original furniture is inside. There are exhibition showrooms for historical data and pictures related to early Taiwan history. Across a lawn and garden, there is another red brick building facing the castle. It used to be the dormitory of British Consulate.
The Former British Consular Residence, an elegant Victorian-styled house blended with some Chinese elements, was built in 1891 after the British government leased the fort. In 1980, the Taiwanese government retrieved the land from the British, and the site of the residence became the Tamsui Historical Museum in 2005.
Hongshulin Mangrove Swamp
Hongshulin mangrove swamp (located near the Hongshulin MRT station, the station just before the Tamsui Terminus) is the largest area of shuibizai mangrove swamp in Taiwan. This type of mangrove, which is usually found in estuaries, has adapted to the salty waters that wash in with the tides. The environment here features of riverside birds, such as egrets and snipes. There are over 30 kinds of crabs in the area.
The best way of getting into the swamp is via the Mangrove Conservation Area which is located on Lane 50 of Waiganjenlin south of the Hongshulin MRT Station. On the second floor of the station is the Mangrove Swamp Exhibition Center where visitors can gain an understanding of the special ecology of the swamps.
Getting There by Public Transport: THSR Taipei Station (TRA Taipei Station) MRT Hongshulin Station. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Taipei Interchange Prov. Hwy 2B Prov. Hwy 2; Address: Zhuwei Village,Tamsui District, New Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2720-8889.
Keelung (26 kilometers, 40 minute drive northeast of Taipei) is small city with a 74-foot-high marble statue of Kuanyin (the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy) situated on a hill overlooking the harbor. There are stairs insde the hollow statue. A window inside the offers interesting views. She Liao Islet in the mouth of Keelung Harbor has many monuments with Dutch inscriptions from the Dutch colonial period. Miaokou and the city’s night market are good places to sample Taiwanese snacks, desserts and street food. Check out the Lienjen Cake Store, Lihu Cake Store, and Taiyanggu (Sun Valley) Honey Store.
Surrounded on three sides by mountains and the Donghai (The Eastern Sea) to the north on the forth side, Keelung has a large natural harbor and is one of Taiwan’s major ports. Keelung is connected with Taipei and other Taiwanese cities via railway and several modern highways. The city receives a large amount of rainfall throughout the year, particularly from March through October. Keelung has a population of about 375,000 and is part of the Taipei-New Taipaei-Keelung area with is home to 8.6 million people and is the 40th largest urban area in the world..
Keeling is relatively hilly. Within the city are more slopes than plains. The harbor and its protective islands — Keelung and Heping — have been important strategically to the city’s commercial and military role, guarding the gateway to entire Taipei area. Many imported and exported products pass through Keelung's port facilities. The city's location near the East China Sea has led to the development of large shipbuilding and fishing industries. Other industries in the city include cement and fertilizers.
Keelung Night Market along Keelung Temple street, just outside the temple gate, features a number of famous snacks and dishes such as pot-edged pancake soup, shaved ice, tempura, fried sandwiches, bean noodle thick soup, and shrimp Taiwanese ball. The good food stalls on Ren 3rd Rd. near the Dianji Temple in Keelung City and on Ai 4th Rd. There is a Visitor Center at No. 1, Gangxi St, Ren-ai District, Keelung City, Tel: -(2)-2428-7664.
Heping Island (in Keelung’s Harbor) was called Sheliao Island in the past. Heping Bridge connects the island to Keelung City. In 1626, the Spanish army built castles, churches and fortresses, preparing it for doing business with China and Japan. The castle on the southwest is called San Salvador, the saint savior. This is the first and the only castle in the Keelung area. During the Spanish occupation, Heping Island was busy trading center in Southeast Asia. After World War II, the island was renamed Heping Island. Today, it is a famous tourist attraction.
Heping Island offers diving and sea fishing. Wind and sea, erosion has shaped the rocks and coastal areas into special, unique shapes. The Keelung government has made Heping Island has coastal park with a swimming pool, walking trails and a tourism center with food and drinks.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take the train to TRA Keelung Station, transfer Keelung City Bus (No. 101) to Heping Island Park stop and walk along Ping 1st Rd. to Heping Island Park. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Keelung End Interchange Zhongzheng elevated Rd. Zhongzheng Rd. Zhengbin Rd. He 1st Rd. Ping 1st Rd. Heping Island Park; Address: No. 360, Ping 1st Rd, Zhongzheng District, Keelung City, Tel: -(2)-2463-5999.
Beaches and Caves in the Keelunng Area
Tsen Tung (near Keelung) is a cave whose name means Tunnel of the Gods. It contains three crypts of great depth that echo the thundering sea.
Chinshan (between Keelung and Tamsui) is a beautiful area on the north coast of Taiwan. The beach here is over a two kilometers long, stretching from Shinshan almost all the way to Yehliu. There is a roped off swimming area with a lifeguard and another larger less-crowded area without a lifeguard. A splendid hiking trail leads from the beach to an area of cliffs along a rocky promontory that juts out into the South China Sea.
There are also nice beaches to the south in Wanli and to the north on Paishawan (White Sand Bay). Visitors can also enjoy sailing, paragliding, windsurfing and waterkiiing. Most visitors come to Chinsan on day trips. There are a only couple of hotels.
Fulong Beach (20 kilometers southeast of Keelung) is located at the mouth of Shuangxi River at Santiaowan, Gongliao District, New Taipei City. The beach stretches for three kilometers and has golden sand. The beach has always been a summer resort. Every summer, a good number of people gather there to swim, fish, surf, kayak, sail and enjoy the sun and was well-known during the Japanese occupation.
Covering 24 hectares and facing the Pacific Ocean, Fulong Beach is the most famous beach in northern Taiwan, just as Kenting is the most famous beach in southern Taiwan. There is a spacious parking lot, camping area, restaurants and food court. The bay and river are separated the sea near an arched bridge that crosses the river. The red-roofed, white-walled headquarters building of the northeast Coast National Scenic Area is located near the entrance to Fulong Beach. Next to the headquarters is a Visitor Center with exhibits, video briefings, and other information. Fulong Beach is currently under the management of the Taiwan Pineapple Co. Various types of equipment are available for rent, including kickboards, inflatable swimming rings, and four-person rubber boats. A variety of other water and beach activities are offered for a fee.
Getting There by Public Transport: THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) continue by Kuo-kuang Bus (bound for Yilan, Luodong) to Fulong stop; or take the train to TRA Fulong Station. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Badu Interchange Prov. Hwy 62 Prov. Hwy 2; Address: No. 40, Xinglong St, Fulong Village, Gongliao District, New Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2499-2381.
Nuandong Valley (southeast of Keelung City) is located in Dongshikeng, Nuannuan District.. The swiftly-running river, towering trees and peculiar cliff landscapes, makie the valley an ideal summer resort. Huoshaoliao boasts the highest rainfall in Taiwan. The forest in the valley features scaly tree-ferns. It is also an ideal place for watching butterflies, especially the three-spot grass yellow butterfly.
Nuandong Valley literally means “Warm Winter Valley.” There are tow main trails running along the river. One runs along the cliff, allowing visitors to appreciate the splendid hanging cliff over the river valley. Another spreads follows closer to the river and connects with the red-brick trail, near a bridge.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take the train to TRA Nuannuan Station, transfer Keelung City Bus (No. 603) to Nuandong Valley stop. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Take the exit at Badu Interchange Shuiyuan Rd. Dongshi St. Nuandong Valley, Address: Dongshi St, Nuannuan District, Keelung City, Tel: -(2)-2425-8236.
Northeast Coast National Scenic Area
Northeast Coast National Scenic Area (southeast of Keelung) is noted for its reefs, rivers, terraced rice paddies, rolling green hills, lighthouses and two of northern Taiwan's nicest beaches—Fulong and Yenliu beaches. Recreational activities include rock climbing, hiking along a 200-year-old footpath and watersports.
The northernmost tourist site in the scenic area, Nanya is noted for its fantastic rock formations and sea-eroded coral shore. The entire coastline here is a veritable sculpture garden that illustrates, in stone, the incomparable artistry of weathering and wave action. The patterned stone topography of Nanya, unique in Taiwan, was formed through the weathering of the sandstone that lines the shore. The oxidation of iron ore within the striations of the stone has given it a beautiful striped pattern. At the 89-kilometer mark on Provincial Highway 2, or the Coast Highway, there is a particularly intriguing rock called Man's Rock. There's a ceremonial arch made in the 1980s at the entrance of Nanya Night Market.
Getting There by Public Transport: THSR: Take the THSR to Taipei Station, transfer to the train or bus. By Train/Bus: 1) Taipei Train Main Station Keelung Keelung Bus Nanya; 2) Kuo-kuang Bus (Luodong Line) Nanya. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Badu Interchange Prov. Hwy 62 Prov. Hwy 2 Nanya; Address: Nanya, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2499-1210.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Taiwan (Republic of China) tourism and government websites, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020