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Explore Keelung with 4 senses: City of the unexpected

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This is how it works with expectations – have none and let surprise do its job. This is exactly what I was doing when I first came to Keelung. I only knew that the city is close to Taipei in the North, situated on the water. That’s it. If I hadn’t had a workation here the day I arrived in Taiwan, I probably would not even have come – how thankful I am I did!

Let me take you for a sensorial stroll through this lively seaside town that you can experience with many senses. Let’s start with the obvious one: the looks. Be prepared for the unexpected. 

Rather grey and dark but anything but dull

Explore Keelung: How does it look?

Dark buildings, gray, brown, dim green tiles and most of them coated with a patina collected during many years – you probably wouldn’t think of this as the first words to describe a classical beautiful city, right? 

And yet I am surprised how strangely charming this works when you are a seaside town and simultaneously cradled by a 180 degree view of lush and green mountains that seems to be made to perfectly contrast this industrial and urban atmosphere. It’s an interesting mix, anything but dull and something I’ve never seen like this before – even though I already traveled a lot.

 

Photography lovers must visit

Especially as a photography lover and someone who has a thing for forgotten looking places, wandering through the outer streets of Keelung is a visual feast. Leave the lively city center behind by randomly choosing a street towards the mountains and suddenly you find yourself in magical narrow alleys which appear rarely used, stumble across weathered and overgrown places where nature started taking over again. Concrete and greeery appear to have a special bond in Keelung which creates these unique sceneries I just can’t get enough of. 

explore Keelung
Sunshine in Keelung over the roof tops

And then, when you think, when was the last time someone ever walked that road, I often happen to find a sign that this place is not forgotten: random cute compositions, little installations here and there, a Buddha sitting somewhere, a small frog figure or a dinosaur. This unpredictability everywhere I go fires up my imagination and amazes me.

little figures
Little figures here and there

Mount Hongdan

The way up to the hilltop of Mount Hongdan is also a meet and greet with the vast variety of Keelung’s beautiful butterflies and dragonflies fluttering around you. Reaching the top eventually, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the whole distinctive city setting. Every element – the harbor, the sea and the city itself hugged by the mountains – is contributing its individuality and together they create Keelung’s unique and fascinating looks.

 

Hustle and bustle meets silence

Explore Keelung: How does it sounds?

The center of Keelung comes of course with the normal noises of the hustle and bustle every lively city has to offer – motorbikes, cars and buses buzzing through the streets. But there is also the other side, kind of a sound parallel universe. Again, you find it only some small steps away, if you walk any little random path or interesting looking stairway you fancy towards the hills where it becomes: quiet. 

Wasn’t there a super busy road just some meters away? Yes. And yet no sound of it. It kind of gives me the feeling that I stepped into something special there where little souls are around, except for maybe an encounter with one of the many graceful cats of Keelung or rarely another pedestrian. But mostly only you, the sound of your steps and the sweet song of the cicadas hoping to finally meet their Mr/Ms Right.

Mount Hongdan
Beautiful dragonflies and butterflies on Mount Hongdan

Wait, I take that back – there is another sound when it is that time of the day that you definitely can’t overhear, even when you are far up in the hills. Its jolly melody is played to remind you it’s time to bring your trash out. The lovely tune of the garbage truck – which isn’t a thing in Germany at all and therefore new to me – kept me company during my whole hike and is also part of my Keelung sound experience.

 

View over Keelung
View over Keelung

Being nosey in Keelung

Explore Keelung: What does it smells like?

‘Hello, I am a coastal city’ – I was unmistakably greeted by the smell of the sea at the Keelung bus station the minute I arrived. Since I’ve been living on the coast in Germany for nearly 14 years, this gave me an instant sense of home. 

Another base note that I associate with Keelung is the constant smell of ‘will it rain in the next few minutes’? Although I know that rain is usually an essential part of the true Keelung experience, I felt lucky (and thankful!) that the clouds hid their roaring side most of the time and limited their actions to a bit of drizzle every day. Therefore, I was able to enjoy the daily dose of the pleasant petrichor smell without getting soaking wet.

Talking about smells in Keelung there is something that we definitely can’t miss to talk about, since it’s the biggest conglomerate of odours that I found here: Its vibrant Miaokou Night Market, a deep dive of smell between sizzling skewers, deep-fried sweet potato balls, bubbling soup pots, fresh seafood and many many more.

Miaokou Night Market
Vibrant and cozy at the same time: Miaokou Night Market

 

Mingle with the hungry crowd, walk between the yellow bright lanterns as well as warmly illuminated food stalls and let your nose guide you to the most promising dishes and snacks. But beware that your nose might mislead you: Smelliness is not a reliable indicator for tasty food, especially in the land of stinky tofu (which I, as a strong flavored cheese lover, happen to find tasty by the way).

 

Taste of Keelung: Land of plenty

Explore Keelung: What does it tastes like?

Brace your taste buds to be spoiled in Keelung then this is where I found the other magic happens in this city. I love to immerse myself in the flavor amusement park of Keelung, to visit the countless food stalls spread all over the city as well as of course the night market and try anything possible.

As a visitor, the night market appears to me to be the true heart of the city, as it brings all the hungry food lovers of the town together. In general, I appreciate the Taiwanese culture where food plays such an important role in the daily life basis and is not only considered to simply feed you. It’s enjoyment. 

And also here, the food often surprises me with unexpected flavors. The Keelung Sandwich for example, a deep fried bread with tomato, mayonnaise, egg and cucumber, is actually – I didn’t know – really sweet. Its crispy outside comes closer to a donut than being a sandwich that I am used to. So if you haven’t tried a donut sandwich before like me, this is your chance.

If you want to experience the fabulous Miaokou Night Market in a deeper way with a local, here is the right tour for you.

 

Explore Keelung: A hidden gem, yet anything but polished

I definitely love to encourage you to immerse yourself in Keelung’s orchestra for the senses.

All in all, Keelung appears to me a bit like the protagonist of your favorite detective novel: at first glance maybe already a little washed out, but nothing but loveable for being a many-faceted and authentic personality.

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Fiona is a passionated copywriter from Germany. Currently traveling the world as a digital nomad, she loves to deep dive in cultures, cuisines and costums. Her aim: To try the most delicious food on this globe (not a hard one in Asia) and to gain a better understanding of the world and its people.

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