Monday, May 5, 2008

Day 5

Day 5: Sun, Jan 21. Fetsuiwan to Keelung. 5 hrs.
This day was spent with my buddy Don. We bussed in and got started at about 12.30pm. Our first act was to cut through a cemetery on the way to the beach, arriving at the futuristic “bubble homes” which are part of the Howard Resort, but are now in a sorry state, looking quite neglected and moldy. We got onto the beach, followed it along for a bit, and then had to come back onto the road. We trudged past a few failed-looking beach recreation set-ups, a small fish port, and then a striking rock formation right next to the water. It was a black wave-cut platform, running along the coast. A wave-cut platform is when all the soil and sand is stripped off the land by wave action, exposing the underlying bedrock. They are of course usually right next to the sea and are often tidal. Along Taiwan’s coast they are fairly common, but this one had unusually straight ridges running from the shore out to sea. It almost looked as if the whole area had been sculpted by humans. Next, we noticed that the main road to Keelung went inland, so we nipped under a bridge to get to a smaller, sea-hugging road. Then, a sign announced that we had arrived in Keelung township. Shortly thereafter, we came across a cute, tidy little beach, tucked in right next to a fish port, which was quaintly named, “The Only Beach in Keelung.” Climbing up a hill just after the beach, there was an artistic representation of a boat made out beer bottles! The road carried on, and soon the scenery became more industrial. We were approaching the important port of Keelung. There were huge oil storage tanks on the hills, and the stacks of the power plant loomed impressively ahead. We came to a fish port in the middle of this, and then the road took us away from the sea. There was no way to go forward along the coast, as the power plant lands were off limits. The road took us into the dingy, mossy outskirts of Keelung, which looked even dingier on this gray day. It really seemed like a town that is always gray and wet. We kept going along through town, passing several tunnels into the hill that now separated us from the sea, unsure if we could or should follow them. Very near the harbor, we found a tunnel with walkways. We followed it to the main port area, which was lined with massive container terminals. And then we made an unexpected discovery. Walking up the west side of Keelung port, we came across the Siandong Temple, which is in a natural cave. Outside the temple is a large gold Buddha, and inside there are Buddhist and traditional Chinese idols. But the really interesting thing about the temple is its odd internal structure. It’s quite strange and beautiful inside, due to the curving, sea-carved walls. There is a side-cave that narrows until it seems almost impassable. My friend Don is smaller than me and he managed to shove himself through. I am a bit claustrophobic, so I went half way but then chickened out on my first attempt. Then, ashamed, I went back and did it. I had to crawl the last seven meters on my hands and knees. At the end, it opens up into an small, airless, incense filled room, with a small shrine to Buddha. [Near this cave-temple there is another place of interest, the Buddha Palm-print cave, but we didn’t notice it that time.]
Moving on, we followed the portside road to a hill, upon which is an old Ching dynasty battery. It offered a nice view of the way we had come earlier, which was great because I want to have continuity of vision of the coast as much as possible on this trip. Then, we walked through Keelung to the night market, and enjoyed the fine food. Getting back to Taipei was easy of course, and we headed off to enjoy the Tavern’s happy hour with friends.

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