Keelung City is a major port city on the northeastern side of Taiwan. I visited Keelung on a holiday weekend, and a friend of mine showed me around. Ruru has lived there since high school and was able to give me history and tell personal stories that made the city more interesting than it would have been otherwise.
My trip started out with a hiccup. When I got on the bus in Taipei to head to Keelung, my EasyPass card wouldn’t work. The bus driver tried to talk to me in Chinese, but I didn’t understand a word. A kind passenger leaned in to translate and offered me money when he saw I was short on change to pay. I was rattled and rushed to my seat without properly thanking the stranger for his help.
The good news is that the trip is only about 30 minutes long and costs about $50 TWD which is less than $2.00 USD. The bus is more comfortable and a little fancier than the local city buses and only made one stop before Keelung from the Fuxing stop where I got on. It was a quick, easy and comfortable trip once I made it on!
Ruru met me at Keelung Harbour where the bus from Taipei dropped me off. Because of the Tomb Sweeping Holiday, the port area was dressed up with balloons and music and windsock flags. It was colorful and fun and crowded! We only stayed a few minutes before heading up to see Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, in Zhong Zheng Park.
The walk up to Zhong Zheng Park was, of course, stairs – many, many stairs that passed a temple, a playground, and a graffiti image of Totoro that many locals come to take their picture with. Of course, we had to get our picture there as well! It’s too cute not to. Apparently, it just showed up one day and lines of people showed up for pictures. Since then, the crowds have died down, but there was still a short line we had to wait in.
We climbed more stairs and arrived at Zhong Zheng Park which had several vendors out front including one for peanut ice cream rolls which love! I treated myself to one; after all, we had just walked up several hundred stairs. I had earned it, right?!
We walked up more stairs to enter the Zhong Zheng Park which had a temple, a giant statue of Guanyin, a bell you could make a wish and ring, a wishing well, and a fabulous view of the port. There were also some food vendors and activities for children: art tables, electric cars and electric animals to ride around. It was busy!
We climbed up Guanyin then, when we got back to the bottom, we saw a small altar. You could pay $10 TWD which is about $0.33 USD to ask a question and a ticket comes out with an answer. We both did it; I did not get the answer I wanted. And, it’s funny, even though I know it’s like visiting a fortune teller and doesn’t mean anything, I was still disappointed. Ah, well.
Next, we went and rang the bell while making another wish. I secretly hoped to offset the bad news I got from Guanyin by whatever powers ran the bell. I’m not sure how that works, but I tried. We’ll see what happens. So far, Guanyin was right.
As we left, Ruru got us fried turnip cakes to eat on the way down. They were divine although I burned my tongue on the first one. I had eaten these little cakes before, but I never knew what they were. For some reason, they tasted better now that I knew what I was eating.
I had to stop and watch the children playing on the slides. There are slides here are built into the hill and made of cement. They looked painful, but the children slid down with no problems and looked like they were having a good time. Well, one little boy was scared and inched his way down – but they mostly had a good time!
Since Ruru is vegetarian and I am doing my 30-day vegetarian experiment, we decided to eat dinner before we went to the night market because vegetarian options are limited. She took me to a Buddhist temple that has a vegetarian restaurant.
We had a rich soup with monkey head mushrooms (which have the texture of meat), carrots, thick homemade noodles, and other vegetables. We also got an order of marinated burdock root and a cheesy tofu casserole. We shared everything, and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
It was getting dark now, and we headed to the night market. Holy cow! The night market was PACKED. We had to go in through the side because we couldn’t get in through the main entrance. There were too many people. We walked our way through market, jostled and moved along slowly by the waves of people around us.
I was happy we had eaten already because I didn’t want to stay long. The food vendors did look good but were meat-heavy. Since Keelung is on the coast, there were a lot of seafood vendors. I love seafood, but I have lost my taste for meat since eating vegetarian. They didn’t appeal to me much. Other people didn’t feel the same way. The food vendors were as crowded as the interior walkway.
We made it all the way through then veered off to go to Ruru’s family’s Chinese medicine shop. Her brother was running it, and we stayed there and talked for awhile. He showed me the herb that is the best-seller and looked like tree bark then served me a horribly bitter tea that people drink when they are hungover. I swear, if I drank that to cure my hangover then it would be the last time I ever needed it. I almost spit it out! Afterward, he gave me some delicious sweet tea. They said every medicine shop has their own tea recipes.
Ruru and I went and got some coffee after that and talked for awhile before I caught the bus home. All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon and evening. Keelung is a vibrant town, and I was fortunate to have perfect weather and a fabulous tour guide!
In about six hours, I think I saw pretty much everything there is to see including the night market. I would get there in the afternoon so you can go to the night market for sure. It’s not usually as crowded as it was the night I went so I would recommend you stay away on holiday weekends! But absolutely worth a visit if you can make it.