November 2008

In Taiwan it rained. It rained constantly. However, the Taiwanese rain seemed remarkably appropriate for the area in which we took an excursion and we didn’t let it bother us in the slightest.

Taiwan Coast

Our first stop was along the coastline from Keelung which gave everyone a chance to get drenched and take some photos of the lush greenery and the impressive rock formations along the shoreline, including one shaped somewhat like a fish that can be in the gallery below as well as in the video.

Fushan Temple

Our bus then took us up into the hills towards Jiufen (or Chiufen) but before we got there we stopped off to visit the Fushan Temple. I would describe its insides as “gaudy” and it was interesting to contrast the brightly coloured interior of the temple with the saturated greys and deep, dark greens of the surrounding Taiwan landscape. The exterior of Fushan Temple included some very nice carvings.

Jiufen

The main destination for our cruise excursion was to the former mining town of Jiufen. Set high in the hills – though not high enough to escape the rain, of course – the town offered some lovely views of greenery-covered landscape across the Taiwan countryside all the way down to the sea. Jiufen itself looked in places to be jutting out of the hilly skyline.

Jiufen was a popular tourist destination and only navigable on foot; the streets were narrow and often stepped, lined on either side by shops catering to visitors. In areas where the awnings and close buildings would blot out the already dingy light it felt like walking around at night. The darkness, the shop smells and noises and lights, and the ever-present deluge pouring out of the sky gave everything a Blade Runner feeling. We loved it.

We got some respite from the rain during a stop at a Taiwanese tea house. Here we were served a small snack and a cup of fresh, green tea all with some wonderful views over the damp countryside. I think this was the first time I’d had green tea and found it surprisingly refreshing. Naturally, not everyone in our tour group had the tea; there was much rolling of eyes as my wife and I sat down only to hear a loud American voice nearby ask if they had any coffee instead. Why would you travel halfway around the world to visit a traditional tea house only to not even try it and demand coffee instead? Americans, eh?

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