When I went back to Taipei for a short visit in the beginning of June, I met up with my local friend, Wanyi, and Jamie for a day trip to Jiufen.
The first time I went to Jiufen was with Jamie back in December of last year. And because I’m such a laggy blogger, I never even wrote about it (but check out Jamie’s posts and pictures). Since nothing on my blog is in order anymore, I’m going to talk about this 2nd visit first. :)
One of the best things about Taipei is the abundance of day trip opportunities. Just an hour on a bus lets you completely escape from the big concrete jungle and puts you in little coastal towns or among the luscious mountains. Of course I haven’t been everywhere outside of Taipei City, but my favorite is Jiufen.
Jiufen was a prosperous Japanese gold mining town back in the early 1900’s (during Japan’s occupation of Taiwan). Since mining activities have stopped, it’s become primarily a tourist destination. People come for the windy, hilly alleyways, street vendors, dragon-topped temples, tea houses, ocean views, and of course, the red lanterns.
But this time, we came to see the Golden Waterfall. And unbeknownst to me at the time we set off for this mountainous seaside village, apparently, we also came to climb a mountain.
Keelung Mountain is the large towering mass you see as you enter Jiufen (precisely, it’s 588 meters tall). The Chinese for this is 雞籠山, literally translated as “chicken cage”. I guess some thought it resembled the shape (though I don’t see it).
Jamie and Wanyi both wanted to climb it, and I’m always up for an adventure. “It takes about maybe 30 minutes to the top,” Wanyi said. Okay, 30 minutes sounds easy enough. And it doesn’t look toooo high, right?
So we began our journey.
The climb is made up of stone steps laid into the mountain. There are three pavilions along the way, with our final goal being the last one set on the mountain top. If you look reaaaally closely at the mountain picture, you can see the pointy roofs of first two pavilions way up there. The 3rd pavilion is that dim structure on the far right of the mountain top.
It all started off innocently enough. The steps are nice and flat, going up at a nice steady incline. I took slow and measured steps, knowing to pace myself.
This was June in Taipei, which means dreadful tropical weather. Think unbearable heat with extreme humidity that envelops you like an infinite permanent sauna. But we were lucky – this was a cloudy day. So even though the heat and humidity were still there, at least it wasn’t magnified tenfold with the added torture of a blazing sun. I think this was the only reason I made it through.
By the time I had reached the first pavilion, I had completely drenched my shirt. It was now a gray 3 shades darker than its original color. And I was TIRED. I was huffing and puffing like a life-long smoker after a marathon.
But the view was pretty nice.
The MOST amazing thing is that you can see Taipei 101 from here!! Taipei 101, which is 50 MILES AWAY from Jiufen! I knew Taipei 101 is tall, but it’s still incredible to me!
Can you find it? I’ll give you a minute to look.
Here it is! (I only had my iPhone camera that day, so excuse the poor photo quality.)
By the time I reached the second pavilion, I thought my legs were going to collapse under me. They were turning into jelly and were actually shaking from the effort. I seriously considered just staying there and letting my friends go on by themselves to the top. But I’m not a quitter. And plus, you’re in danger of a bug attack anytime you’re not in motion.
So after a brief rest to catch my breath, I geared myself up for the final stretch. The rest of the climb to the top was excruciating. It took immense energy to lift myself up for every step, as well as great mental determination to fight through the screaming pain in my legs.
I’m not even exaggerating. This is a strenuous hike, and I want anyone thinking about doing it to not be fooled.
By the time I made it to the third and final pavilion, I was covered in head to toe sticky sweat. And thanks to all the bugs up in the mountain, a more accurate description would be covered in sticky sweat, itchy bug bites, AND dead bug splatters. But it’s okay, because Jamie and Wanyi didn’t look any better.
But I was proud of the accomplishment!
The panoramic views at the top were worth all the effort.
The hike down was a relief. I think all of us were looking forward to making it back down as quickly as possible so we can just sit on an air-conditioned bus. And we were treated to gorgeous views as we descended.
One last picture of the sunset and the temple tops as we reached the bottom. I love all the distant layers of hills you can see.
We were all too tired after this hike to walk any more, so it was straight onto the bus we go. And I’d like to note that by the time we got back to Taipei an hour later, my shirt was STILL wet.
But it did feel good to have this feeling of achievement and conquest. And I would do it all over again. :)
If you’re visiting Jiufen and have an extra couple of hours, I’d recommend this hike, especially if you like hiking. I’m glad we went on a cloudy day because the clouds surely helped with the heat, but the views were also obstructed a bit. I can imagine that the views are breathtaking on a clear sunny day, but keep in mind that the trail is mostly in the open without any shade.
- How to get there: From Taipei, take bus 1062 from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station (intersection of Blue and Brown lines), Exit 1. You can use google maps to find the bus station as you’ll have to walk about a block. The bus takes about one hour and gets off at Jiufen Old Street. From the bus stop, walk towards the mountain (away from Old Street) and you’ll come to the start of the Keelung Mountain trail.
Hiking level: I would say this is a strenuous hike. It gets quite steep and it’s just steps all the way up. I’m guessing the number of steps is in the thousands!
Length: Hike takes about 1 hour. Though I imagine if you don’t need to catch your breath so often, you can do it in 40 minutes.
- Other Tips: Bring plenty of water!
What are some recent hikes you’ve done?
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