Yehliu Geopark, Jiufen and Shifen

When I first arrived in Taipei, I came across a day tour to three popular places just outside Taipei. Normally, I make my own way to places I want to visit because quite often you come across other interesting places on the way. However, seeing these three places would require more than one day trip. So, a few weeks ago, I booked a day trip for when I returned to Taipei.

The day had arrived. I had to get to the meeting point in Taipei Main station. It was an early start: I had to get up at 6am, the sort of time reserved for flights. Everyone, to the surprise of the tour guide, made it on time. Very soon we were on the coach off to our first destination.

Yehliu Geopark is famous in Taiwan for its rock formations. These have formed naturally over thousands of years. They generally occur when hard and soft rock form different layers. The soft rock is gradually eroded, leaving behind variously shaped rocks. These rocks can, if you use your imagination, resemble familiar animate and inanimate objects. The most famous is the Queen’s Head rock, which resembles the head of an imaginary queen.

When we finished, we headed towards Jiufen. Coaches didn’t go into Jiufen. Instead, when we got sufficiently close, we took a shuttle bus that ferried people between the coach park and Jiufen.

Jiufen itself is a small town with a market. The most famous building is Amei Teahouse, a Japanese looking building, which may or may not have been the inspiration for a similar looking building in the film Spirited Away.

Our final stop was in Shifen, which has a spectacular waterfall. The village itself is renowned for releasing lanterns. Visitors write messages on the four sides of the large lantern. The lantern can consist of up to four colours. The colours represent things like, health, wealth, and career. After people have had their photos taken with their lanterns, the lantern seller lights the bottom of the lantern, and the well-wishers release the lantern. I don’t know where the lanterns end up, but I overheard someone wondering about the environmental impact.

It had been a long day and when we returned to Taipei, I saw lots of people sitting inside and outside the main station. Some were dressed up. It was a chunk of the Muslim community celebrating Eid, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

I went back to the hostel and cooked a simple meal, which I conjured up the other day. It consisted of quinoa, some broccoli, passata and an extremely hot garlic/chilli paste, which perked up the dish.

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