Taiwan Day 4

Gold Waterfall
This is my fourth day in Taiwan and my family has chartered a taxi to go explore the outer towns. This is the most interesting part of my Taiwan travel! Here is a short list of places can go within hours from Taipei.

- Beitou
- Cyuanji Temple (劝济堂)
- Danshui (淡水) - Fisherman Wharf, Fort San Domingo, Old Street
- Jiufen (九份), famous for its narrow alleys which is the inspiration for the movie "Spirited Away"
- Gold Ecological Park (黄金博物园), less touristy gold mining place, for nature lovers
- Gold Waterfall (黄金瀑布) - Popular "gold" colour waterfall
- Jinguashi (金瓜石) - Well maintained, Museum of Gold with its 220.3kg gold bar!
- Jinshan Old Street (金山老街) - The only old street in the North Coast
- Keelung Night Market (基隆庙口夜市) - Famous for their tempura, pot rim rice, pork rib soup, seafood.
- Leofoo (六福) for wildlife and Africa theme resort
- Maokong (貓空) - Cable Car, Tea House, Zoo
- Nanya Coast (南雅) - Beautiful rocky shoreline
- Pingxi (平溪) and /or Shifen (十分) for Sky Lanterns
- Sunflower Farm (向日葵农场)
- Tashee Blooming Oasis (大溪花海游) for a flowers. Best visited during Spring (Mar-Apr)
- Wulai (烏來)
- Yangmingshan (陽明山) - For hiking
- Yehliu (野柳) - For Yoodoo rocks
- Yin and Yang Sea (阴阳海) -  Mixture of yellow and blue due to insoluble iron ions from pyrite
You could spend several days exploring the North Coast of Taiwan. Since we allocated a day, we had a limited time and chose some of the more popular places,
1) Yehliu
2) Jin Shan Old Street
3) Nanya Coast
4) Gold Water Fall
5) Jinguashi
6) Jiu Fen
7) Shi Fen

You can travel to these places using Taipei's railway and buses. However, we have five adults and a taxi allows you to explore more places in a shorter period of time and at the same time, still allowing you to personalise your trip. Take note, not too do too many places as you need time to travel to the place and back.

Taxi Rental

A quick search online would bring up several names such as Mr Meeky Yang (+886921915586), Mr Xu (+886933920845) and Mr Ernest Sung (+886 978103799 / +886 966223899). Eventually, we booked Mr Sung's brother through Mr Sung as the earlier listed drivers were fully booked!
You can also contact Mr Sung using the following email:
Email: a0966223899@yahoo.com.tw

Here is a rough estimate for a day trip (8-10 hours). The rates vary among the drivers and season.
3-4 Pax : NT$3000~3500
5 Pax: NT$3500~4000
6 Pax: NT$4000~4500 

Yehliu (野柳)

We arrived at Yehliu, 1 hour after leaving Taipei. It was raining and there were lots of locals selling raincoats. You might want to buy them but be warned that they are really ugly. I would advice that you bring your own raincoat to look great! Coming back to Yehliu, what is famous here are the hoodoo stones that dot its surface.
A hoodoo is a spire of rock that has an easily eroded column and a more resistant cap. Sometimes they look like mushrooms. They are kind of eerie, so they're called "hoodoos" and also have other names, from "fairy chimneys" to "goblins." - National Geographic Magazine
The place has many hoodoo stones have been given imaginative names based on their shapes. Probably the most famous rock is the "Queen's Head" (女王頭). Other popular rocks are the beehives, toufu and my personal favorite, the dragon's head! Below is the Queen's head where you see many people taking pictures of it from the back. Join the queue and take a photo from the front of the Queen's head as it doesn't look like a Queen for any other angle.
This place is really big and you may have to walk off the wooden platforms built. Please wear some good shoes if you want to walk off the path. The rock below is suppose to look like a Tou Fu.
The Dragon Head Rock is definitely my favourite and the best part is that there is no crowd since you have to venture off the path! Not too sure whether they got people to carve this out. Hmm....
Finally, this rock is suppose to look like Taiwan. Singapore being neighbours with Malaysia, we probably know better that this looks like Malaysia. ;)
At the exit of Yehliu Geopark, there is the mandatory gift shop. But this time, its a gift street! You can get all sorts of titbits here to fuel your day. They are popular for their dried fish. You could try them to see whether you like them.

For lunch, Mr Sung recommended us to visit Jin Shan Old Street to have lunch at Kuang An Temple (廣安宮). This is the only old street in the North Coast of Taiwan. The street is short and has plenty of fried food. 
This is definitely the craziest place to have lunch. Recommended by Mr Sung, we just need to go to the kitchen and pick up the dishes you like in the temple. There is no menu and you just have to go with what you see. Also, you will have to be quick as the dishes are constantly being raided by the public! It's as if it was free feast!
The dish that is a must order is the Jin Shan Duck Meat. It is salty, tender, juicy and almost boneless. A definite must try! Grab it fast before its gone like all the other dishes!
The other popular fish which was present on everyone's table is the fried noodles. Savoury good. It does have the "home" taste and have been said that the delicacies have been passed on from generations to generations.
Some fried fish which was great too! The meals was in general good and inexpensive.
I'm sure you will have a great lunch experience here. Just don't forget to pay up at the cashier when you are done. They have psychic powers and will be able to read your mind on what you took. Just kidding, the plates represents different prices and main dishes cost around NT$180 while the fried noodles cost NT$30. The staff will do all the counting when you are done!
Duck Noodles @ Kuang An Temple (廣安宮)
Address: No.104, Jinbaoli Street, Jinshan Township,
Taipei County 208, Taiwan

Nanya Rock Formation
After lunch, we left Jin Shan Old street for Jinguisha and stopped by two local attractions. Many have driven past these rocks that seem to be a typical rocky shoreline. Nanya rocks are have been carved out by the weathering and wave erosion over a long period of time. What is exposed is the layers of iron deposits. The weather was terrible. The wind was strong and the rain was hitting us hard. We did not manage to walk down to take a closer look at the beautiful rocks. .

Nanya Road, Ruifang District, New Taipei City 224, Taiwan

Golden Waterfall
The second attraction enroute to Jinguisha is the Golden Waterfall. The Golden Waterfall has no actual gold but comes from its golden appearance. Rain seeping through the nearby abandon mines and picking up metal deposits, allowing to to radiate the gold-like colour. You don't see anyone playing with the water as it is considered toxic.

Ruifang District, New Taipei City 224, Taiwan.

Just a few bus stops away from Jiufen and a short drive from the Golden Waterfall is the Gold Ecological Park. It contains the Museum of Gold with its Benshan Fifth Tunnel (NT$50/Pax) and the Crown Price Chalet!

The Crown Prince Chalet is open to public and you can explore the Japanese palace. It is built in 1922 for Crown Prince Hirohito whom never visited the place. Later, it was used by Chiang Kai Shek as a lodge.
Walking pass the crown prince chalet, we went straight for the Benshan Fifth Tunnel, to better understand the life of a miner. In the tunnel, you can view old mining equipment and mining transport system.
Pressed for time, we went off to the Gold building has exhibits giving a brief introduction to the discovery of gold, a brief introduction to the World War II Japanese Kinkaseki PO Camp and properties of gold. What everyone comes here for is to touch the world-record 220.30kg 999.9 pure gold brick. They used to have a bet that if you managed to life the Gold Bar with one hand, they will give the gold bar to you. However, that bet has been called off. I wonder why.

Jiu Fen
The sky was getting dark early as it was winter. The rain made things worse as Jiu Fen wasn't completely covered. This old town was once an isolated village till the discovery of gold during the Japanese occupation in 1893. The town grew quickly due to the gold rush and many buildings in Jiu Fen reflect the Japanese influence.
During World War II, the town was used to contain Japanese Prisoners of War (allied forces). The prisoners of war were forced to work in the mines. After the war, mining activities declined and the town is now a popular tourist destination. 
Fans of Hayao Miyazaki 宮崎駿, creator of "My Friend Totorro","Princess Mononoke","Spirited Away 神隱少女" would want to visit this place as the animator himself mentioned that the town Jiu Fen was his inspiration for the film "Spirited Away". 
Mr Sung dropped us at the entrance to Jiufen Old Street and there was a

You can also get great quality handicrafts such as an ocarina! They come in all shapes and sizes, starting from NT$100. And if its raining, they will provided a plastic cover over the paper bag to prevent your goods from getting soaked in the rain! Pretty sure you want one.
When you purchase an ocarina, you will be given a small book which contains songs and fingering chart.
You can also buy other items such as bags.
For the snacks, we tried the fishballs! This was one of the more popular snacks in Jiu Fen. We ordered the mixed four balls ( 混合四丸) which comes with Fuchow ball 福州丸, fish ball 魚丸, pork ball 貢丸, cuttlefish ball 花枝丸. The Fuchow ball and pork ball had a very strong pork taste that may not be pleasant to many. However, the fishballs were bouncy and tasty.

 Jiufen traditional fish balls (九份張記傳統魚丸)
Address: 23 Jishan St / 九份基山街23號

You will definitely not miss this lady. She loves dressing up and wears a name tag which reads "Phototaking is FREE!". She sells sausages but are pretty average. However, her sausages sell because of her unique character.

There are plenty of stores in the area
One of Jiufen's famous delicacy is their Taro Balls. The store that has been recommended by Sung is Grandma's Lai Sweet Taro Balls (赖阿婆芋圆). The hot bowl of taro rice ball was pleasing in the cold rainy weather. Most of the flavours are from the soup. The texture of the Taro Rice Balls is excellent, soft and chewy. Most importantly, they do not stick onto your teeth when you are enjoying the Taro Rice Balls! Must Try, especially on a rainy day. There is another store near by that serves the same dish called Ah Gan Yi Yu Yuan (阿柑姨芋圆), heard the views are great and might be better tasting! Do consider trying it and leaving a comment to tell me your comparison!

The famous steps where everyone crowds around to take a picture.

Jiu Fen is definitely an amazing place. You might want to use this as a base to stay overnight when you are travelling in the Northern Coast of Taiwan. To get to Jiu Fen by public transport, you can get a Train from Taipei Main Station to Rui Fang (NT$76/ one way). Look for signs to Jiu Fen and board a bus to Jiu Fen.

Shifen Old Street 十分老街
This is one of the sections of the Pingxi Branch Line. This is where train track split without the need for a railroad siding. Train lovers will get a chance to watch the historic train pass through this little town. It is here where you can release Sky Lanterns (天燈) along the railroad track! 
Sky Lanterns once played an important role in Pingxi District. The lanterns were used as a signalling system in the mountainous region. Today, it used to send prayers to the sky! You can purchase one at NT$150-200, depending on the colour/colours and write using the calligraphy brushes provided. 
Here is one of the lanterns being released. You can write anything you want, in whatever language you want. And if you are into Chinese, a help sheet will be provided for you to copy on to the lanterns. ;) The staff will help you set up the lanterns and even take pictures of each side of the lantern for you!
There are plenty of souvenir shops where you can get lantern keychains and postcards for your loved ones!

And what a pleasant surprise, Mr Sung has prepared fireworks for us to light up the skies! Great for us who have never got the chance to play with fireworks in Singapore. A great way to start the New Year! Watch the video of the fireworks. Will recommend Mr Sung's brother as a driver. (: 

It was definitely a tight schedule where we had to rush form place to place. It would have been better if we spent more time around Taipei! Do consider spending a night or two in Jiu Fen and take your time to enjoy what Taiwan has to offer. Here is a map below to show the places I visited. (:

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About Haoming Koo

Koo Haoming. Founder of The Fat Chemist. Currently an undergrad at the National University of Singapore with a burning passion for science! Inspired to start a blog after reading the book, "Napoleon's Buttons, How 17 Molecules Changed History". The book fills the gap between Chemistry and History. Adapting the style of the book, posts written by me highlight the chemistry in the food we eat.
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