Busy, noisy, rainy, and smelly – this is what you’ll hear about Keelung from locals and tourists alike, and all of this is true. Due to its past and present as a major port in Taiwan, Keelung isn’t a city shaped for the kind of easy, fancy tourism you read about in guidebooks.
The famous touristic spot in Keelung: Miaokou Night Market ©francois turgis
When travelling, it is always rewarding to get off the beaten track; and this is particularly true here in Keelung for the city keeps its secrets in small alleys, remote locations, or just up those stairs on the right…
Like the guidebooks say “Go to Heping Island”; so you go there and pay the 80 NT$ entrance fee. Though the sight of the coastline is beautiful, it is more a balcony on the ocean rather than a park in itself. But if you go left at the main entrance to the island, climb a bit on the concrete path that faces the harbour, there will be just you, a few fishermen and families in the company of massive concrete wave breakers; and then you are free to walk and enjoy the powerful Pacific Ocean and an amazing sunset.
Instead of heading back to downtown on the bus, step aside and follow that small side street for 50 metres to arrive at the stunning Zhengbin Fishing Harbour with nobody around. Then with another step aside, walk the NTOU Longgang Trail to enjoy the amazing view at the top.
En route to Heping Island Park ©francois turgis
Scenic pavilion on Heping Island ©francois turgis
Zhengbin Fishing Harbour ©francois turgis
Keelung will reward you to climb its stairs, and there are many, many of them! Tired of the noisy streets? Climb those stairs on your right and reach the beautiful Zhongzheng Park. Can’t stand the smell of stinky tofu in the jam-packed Miaokou Night Market any more? Take a step aside and climb those stairs to reach Renai Market to eat delicious fresh-made dumplings. The endless traffic driving you mad? Step aside and enter one of those teeny-tiny alleyways where suddenly you find the silence you were looking for.
Arrived in Jiufen to visit the Old Street, as your guidebook tells you, and realise it’s an overcrowded tourist trap? A step aside, some stairs again, and you arrive in the most beautiful Taiwanese graveyard and garden with a stunning view along the coast.
Jiufen Old Street ©francois turgis
Taiwanese graveyard in Jiufen ©francois turgis
The list could go on forever. So go to Keelung, maybe in the winter (December through February) as I did; it might be rainy sometimes, but it’s off-season and the temperatures are still warm. Book a walking tour, check your maps, make some plans. Then do something else; walk, climb up and down, but mostly be patient and change your plans to really have a chance to discover this city – it has a great many secrets to share with you if you look closer!