Postcards from Taiwan - Jiufen and Keelung City

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Before I dive into the solo backpacking trip which I just returned from a couple of days ago, let me at least get the pictures from Taiwan out of the way... It's been six months since I've been there, I know I'm such a procrastinator.

I spent about five days in Taiwan, with three days in Taipei visiting night markets, bookshops (they have quite a couple of amazing quirky stores with a range of photobooks) and grabbing some beers. The remaining two were spent in Keelung.
Anyway, I'll just cover my time in Keelung and Jiufen because my photos from those two locations are my favourites. Heh.

Keelung City 

I got the chance to explore a bit of Keelung city back then because I found a host on couchsurfing. I was planning to stay all five days in Taipei, but I also had a flexible itinerary. Since a host offered to host me in Keelung, I was all up to explore another town.

Although much less popular and touristy than areas like Taipei and Kaohsiung, it was a good respite for two days! I enjoyed their night market the most, because there was much more localfare there.

That being said, there are lesser activities to do in Keelung. Aside from the night market, I mostly visited temples. On the last night, the host also offered to drive me and another fellow couchsurfer to one of the highest points in Keelung to catch the night scenery! Anyway, that whole interacting with locals/other travellers experience was what got me interested in Couchsurfing, and I knew I was going to try it again.

There were direct buses from Keelung to Jiufen, and the duration of the journey is about the same as if it's from Taipei. So off to Jiufen it is!

Jiufen Town

Jiufen has always been on my to-go list ever since I caught the Japanese animation, Spirited Away by Studio Ghibli seven years ago. While the mountainous town is known to ooze the quintessential night market atmosphere that's distinctive to Taiwan, something about its narrow alleyways and rustic shacks just appealed more to me. Anyway, if you have not watched the film, please do give it a shot!

The A Mei teahouse! The muse behind the bathhouse in Spirited Away.

The last time I went to Taiwan was when I was 14. So nine years later, I finally got to see the location that inspired Hayao Miyazaki. The throngs of tourists that came on tour buses aside, I loved Jiufen. The atmosphere changes throughout the different hours of the day, and I'm glad I stayed long enough to see the sunset and the nightfall.

And that's finally all the countries I've covered during my month-long travel last December! Out of Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, of course my bias will always be Japan but I still appreciated and enjoyed the varying cultures I got to experience at each city. Will I go back to Taiwan or South Korea again? Yes, without a doubt.

Taiwan was actually the first time I tried couchsurfing too (despite having a CS account for years), and I had a pleasant experience! My host was a single father with two adorable children, and he went out of his way to make sure I was comfortable during my stay. Although I'm not the most fluent in mandarin, I still had fun conversing with him. He's planning to travel all around the world when his kids have finally grown up, and I just find it admirable that he has all these dreams that he's putting on hold because of his responsibilities as a father.
While I was being hosted at his place in Keelung, I also met a Japanese solo surfer who has been actively travelling. He works as a farmer in Nagano and is about the same age as me. Around the end of Autumn and through winter, he goes on his travels once the harvesting periods are over, and goes back during early spring to start planting the crops again. He says it's because he's young that he can do these hard labour and spend all his earnings on travelling, so he hopes to do so while he still can.

Because of all these stories and culture exchanges I gained from my first couchsurfing experience, I decided to couchsurf again for my recent backpacking trip in May. Of course, CS has also helped me to cut down a lot of expenses for accommodation, but it's also the part about meeting strangers across the globe who you would have never otherwise met if not for your mutual interest in travel. You really start to gain new eyes and see things from so many other perspectives. Or at least, for me, those are my biggest takeaways.

Well anyway, I'll go into more detail about what couchsurfing is and what my other experiences were like in the next post!!

Check out my other travel posts:
▶ 33 Days Around Japan, Korea and Taiwan
▶ Autumn Foilages in South Korea
Postcards from Taiwan - Jiufen and Keelung City

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