Day 2 was when the excitement started for our Taiwan trip. We were going to explore the northeastern part of Taiwan, starting with Yehliu Geopark, Keelung, Shifen and ended with Jiufen. In our sleepy state, we checked out from Smile Inn Taipei at 6 am and walked to Kuo Kuang Motor Transport Station.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2: From Taipei to Yehliu Geopark
Kuo Kuang might sound familiar to you, as it is one of the popular bus services to Taoyuan Airport. However, we were taking their Bus 1819 to Yehliu for this trip. It takes around 80 minutes from Taipei to Yehliu Geopark, so the bus that departs at 6.40am was just right for us.
If you’re imagining the bus terminal is as hectic as our old Pudu, buying the bus ticket at one place, then scurry through the station to find your platform and bus, don’t worry. Kuo Kuang Motor Transport Building is right beside the Taipei Main Station’s ‘back door’ (East 3 or North 1 exit and head left). The building itself is simple with a small reception counter to answer our question. As we were using Easy Card, we didn’t have to buy the tickets, just tap when boarding and alighting. Free Wifi was provided on the bus.
Bus 1819’s final stop was actually Dharma Drum Mountain, and a lot of elderly were going there in that morning. As a semi-express bus, Bus 1819 will pick up more passengers on its way out of Taipei City and we were astonished that some stops were just within minute distance of each other. Passengers could press the bell once their destination shows up on the indication board, just like what we did for Yehliu.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2: Yehliu Geopark
Here’s the silence the greeted us at Yehliu. All the shops were still closed and although we haven’t seen the seashore, we were already smelling the salty breeze. We had no idea know where to go for Yehliu Geopark (I thought we will be arriving at the park’s entrance) but our instincts told us to walk along that road. Surely, the reason for the green colored pedestrian path is for clueless travelers like us, right?
We passed by a harbor where many fishing boats were anchored, quiet just like the rest of the town. If you’re wondering about washroom (after an 80 minutes bus ride), there’s one right beside the fishing harbor. But there’s more washroom at Yehliu Geopark if you’re not in ‘urgency’.
Then, when I was just a few meters away from Yehliu Geopark ticketing counters, two bus-load of tourists arrived and broke the serenity. We had to evade their swaying selfie sticks (hey, go somewhere else for selfie and let us through to the ticket counter, okay?) before we could buy our ticket (TWD80).
Yehliu Geopark is a seashore full of geological formations of many intriguing shapes. We started with the left region, where it holds the Candle Rocks (annoyingly, a tour guide decided to call it nipple rock and asked his group to take pictures, posing as if they’re groping someone’s nip).
It’s important to note that the lime formations are very fragile, so we must not touch them, let alone sitting on them. There are security guards around who will blow the whistle on anyone who breaks the rule. We traced through the red line which says Do Not Cross This Line to the middle section, everywhere is just as gorgeous as other-where. Our fingers won’t stop clicking on our phones and camera.
If too-much-people is too much for you, walk a little further up to the resting/washroom area. There’s another notable formation which looks like a deer. In fact, there’s a few more infamous ones but the bridge to reach them was destroyed in a typhoon a few years ago.
By 10 am, we had seen and satisfied with our trip to Yehliu Geopark. We walked back to the bus stop and this time, a few seafood shops (Yehliu is a fishing town, anyway) had started to get busy. Seafood fried rice seemed reasonable at TWD70 but I snagged myself out of it. It’s still too early for lunch.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2: From Yehliu to Keelung
To get to Keelung, we waited for Bus 790 on the opposite side. In Taiwan, bus stops do not have an actual roof or seating, just a small signage indicating the bus number that will stop here. Bus 1062 also stops here and heads to Keelung too. We took 790 anyway because it arrived first.
From Yehliu, it took around 40 minutes to reach Keelung. The bus seemed to route back to the outskirt of Taipei before turning into another road leading to Keelung. Hence, don’t be alarmed when you feel like it’s sending you back to Taipei.
We alight the bus at the last stop, nearby a quay. Keelung Main Station was hidden from view and some meters away from us. That didn’t bother us, as train station was not our intention anyway.
Miaokou Street Market: What to Eat in Keelung
It was time for brunch and we crossed the blue pedestrian bridge to get to Xiao San Road. It was our second day in Taiwan and we did not know what to try for a starter, I did not specifically ‘researched’ what to eat here. In the indecisive moment, we walked on to Miaokou Market and found a food we both agreed as “the best food we had during Taiwan Trip”.
We had Wu’s Crab Meat Soup (吳记) and their signature Oil Rice. There’s plenty of stalls offering the same menu and we just chose Wu’s. The soup was actually ‘keng’, translated as thick soup made possible by adding starch to it. It can go horribly gooey or starchy if done incorrectly.
The Crab Meat Soup here was bursting with flavor. The combination of mushrooms, fat choi and bamboo shoots was very clean taste and addictive. Each bowl was added with juicy crab whole clipper meat (which I initially thought were squids). It certainly worth every cent of TWD55 we paid.
Oil Rice (TWD30) was a little different from our version in Malaysia. Either it’s their glutinous rice or the proportion of rice vs water was very good. The rice sticks loosely together so they weren’t annoyingly compact. (Remember how sometimes we almost got choked by Oil Rice we had at wedding banquets?) CS doesn’t (usually) like Oil Rice, but he gave a thumb up for Wu’s Oil Rice. The pieces of sautéed mushrooms and pork were so delectable that we contemplated on ordering for extra helpings.
We skipped Ice Cream thanks to an over-zealous foodie/ traveler who decided to lick the ice cream in an unappetizing way in front of us. It destroyed our appetite so we moved on. Further back to the start of Miaokou, we found our appetite revived with tiny pork sausages.
The road from Xiao San Road leading all the way up to Miaokou, was full of delicacies. There is a wet market and we saw some small shops serving freshly sliced sashimi. On the opposite of the market, there’s a poultry shop that makes their own dried meat floss and further down, there were some shops selling dried seafood snacks. Every corner we turned, there will be a bubble tea shop so we had a try at 50-Lan Bubble Tea. Not bad 😊. There’s just too little stomachs in the gourmet universe of Keelung.
We swore that we will be back with vengeance and retreated into a seemingly popular café – Lao-O Café. At first glance, the price of their coffee was around the same as we had to pay in Klang Valley. But their portion (cup) is much bigger. The medium size latte turned out to be a mug-size, while the Large was actually a super mug! No wonder everyone was sharing the coffees.
Stomach filled and caffeine kick contained, it’s time to say goodbye to Keelung. My initial itinerary was to head straight to Jiufen but we’re ahead of our schedule anyway, so we decided to ‘stop-by’ Shifen. Shifen was supposed to be our itinerary for next day.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2: Getting to Ruifang Train Station
We went back to the opposite of where we alighted Bus 790 earlier, bus stop under the pedestrian bridge. This time, we waited for Bus 788 instead. There were two bus stops here, so do look for the one with the plate mentioning Bus 788.
5 minutes into our wait, two taxis parked in front of us and I was worried that the bus might miss us. We were blocked from view by the taxis. The taxi drivers started to offer to take us to Ruifang and Jiufen but we declined. More because I was annoyed by the taxis taking up the bus’ parking. Then they upped their game by telling us that our bus won’t be coming for another hour. Lies, I know. I had researched the bus route long enough to know the frequency is very good.
When Bus 788 arrived, busting the myth, we couldn’t be happier to board it. In total, we waited for only 10 – 15 minutes for the bus. Later, I discussed this in TripAdvisor and was told that taxi drivers in the area Keelung, Jiufen and Shifen were notorious for ripping off their passengers regardless of Taiwanese or tourists.
Back to the bus route. Bus 788 serviced Keelung – Ruifang – Jiufen, so all we need is this one bus route. To get to Shifen, we stopped at Ruifang to take the Pingxi train.
Ruifang to Shifen via Train
Bus 788 (From Keelung direction) does not stop in front of Ruifang Train Station. Instead, it stopped in front of Ruifang Police Department so we had to walk 5 minutes to the station.
The train won’t arrive at Ruifang until the another hour, hence a train conductor recommended that we take the opposite direction to Badouzi, then return on the same train straight to Shifen. It was said that Badouzi is a very beautiful station as it’s next to the shore. We took up his idea and went to Badouzi.
Badouzi was pretty but it looks like anywhere else’s shore in Taiwan. Still, the cool breeze was more welcoming than the stuffy Ruifang station’s platform.
Note: Pingxi train to Shifen will reduce to one train per hour from noon onwards, so it’s recommended to take note of the departure time. You can spend the time strolling Ruifang Old Street (behind the train station) rather than wait blankly on the platform.
At 3.40 pm, we reached Shifen and 10 minutes later, CS and I came to the conclusion; WE DO NOT LIKE SHIFEN. Perhaps our expectations were raised by all the Instagram shares, but we think it is overrated, gimmicky and touristy.
8 Things We Hate About Shifen:
We had heard many compliments about Taiwanese being friendly and helpful. At Shifen, we saw the exact opposite. We couldn’t walk down the path without vendors shoving their brochures into our face, enticing us to buy a Kongming Lantern ‘package’.
When we declined to buy anything (no matter how polite we were) they will turn black face and walked away mumbling.
We felt like cattle being herded, because there’s no place to stop and enjoy the place.
Standing on the rail path may seem new and cool, but there’s no proper safety precaution, unless we count the whistle guy. Most of the time, the whistling is drowned by the noise.
Again, the pesky taxi drivers.
Food price (most but not all) were not displayed. We have the tendency to move on if we see a product without price tag. We dislike haggling.
No good coffee.
Pingxi train seems like a transportation caters to attract tourist into the area. The frequency is very sparse and when it comes, it will be packed. The actual distance between Shifen and Ruifang is less than 20km (Google Map) but the horribly slow train takes 20-30 minutes to travel between them with a long stop in between.
How to Get to Jiufen from Ruifang
To get to Jiufen from Ruifang, we took the same Bus 788 route, same direction. While waiting for the bus, an old local lady was making a fuss about a Korean girl who was asking about getting to Jiufen. The Korean girl is young, was traveling alone and couldn’t speak Chinese nor English. It was the time when the news about a young Hongkonger girl killed (by her boyfriend) in Taiwan broke out, so the lady launches into long speech how she should never travel alone in a country she can’t communicate. In my broken Korean, I asked the Korean girl to take the same bus as us.
Oh, and we were approached by a taxi driver, again with the same lie. This one is more than pesky, but downright rude. We declined to take his taxi and he very got angry and yelled, “Wait all you want then!” Yes, we waited and bus arrived two minutes after his silly taunts.
After bidding farewell to our Korean agashi, we went our own ways in Jiufen. I don’t think she will have a problem here, judging by the number of Korean travelers around.
Jiufen is an old mining village built on hill slope so walking hundreds of staircases is a must. It was an arduous task as we had packed our bags for 5 days supplies. We climbed all the way up through Jiufen Old Street and it was already dark by the time we reached our lodging.
Our host was already waiting for us and concerned that the shops will be closed soon. She quickly ran us through how our room works and we ran back to the old street to catch the night view and dinner. Darn! We SHOULD have skip Shifen!
Taking a photo of Ah Mei Teahouse was near impossible. The street came to a standstill with people so we took another turn and couldn’t be more pleased to sit into a restaurant.
After our dinner, we saunter further down to a Family Mart to buy snacks for the night. Meanwhile, the day trippers started to haggle with taxi drivers to take them back to Taipei.
Here’s how Jiufen looks after the day trippers left:
We took plenty of Ah Mei Teahouse’s photos, the place that rumored to inspire “Spirited Away”. I can totally see the connections here.
Jiufen shops start to close up after 7 pm, so unless you’re staying for the night like us, do arrive here latest at 5 pm to explore the street and have dinner.
Here’s the end of our Day 2 in Taiwan and DIY trip to Yehliu, Keelung, Shifen and Jiufen is certainly feasible. However, Shifen consumed a lot of travel time, so it’s best to leave it to another day OR TOTALLY SKIP IT.
More about our lodging at Jiufen in Day 3 post. Stay tuned.
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