Places: Yonghe

On a cold, rainy Taipei day, I decided I’d had enough of just sitting at home, writing postcards & watching AFL (Aussie Rules Football) on the TV.  So I picked up my Olympus Pen EE-3 and decided to head to Yonghe, just to have a look at a part of Taipei that I’d never been to.

Okay, so there’s nothing special about Yonghe actually.  I know a few people who live there, but that’s about the only connection I have with the place.  It’s very much a residential area, though there is a fairly big market at Yongan Market, as well as the 823 Memorial Park & Taiwan National Library (get off at Yongan Market MRT Station for all these).  Other than that, there’s plenty of small alleys to lose yourself in, you can always go to the riverside park, and as always there’s plenty too eat too!

My excursion took in the three places I mentioned above.  I started with a quick visit to the National Taiwan Library, and a stroll around 823 Memorial Park.  The park is actually quite nice, and I can imagine it would be a really great place to unwind on a sultry summer’s afternoon.  Even on the rainy, miserable Sunday that I went, there were still plenty of old folk gathered to do various activities, especially playing mahjong (and drinking too, go them!)  From there, I just made it my mission to get lost in the maze of alleys that surround the Yongan Market.  The market itself is quite large & you can find almost anything you would need there.  It’s well worth a stroll, especially if you’re looking to find something “different” to include in your next meal.  The alleys around Yonghe are peaceful, and it’s very easy to just keep wandering.  It’s a very different place to the hustle & bustle of Guting or Gongguan, which I am now used to in my day-to-day life.

Yonghe may not even feature on any tourist to-do list, but if you have a day or two free in Taipei, it’s somewhere that you could pay a morning visit to, just to see a slightly different aspect of Taipei city life.

Sight: Yehliu GeoPark

This trip to the Yehliu GeoPark was my first trip to the North Coast of Taiwan.  Getting to the Park is extremely easy from Taipei, however it is one of the “must see” places in Taiwan, and is often crowded with tour groups.  That said, it’s big enough that it’s easy to lose the crowds after some time.

I would really recommend the park for anyone travelling to/around Taiwan with kids – they’ll have an awesome time running among the strange looking rock formations.  It would also be a nice day trip idea for couples looking to get out of Taipei easily.

Entry to the park will set you back NT$50 (students can get in for NT$25).  You can walk all the way to the tip of the peninsula, which stretches out some 1.7km into the Pacific Ocean.  I’m sure it looks amazing on a clear, sunny day (unfortunately I went on the cold & windy type of day).

Neil Wade has listed several ways to reach the park on his blog.  A few other details below:

  • Park Entry: NT$50
  • Bus (from Taipei): NT$96
  • Train (Taipei – Keelung): NT$41 + Bus (from Keelung): NT$30
  • To get to the park from the bus stop takes about 10 minutes walking through a small fishing village.  Follow the blue path.

There’s also Ocean World park next to the park entrance, which has regular shows featuring different sea creatures.  There’s also a good looking market/souvenir place next to the park entrance.

Event: Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

This is one event that I really wanted to see when I was in Taiwan, and I finally got the chance.  It’s a pretty cool day out, and a great experience to send your own lantern flying up into the night sky.  There’s plenty of information around the internet about the festival itself, so I’ll just leave a few pointers on getting there/away & what to expect.  The event is held on 3 separate days, with the final one being on the 15th day after the Lunar New Year.

I’ll say it straight up, expect a crowd.

Getting there: Bus from MRT Muzha or MRT Taipei Zoo Stations (more services from the Zoo).  You can also take the train, but the bus is much more direct. Bus takes ~1hour 20minutes.
**NOTE: Buses will be crowded, so you may be standing the whole way.  If you get motion sickness easily, do take whatever precautions you can.

Once there: There’s a few things you can do while waiting for the night time release of lanterns:

  • Walk the old street in Shifen – it will be crowded, but there’s plenty of street food on offer to keep you from going hungry.
  • People start releasing lanterns from about midday, so you can watch them writing their wishes on them, and letting them go.  They release them in the main street itself, or on the train line (between the houses – couple of pictures below).  Cool to watch the lanterns fly up through the houses.
  • Go for a walk – there’s a few streets that lead off from the main lantern festival area which you can just wander around.
  • Buy, write on, and release your own lantern!!
  • Find a vantage point, so you don’t have to fight for a place to watch the lanterns at night.

Do take some food/water with you, and a picnic blanket too if you want to get a spot early.  People seemed to start staking out places from about 4:30pm, so if you find a good place, keep it in mind & get back there early.

Getting back: The line for the bus will be crazy long, so expect to wait for at least 30 (probably longer) minutes.  There are two lines – for those who want a seat on the bus (longer line), and those who are willing to stand (quicker line, but still really long).  The buses are free, and will take you all the way back to MRT Taipei Zoo station.  Again, if you get motion sickness, take precautions.

Now for the pictures ! 🙂

Crazy long line for the bus home.

Crazy long line for the bus home.

A family release their lantern in the middle of Shifen town.

A family release their lantern in the middle of Shifen town.

Lanterns flying away into the dusk sky.

Lanterns flying away into the dusk sky.