A Day Away From Taipei: Jiufen and Keelung
Taiwan has so many great reasons to visit, the food, the architecture, the scenery, but the best part of Taiwan is it is small enough that you can experience it all in only a few days. Taipei is the center of life in Taiwan, and there is plenty there to keep you busy. But, with easy access to the many other cities, and amount you can fit in a day there, you’d be crazy not to step out of the capital. Public transit is super accessible, and with, in my experience, the most English signage of anywhere in Asia, incredibly easy to navigate. The only issue is organizing your trip so you can hit as many places as possible, and make it back in time to hit the night markets.
Here is the second of two day trips I’ve planned, and everything you need to know to make it happen.
Whether starting from Taipei, or are staying overnight in a minsu (民宿), the local guesthouses, after our last day trip, we are beginning our day in Jiufen. This is another tourist town that is quickly filled up, so an early start is again recommended. Jiufen is an old gold mining town that displays the lovely remnants of Japanese imperialism in it’s architecture. It is a hot spot for Taiwanese history and culture, and has some of the most gorgeous ocean views on the island. There are so many little alley ways and shops to search through, you can devote quite a bit of time in Jiufen. The cafés and tea houses are divine, and the A Mei Teahouse is allegedly the inspiration for the bath house in the Ghibli Film Spirited Away. Lots of local artisans have shops here and it is a great place to buy a souvenir that is hand crafted or more unique than the touristy gift shops. If you would like to wear traditional dress like Qipao (旗袍), there are shops here to rent them for the day. At night, the lanterns that make the city famous are in their prime, turning the hillside village into a magical place. Staying here is fully worth it, but if you are going to do so make your plans WAAAAY in advance. It’s a small town with limited options. If you are only going to go one place from these guides, Jiufen is my pick.
Home to one of the biggest ports in the world and a hot spot for cruise ship passengers, Keelung is a tourist haven. This is well founded as the city is home to numerous historical and cultural sites including Ershawan Fort (二沙灣砲台), Heping Island, and Lovers Lake. The big draw of the city is the Miaokou Night Market (廟口夜市). While Taiwan is famous for it’s night markets, and there are many in Taipei, the Miaokou Night Market is special in that it is traditional and food focused. It is famous for many of the foods you can try here, and you should try them all. Fried sandwiches, cream crab, a local desert called malao and of course Pao-Pao Shaved Ice (泡泡冰). Food in Taiwan is incredibly cheap, so seriously try everything. Keelung is a great place to stay if you don’t want the “typical” Taipei experience, as it is large and has easy access to the other small northern coastal towns. It rains here very frequently so keep that in mind when planning your day trips. So, once you’ve finished the night market, stay over or hop the train and head back to Taipei.
• If you read our previous guide and decided to stay the night, congratulations, you’re here! To get to Jiufen from Shifen, Houtong, or Pixing, read our previous guide here. If you would like to take a taxi, you will cut about an hour off of your travel time and add $30-$40 to your travel expenses. If you are pressed for time or want to fit both day trips into one (it’s tight but you can do it) this is the route for you.
• Personally, I would take the bus. The views on the way up the mountains are breath taking, and the journey is a lot easier to manage than the train. To get there, start at MRT station Zhongxiao Fuxing (忠孝復興) leave from Exit 2. This should put you outside Sogo department store, where you will see a large bus stop. There should be signs guiding you to the right place. Here you will be harassed by many taxi drivers who know exactly where you are going. They might not take no for an answer the first time and are very pushy, but stand you ground and you’ll be fine. Take bus route 1062 (Keelung Bus) to Jinguashi (金瓜石). The ride is about an hour and a half, and the fare is around $3. DO NOT get off the bus too early. You want to ride to at least the second Jiufen stop. If you get off too early, it will be a sweaty hike up the mountain for you.
• To take the train from Taipei Main Station (台北車站), you will follow a similar path to our visits to Shifen, Houtong and Pixing, which makes it convenient should you decide to mix and match with these guides. So from Taipei Main Station take a northbound Tze-Chiang (自強號) train EXCEPT Keelung-bound trains to Ruifang Station (瑞芳). Once at the station you will have to switch to a bus. The ride is only 10 minutes, but the busses only come every 2 hours. So when you get to the station, exit facing the Wellcome supermarket, take a left and walk 200 yards down Mingdeng Road. Next to the police station is a bus station (named Local Residents Plaza, 區民廣場) with routes 827 and 788 heading toward Jiufen. Keep in mind that the bus stop next to the police station heads east toward Jiufen, and the bus stop across from the police station heads west toward Taipei. Make sure you are standing at the right one.
• There are so many tours that combine Jiufen and Shifen, so if you’d like this all packaged for you feel free to take one of those. However, if you like a little more freedom with your time and choice of locale, it is quite easy to do this all yourself and save the $.
• If you are coming from Jiufen, my recommendation would be to taxi. It takes 15 minutes and costs around $20. If you want to take the public transit take the 1062 or 856 (Fulong – Ruifang) bus to Ruifang Station. There transfer to the T99 bus. This will take you to either Keelung Station or Miaokou Night Market. The ride takes an hour and a half and costs around $4. You can also take the 801 purple line from Ruifang Station to Sankeng for the night market or Keelung Station and cut out 30 mins of travel. The cost is the same as the all bus method.
• If you are coming from Taipei, you can take the local 801 purple line from Taipei Main Station (1 hour, $4), the 1802 bus from Songjiang Nanjing Station (松江南京)to Keelung station (45 minutes, $4), or a taxi (19 minutes, $25-$30) I would recommend the train as it’s the easiest to get to and you can charge it to your easy pass so there are no extraneous tickets.
Taipei Main Station: 台北車站
Zhongxiao Fuxing: 忠孝復興
Ruifang Station: 瑞芳
Songjiang Nanjing Station: 松江南京
Miaokou Night Market: 廟口夜市