基隆

Stegosaurus Ridge (劍龍稜)

Before coming to Taiwan, I was admittedly under the impression that this tiny island was one that more or less consisted solely of large urban areas which had overtaken the majority of the island’s natural environment. Shortly after arriving however I quickly found out how wrong I was as the “Taiwan” that we often imagine in the west is not exactly what we’re led to think it is, nor how it is often advertised.

If you are like a lot of tourists who visit Taiwan and don’t bother leaving Taipei, I suppose you might not have much feel for what I’m talking about, but this country rivals any in terms of natural beauty with its mountains, valleys and coastal areas - The unfortunate thing is that while Taiwan’s natural beauty might be one of its best kept secrets, it is something that if marketed correctly could help to attract a considerably larger amount of interest and more importantly tourist revenue. 

Taiwan’s North East Coast (東北角) for example is a breathtaking area to visit and is arguably one of the most accessible destinations for day-trips outside of the capital. Tourists who visit the area are not only able to get a feel for local Taiwanese culture and history but also its natural beauty which features a wonderful medley of the ocean on one side with high mountains that rise up almost out of no where on the other.

The coastal area has a number of popular tourist attractions which attract both domestic and foreign tourists for day trips - Whether you’re visiting the northern port city of Keelung (基隆), the Miaokou Night Market (廟口夜市), Yehliu Geopark (野柳), Jiufen (九分), the Golden Waterfall (黃金瀑布), Bitou Cape (鼻頭角), or any of the fishing ports along the way, you’re going to want to stop on the side of the road every few minutes to take photos. 

In recent years, thanks to Instagram, several locations on the coast have gone viral in terms of the popularity that they have achieved with the local population - These locations are not usually big on the radar for foreign tourists, but places like Elephant Rock (象鼻岩) for example, have become hot spots with crowds of young people.

The mountainous areas near the coast are also quite popular with local hikers as there are countless trails that offer hikers spectacular views of not only the mountain range but also the ocean below. Teapot Mountain (茶壺山) and Jilong Mountain (基隆山) trails for example are well-known hikes that offer amazing views of the local landscape and are also easily accessible with public transportation.

Unfortunately, although most of the other trails in the area offer equally impressive views, they are not as easily accessible for your average tourist - Taiwan has a number of mountaineering groups though which often plan free day-trips as well as tour groups which will take care of all of the small details for any hike you want to go on. 

If you are into hiking, it is always a good idea to check out some of these groups and get in contact with them to see if they have anything planned that you are able to join in on:

Taipei HikersSouthern Taiwan Hiking523 Mountaineering AssociationTaiwan Adventures

Stegosaurus Ridge (劍龍稜)

Similar to a few of the internet popular locations mentioned above, the “Stegosaurus Ridge” hike has become a hot spot in recent months as what was once a relatively unknown trail (outside of hiking circles) has become popular with photographers on Instagram. The hike up the ridge is a rewarding one with 360 degree views of the North East Coast landscape, but it should be taken into consideration that it is a relatively difficult and also a dangerous one for inexperienced and unprepared hikers who don't fully understand what they are getting themselves into. 

Things to take into consideration.

  • The hike is going to take you anywhere between 5-8 hours to complete - Start the hike early in the morning lest you get stuck high in the mountains after dark.
  • There is almost nowhere on this hike that offers hikers respite from the hot sun - Wear sunscreen and make sure you wear a hat to protect yourself from sunstroke.
  • The North East Coast is prone to rain which makes climbing the ridge dangerous. If it is raining, you shouldn’t bother with this hike as the ridge will be slippery.
  • The trail is full of long grass which will slice up your legs if you wear shorts - You need to wear proper hiking pants as well as hiking shoes to protect yourself.
  • There are ropes on the ridge where you are going to need to have a set of gloves prepared to save your hands from rope burn and blisters.
  • You will need to carry a lot of water to stay hydrated as well as having snacks or a packed lunch available. 
  • For your safety make sure to follow the hiking flags along the trail as well as the arrows sketched on the ridge.

Be careful of the tall grass. 

As I prefer to focus on photography, I’m not going to go into too much detail about the logistics of the hike as there are already quite a few resources online that explain things in great detail, so be sure to check out either Taiwan Tales and Trails excellent post about the hike in English or Hiking Diary’s (健行日記) post in Chinese which both offer detailed information about the hike.

Wait, I heard its illegal?

You might have heard that it is illegal to hike this trail. Is it true? Yes and No.

This trail is part of a loop that takes hikers from just above sea level to a height of around 700m offering access to over ten peaks. If you are planning on hiking the circuit, then there are trailheads which can be accessed that are not going to cause you any problems. 

The entrance that most people use however is considered “trespassing” as you have to jump over a fence onto an abandoned state-owned property.

There are signs at this spot which warn hikers that entering the area will result in fines and/or prison time and on weekends there are often police who are stationed or are patrolling the area to deter people from using this entrance.

While this entrance offers the easiest access to the trail and cuts down the amount of time needed to complete the hike, it is illegal to enter and if you decide to take this route you may have to face the consequences if you are caught.

Hiking the trails in this area isn’t illegal, but using the copper factory entrance is, so if you are planning on doing this hike, it’s a better idea to use a newer trailhead that is located around the 80.2KM marker a bit further down the road (Close to Nanya Rocks) or starting the hike from the other direction just past Teapot Mountain.

For more information about the legal situation with this hike check out Taiwan hiking master extraordinaire Richard Saunder’s post about it - More Bad News Regarding Access to Taiwan’s Mountain Landscapes

Getting There

 

If you are relying on public transportation to arrive at any of the trailheads to this hike, you should first take a train to either Keelung Train Station (基隆車站) or Rueifang Station (瑞芳車站) and then transfer to any of the routes that will take you to the Nanya Peculiar Rock area. Bus #791 from Keelung or Bus #886 from Rueifang will both get you there.

Check the Keelung Bus Website for detailed schedules. 

If you plan on doing this hike, you absolutely have to take into consideration the tips mentioned above as well as your safety at all times. This is a hike where you can easily fall to your death if you are not careful. If you found this blog post after seeing photos on Instagram, it’s important that you go into this hike prepared and are fully aware of its dangers.

All of that being said, this is an extremely rewarding hike that is exhilarating and offers spectacular views of the North East Coast’s landscape. This hike will tire you out, but will also give you a whole new level of respect for Taiwan’s natural beauty.


People of the Night 19 (基隆廟口夜市)

The Keelung Miaokou Tourist Night Market (基隆廟口夜市) is often introduced by Travel guides as a MUST visit on any travellers as the night market is well-known for its diversity of Taiwanese delicacies and being so close to the sea - it's fresh selection of seafood dishes. The night market is jam-packed with Taiwanese and foreigners walking shoulder-to-shoulder every night of the week and it truly is a purely Taiwanese experience that shouldn't be missed while visiting the country. In my first post of shots from the night market I focused on seafood dishes which the night market is the most famous for, the second post was all about the meat while this post has various desserts, juice and an uncommon sight in a night market - a vegetarian stall!

Miaokou Part 1 | Miaokou Part 2

1. Iced Desserts (QQ涼圓)

I love this shot, it was one of the first shots I took at the night market while visiting. I arrived at the night market a bit early because I planned on eating before the crowds arrived and getting the lay of the land to better understand what the night market was about. This vendor sat at the entrance of the night market with her cart full of icy Taiwanese desserts and she looked like she wasn't having the best day. One of my favourite shots from the Raohe nightmarket was also of a vendor selling these delicious little treats (although the setting is completely different) basically, these are little gelatinous balls that are served in a bag of shedded ice with a scoop of brown sugar sauce on top and the vendor will give you a toothpick to pick them out. They are a cheap dessert and are traditional Taiwanese snacks, so of course I recommend you try them! 

2. Candied strawberries/tomatoes (糖葫蘆)

Taiwanese people don't really have a “sweet tooth” like North Americans do - Whenever my mom sends candy from home and I share it with my friends, they always complain about how sweet it I and  I usually just roll my eyes as I think they're crazy. The tables always turn on me when it comes to these candied fruit kebabs though. They are just like candied apples back home, but you get strawberries or cherry tomatoes on a stick and they are soaked in the candy and the end result is almost disgustingly sweet - Way too much for my tastebuds at least. Even worse is when when you get the cherry tomato version and it is both too sweet and too sour at the same time. Despite my overactive tastebuds not appreciating these kebabs, Taiwanese kids love them and they're almost the perfect snack for children visiting the night market. 

3. Fresh Orange Juice (新鮮果汁) 

This vendor actually pissed me off a bit, she was advertising 100% orange juice, which initially had me excited as fresh orange juice is one of my favourite drinks. I stopped and bought a 100NT bottle and was planning on drinking it on the train back home. When I got on the train I opened up my juice and tasted a watered down orange juice with way too much sugar. Clearly this vendor was set up to sell to tourists and even though I've been here over ten years, I still fell for a tourist trap. I've had fresh 100% orange juice like this in other night markets so I was a bit surprised that someone would sell drinks like this at a night market, but Miaokou is a very touristy night market and it is often frequented by Chinese tourists, so I guess the vendor took the opportunity to make a quick buck.

4. Sweet Potato Pancakes (地瓜餅) 

Pancakes aren't a really a big thing in Taiwan as people here much prefer waffles covered in everything from ice cream and fruit to tuna and corn. It's not that common to find pancakes in a night market, but then again these aren't really the pancakes that you're thinking about. These pancakes are made from a sweet potato based paste and pan fried. They are sweet, but also a bit bland in flavour. I'm not particularly a big fan of sweet potatoes so I'm probably not the best judge as to whether these actually taste good or not, but for my palate they seem to be missing something. If it were up to me, I'd just add maple syrup, but that's just because I'm Canadian and that's how we roll.

5. Vegetarian Food (素食) 

Vegetarian food in the night market? Well, I suppose they have to cater to everybody! Taiwan's night markets aren't really the most friendly places for our hipster veggie-eating friends to find some food, but on occasion you can find a vegetarian-friendly stall or two in every night market. This particular vendor serves up several vegetarian noodle dishes as well as soup and Japanese-style curry rice. They're all probably pretty tasty if you're a vegetarian but I'm much more prone to eating the much tastier variety of night market snacks than trying this kind. 

That's it for the Keelung Miaokou night market. I'll go back to posting normal stuff for a while and then after a month or two I'll probably do another set from another night market. I hope you enjoyed the shots so far and if you're interested you can check out all of the other night market posts in the links below. 


Gallery