Baimiwong Fort: Watching the World Change

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20 minutes from Keelung City Bus Station, I get off the mini 301 bus next to a bunch of shipping containers and head up a narrow road. I've headed out for the day to explore the remains of Baimiwong Fort. The Google Maps directions are a little sketchy, and there’s not really any walking route up the steep hill. I turn onto barely used stairways and roads that end up being private driveways or dead ends, and I don’t like being a foreigner with a tripod interrupting the silence in secluded little alleyways, but I manage to finally make it up in the afternoon. I walk around and explore a bit, and I eat lunch on a bench.

Later, I climb to the highest point at the fort, atop a hill next to where cannons used to be, overlooking the coast. I step inside of this:

Baimiwong fort

Baimiwong Fort reminds me of the various “battery” areas scattered around the coast near San Francisco, California. The panorama here is not all-natural though, as a factory sits immediately to the west. Three large smokestacks protrude from its base. I think they look kind of cool.

Baimiwong fort

A further look down the coast gives just a peek of the popular Yehliu Geopark extending its fascinating geological hand into the sea. To the east, boats possibly hosting small group tours are making their way to and from Keelung Islet, and little tiny people can be seen taking in the views from Hepingdao (Peace Island) closer inland. Directly ahead, in a very specific line of some sorts are a number of fishing boats. Turning around, I see the big red container cranes in the port, busy moving their cargo. Planned well, all of these places could be visited within a day.

It’s late afternoon, and there is intermittent rain.

Baimiwong fort

The few people here flock to their cars or the little pagodas, but I remain sitting on a bench, staring at the sea. What is it telling me? I’m not quite sure. Is it just a distraction like everything else? It’s not that different from watching TV, really – taking in the sights and sounds without much thinking, looking left, looking right to whatever is happening at the moment. But I suppose this view is better for the eyes.

I think about catching the sunset at another spot, because I’ve been sitting here for a long time now. I pace around impatiently and hum alternate versions of A-ha tracks that refuse to leave my mind.

I do some reading and try to sit quietly, forcing myself to stay in one spot for meditative purposes. A downpour rearranges the visitors for about five minutes, but once it clears, there is a beautiful short-lived rainbow high above the horizon.

Baimiwong fort

Sunset approaches. The sky now has a metallic tinge, withholding something I can’t seem to grasp. The clouds become more dramatic and colorful, emitting divided stripes of gray, blue, and orange immediately to the north and south.

Baimiwong fort

The clouds begin to scatter, and a smaller version of the sun peeks through just over the hill to the west.

Baimiwong fort

Now, everything seems to fall into place, if only for a short instant.

Baimiwong fort

Minutes after the sun sets, the color clears from the sky, and I’m standing alone.

Baimiwong fort

I want to stay and experiment with longer exposures on the camera, but my 4-day Taiwanese phone plan just ended and I’m alone in the foreign night, and I have to take the same route down the hill, and I don’t know what time the bus stops running, so I better just walk back before the sky is black. If I had a car or a scooter, I would stay hours longer, just like those late California nights. I’ve spent a year without coasts. Too long. They talk to me. The nighttime coast seems to do more talking than the daytime coast, but either way, the words only mean something to a much older version of myself.

As I sit alone in the back of the dark bus winding along the water back to the city, I picture myself living in a place like this.

 

Baimiwong Fort is just one of the many places to watch the night take the reins along the Taiwanese coast near Keelung. While the whole area can be visited in 15 minutes, I was able to spend an entire afternoon reflecting and connecting for a moment with nature’s whispers.

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Follow Curtis Starkey:
Right now, I am a freelancer in Taipei, Taiwan doing different things including photography and writing. I have been in some crazy situations, and sometimes I have funny things to say. I’ve recently participated in storytelling events to share some of these stories, and I hope to make this more of a trend going forward. When I’m not being humorous, I’m usually taking life too seriously. On rare occasions, I stumble upon a nice middle ground.

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