The hidden gem of northeastern Taiwan.
Located along Taiwan’s northeast coast, and a mere 40 minutes’ train ride away from Taipei, Keelung is the main port for cruise ship passengers arriving in northeast Taiwan. Surrounded by mountains, Keelung is also well known for being of close proximity to many famous sightseeing places such as Jiufen old town and Shifen train station in Taiwan. For travelers looking to explore outside of Taipei, Keelung makes for a perfect destination as it is easily accessible via rail, bus or taxi from Taipei. There are plenty of buses within Taipei that goes to Keelung, and if you are in a rush for time, a taxi from Taipei should take no longer than 30 minutes.
Probably the most enticing point about Keelung is that it can be used as a base for travelers planning to explore the Jiufen/Shifen/Pingxi district. Ask any traveler in Taiwan and more often than not Jiufen old town or Shifen train station is one of the must-go places in their itinerary. Rather than travelling from Taipei, where you’ll have to jostle for space aboard the cramped train, why not take the shorter route and travel from Keelung instead? The route from Keelung to those places mentioned above are a lot shorter and probably more comfortable as there would probably be plenty less travelers too. This tip was shared with me by a local friend and having experienced both travelling to Shifen train station from Taipei and Keelung, I’ll take the Keelung route anytime again.
In this post I’ll recommend six notable places to check out, 3 in Keelung and 3 outside of Keelung. Hopefully you’ll understand why I said it is a good idea to base yourself in Keelung for a few days to check out these spots instead of travelling from Taipei!
1. Miaokou Night Market (廟口夜市)
In the land of night markets, to stand out as the top few night markets would already be a tall order. To be voted as the top night market in Taiwan, now that is certainly something isn’t it? Miaokou Night Market, thus named as such due to its location right outside Keelung’s Dianji Temple (奠濟宮) has been voted by the locals as the top night market in terms of the variety and quality of food found there. Most of the items are affordably priced and seemingly lower than other night markets popular with tourists. Most of the food stalls also provide patrons with a seating area to slowly enjoy their food.
As one of the more food-focused night markets, indulge yourself in the wide range of street snacks and cheap seafood available. There are approximately 60~70 over registered food stalls at this night market.
My favourite dish from the entire night market – a combination of oily rice (油飯, which in all honesty isn’t that oily) and the crab broth (螃蟹羹). The rice costs only about NT25 and the broth, NT55.
Most of the stalls should usually be open after 8pm. You will find that as it gets later, the night market also starts to get livelier and more crowded.
The number one must-visit spot in Keelung. If you have not been to Miaokou Night Market, you have not been to Keelung.
Good for: Any day, any time! As and when you’re hungry just pop by this centrally-located night market for a bite. A good number of the stalls are open from morning till late at night.
2. Zhongzheng Park (中正公園)
Situated on Dashawan Mountain, this park is known for its 25m statue of the Goddess of Mercy overlooking the harbour. A visitor to this park would be able to oversee downtown Keelung and the ocean from a vantage point. A good place to take in the sights on a slow day.
I realised that there was a primary school located within the park premises. No need for physical education classes anymore, climbing up and down this flight of stairs every day is probably good enough!
I found a few locals sitting by the many benches, happy to be simply chatting with their friends while enjoying the view. As one of the higher peaks in downtown Keelung, this park makes for a good place to take in the sights of Keelung city and its port from a vantage point.
A short walk away from the park is a temple where you can find the tallest Goddess of Mercy statue in Taiwan. I was not planning to come to this part of the park, but seeing that it was less than 10 minutes’ walk away I made the trip in the end.
Good for: Days when you do not feel like doing much or travelling far.
3. Kanzaiding Fish Market (崁仔頂漁市場)
The hidden gem of Keelung, and also one of the main reasons tourists visit the city – the daily fish auction held after midnight. Kanzaiding Fish Market is not an actual market per se, but a congregation of fishermen who gather after midnight at the roads along Xiao 1st Road in central Keelung, not far away from the Miaokou Night Market. Every night after midnight, you will start to see fishermen arrive in their vans hauling the day’s catch and setting up makeshift stalls along the long stretch of road. The auction usually starts after midnight and can go on up till 4am in the morning.
Most of the seafood sold are freshly caught from the sea and prices are reasonable. You will also find many businessmen or owners of F&B outlets from the nearby regions coming to Keelung simply to get a bargain at the fish market.
What I found interesting was that the auctioning was mostly conducted in the Taiwanese dialect instead of Mandarin Chinese. For Singaporean Chinese who are familiar with the dialect, it will certainly prove to be quite an experience hearing the bargaining and auctioning in that dialect. Never leave Keelung without visiting Kanzaiding!
Truth be told it was actually quite a surreal experience for me. Coming from Singapore where we speak and understand Hokkien, a dialect which is very similar to their Taiwanese dialect, I felt strangely at home hearing the fishermen shout and call for bids entirely in Taiwanese. It seemed almost as if I had been transported to a fish market in Singapore.
You would think that at such a busy place with so many people crowding around the stalls, the stall owners would not be pleased with tourists standing around and happily snapping pictures away. To my pleasant surprise, not once was I made to feel unwelcome despite lugging and pointing a camera at the people at the market. Feel free to take as many pictures as you want here, just be sure to take note of common courtesy and not cause any inconveniences to anyone at the market.
Good for: Since the fish market only starts to get busy after midnight and reaching its peak activity period between 2am to 4am, it might be good to check out this place just once during your stay in Keelung. Take plenty of pictures and come back with stories to share with your friends!
Outside of Keelung:
1. Badouzi Coastal Walk (八斗子海濱公園)
Located about 30 minutes away by car, Badouzi Coastal Park is famous for its scenic views, Wangyou Valley and sights of Keelung Island and Jiufen from the coastal park. Visitors can choose to climb the small mountain to reach Wangyou Valley, thus named as such because the local people believed that visitors will be able to leave their worries behind upon seeing the beautiful sights in front of them. Bring along a picnic mat and enjoy the cool sea breeze, or simply take a leisurely walk along the coastline. Cafes can also be found in the area for those who need to take a rest.
Walk along the coastline and the nearest park you’ll see is Chaojing Park. You can catch a good view of Keelung Island from the park. On weekends you’ll also find many locals enjoy a picnic or kite-flying at the park.
From this point, you can choose to take a free shuttle bus towards Wangyou Valley or walk for about 15 minutes to get there. Wangyou Valley is approximately 1km away from Chaojing Park.
Once you reach the top, there is a sheltered resting point resembling a bunker for you to take a rest. Come and forget about all of your worries at this spot.
From Badouzi, hop on the Pingxi Rail to get to places such as Jiufen or Shifen. The Pingxi Rail Line passes through a few popular destinations such as Pingxi Town, known for its lantern festival, as well as Houtong, where visitors can visit a cat village that has plenty of stray cats roaming about. Probably the most popular stop along the Pingxi Line has to be Shifen Station, a mainstay in the list of must-go places in Taiwan among tourists.
The trains arrive and depart punctually, so to avoid any unnecessary waiting do refer to the train schedule on the picture above, or at http://twtraffic.tra.gov.tw/twrail/TW_Quicksearch.aspx. Remember to tap your card as well when exiting the stations!
Good for: Good for days when the weather is good and you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
2. Shifen Old Town (十分老街)
The most visited station along the Pingxi Line, and probably also the place that is definitely on every traveler to Taiwan’s itinerary – Shifen Old Town. Shifen Old Town consists of lanes and alleys around the Shifen Railway Station. What was once a thriving coal mining district for the Japanese military in the past, visitors today come to Shifen to take in the sights of the old town as well as to release lanterns painted with their wishes in calligraphy.
Each lantern is priced at around NT150 to NT200 depending on the number of colours on the lantern, and you’ll get to pen down your wishes for yourself and loved ones on all four sides of the lantern before releasing them into the sky. Though there are plenty of different shops selling these lanterns, they are almost all priced the same and the staff would even extend photo and video taking services free of charge to all customers.
According to the locals there, railroad workers working and living here in the past used to release these lanterns as a form of signalling method to inform their family or loved ones of their safety. What ingenuity.
Despite being such a touristy place, the staff from the lantern shops were always full of smiles and agreeable to the different requests by the patrons. Be it taking pictures more pictures or using other camera apps preferred by the customer, I did not see any of the staff rejecting any requests by the customers. Any case of the Taiwanese people’s famed warmth and hospitality on display here.
Fret not if you can only make it to Shifen at night. Most of the lantern shops are open till late. In fact, some tour groups only bring their guests to Shifen at night as there are considerably less people then.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can consider heading towards the Shifen waterfall which is about 20 minutes away by foot. There are plenty of signs pointing you to the direction of the waterfall so all you have to do is just follow them.
There is a temple as well as a rest stop with food and drinks for sale near the waterfall. However I found that the prices at this rest stop were slightly higher than average.
The last train towards Keelung or Taipei departs at 8:48pm daily so be sure not to miss the train otherwise you’ll have to take a taxi back. If you are travelling back to Taipei from Shifen Station, try to avoid the last few trains as they are usually the most packed and you will most likely have to stand for the entire journey.
Shifen Old Street is easily one of my favourite places in Taiwan, I actually liked it so much I came back for a second time during the same trip. Good food, lovely people, cute souvenirs and a perfect place for photography, what is not to like about Shifen Old Street?
Good for: Any day! Just make sure you visit this place at least once during your stay in Taiwan.
3. Yehliu Geological Park (野柳地質公園)
One of the most famous tourist spots in the whole of Taiwan, Yehliu Geological Park is home to a number of unique geological formations found only in this part of the country. Visitors come to this place to marvel at the incredibly beautiful creations of Mother Nature, many of them formed thousands of years ago as geological movements forced the Datun Mountains to jut out into the ocean.
One of the most popular formations at the park is the iconic “Queen’s Head” formation, located near the coastline and sees tourists lining up just to have a picture taken with it.
Entrance to the park is affordable priced at 80NTD, and the park is open till 5:30pm daily.
Good for: That one day where you have time to stay here for the entire afternoon.
There we have it, six places in and out of Keelung which I have personally visited and came to love. Being an avid photographer, each of these six places provided me with ample opportunities to admire the scenery or the people going about their activities. Not to mention that Taiwanese people are probably one of the friendliest, if not the friendliest people I have ever met during my overseas trips. Each of the locals that I spoke to were courteous and sincere in helping me when I asked for information. They are certainly a big part of the reason why I have come to love this country.
I was invited by the people of Keebe Hotel to stay at their premises for a few days. Nevertheless, I will still be as unbiased for this review as possible.
Hotel prices are relatively cheaper compared to prices in Singapore. There are plenty of options when it comes to accommodation in Keelung, from shared hostels and low-end no-frills hotels, to modern hotels that provide breakfast. I usually look at the location, reviews of the hotel as well as the price when choosing my accommodation. Keebe Hotel is located right in the middle of downtown Keelung, and is within walking distance to the famous Miaokou Night Market, Kanzaiding Fish Market, Maritime Square, E-Square Shopping Mall, Zhongzheng Park, Keelung Station and Keelung Bus Terminal.
This hotel is perfect for travelers for the following reasons:
- It has been renovated recently, and thus everything in the hotel is new, modern and clean.
- It is located in the prime Ren Ai district in Keelung and is within 10 minutes’ walking distance to most of the tourist spots.
- Breakfast is provided free of charge and their beef noodles are certainly worth trying.
Let me share with you a few pictures of the hotel.
On the morning of the second day, I went to the basement for breakfast and was greeted enthusiastically by the staff there. What struck me most about this hotel is that whenever you exit or enter the hotel, the staff is always on hand to greet you as you pass by. You can be sure that the kind people at this hotel would be around to help you in any ways possible should you require any assistance. The warmth and kind hospitality of the Taiwanese people are certainly on full display here.
While walking along the streets of Keelung, I found out that the signs to Keebe Hotel are located in a few places in the city.
While they are other choices of accommodation for visitors to Keelung, if you would like to rely on a tried and tested place that ranks as one of the best and most highly rated hotels in Keelung, do check out Keebe Hotel. I checked out their reviews as well on the various hotel booking sites and almost could not spot a single review that did not agree with what I just said above.
Attention all travelers!
Here’s a piece of good news. The kind people at Keebe Hotel would like to extend their promotion to Singapore travelers. Book your rooms through this link (https://rsv.ec-hotel.net/webhotel/0749/rmProducts/bee12/special) and you’ll be given a lower price. No need to book within any specific period, just go to the link and what the prices you see listed are the discounted prices. In any case if you require assistance regarding the booking, do contact the hotel directly via the contact form in their website. They would be more than able to assist you in English.
- Address: No. 215, Ren 2nd Road, Ren’ai District, 200 Keelung City, Taiwan (R.O.C)
- Tel: +886 2 2420-1166
- Website: www.keebehotel.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Good for: Travelers who are looking for a clean and modern hotel located in one of the most convenient places in Keelung.
There you have it, my post on the beautiful places around Keelung that I would highly recommend visitors to Taiwan to consider checking out. Taiwan is a beautiful island country with so much beauty within, that it would be such a waste to not explore outside of Taipei. Rather than making the trip from Taipei to those famous locations listed above, cut down on the extra time required by staying in Keelung while experiencing life outside of a metropolitan city. Keelung is both modern yet still steeped deep in history, it makes for a fascinating story to share with your friends once you return home. Check it out and let me know what you think!