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March 16, 2018

Hong Kong your next port of call ?

Hong Kong (one day at sea away from Keelung) and Okinawa (some ships make the crossing overnight) are often the ports that you have either been to or are going to next. My friends often ask me for advice on 'what to do' on their own for a few days in Hong Kong in conjunction with the cruise. Around the time of the establishment of the HK Special Administrative Region, we used to live in Happy Valley, with a view of the racecourse. We still visit and have good friends in Hong Kong. and over the years we kept notes of where to go.

So here is a map to help you on the way, showing you popular places on Hong Kong island, Kowloon, the New Territories and even a quick hydrofoil trip to Macau's casinos. You can use the MTR metro, bus, and double-decker tram. Let me know if you're missing anything?



March 14, 2018

A trip along the Coast - on your own

Keelung's train station South Terminal is a good place to start any tour on your own. From your ship, it's an interesting ten-minute walk along the waterfront. You'll soon find the "hop-on / hop-off" Tourist Bus T99 in front of the station, near the Keelung Tourist Information office which sells the tickets. Day tickets are NT 50 per route direction for a round trip.

So for NT 50-100-150 you can travel all along the Keelung coast, West between Keelung-Yehliu and East from Keelung-Ruifang- and as far as Fulong beach, and back. The T99 bus (same number for both routes) drops you off at the Maritime Plaza in sight of your ship, as do many of the regular buses.

Go West first ! to Yehliu, to see the Queen's head at the geopark, which already opens at 08:30. Check out the Dawulun area stops. Then return to Keelung, have lunch in the night market (yes it is always open).

Go East and travel along the coast to Ruifang train station. Switch to the Gold Fulong shuttle bus if you want to go much further along the coast to Fulong beach (a one hour trip each way if you have the time) and pass by Jiufen Old Street, Jinguashi Gold Museum, Golden Waterfall. Buy your ticket at the OKmart next to the Ruifang train station square.

If Jiufen or Jinguashi is your destination then take local bus 788 from Ruifang which ends in Jinguashi and passes by the Gold Museum. Most shops open by 11 am - so this is a good route for the afternoon until sunset. You can take the 788 bus all the way back from Jiufen to the Keelung night market stop, next and final stop is Maritime Plaza.

Cost for two sections on a regular bus is NT 30, takes about 50 minutes. Higher frequency, but more stops on this local commuter alternative. It follows that you could take the 788 (same number) from Keelung via Ruifang to Jiufen, but you may have to stand part of the way on winding roads.

On the plus side: the T99 bus will save you time as it only stops at our area's interesting tourist spots, which are otherwise hard to reach. I have marked them in orange (West), purple (East) and gold (To Fulong) on my map.

On the minus side, it is a chicken and egg story: current low demand versus low frequency (and the fact that the East route does not reach Jiufen anymore) - so you must time your visits, or fill the gap with a really local bus ride making many stops. In that case, you must always flag down the bus at the stop and pay the local fare of NT 15 per section. You can also travel by train from Keelung to Ruifang, but you must change trains at Badu. It's slightly faster with more seats, if you catch the trains on time.

Download the 'Keelung Bus Timetable' app to your mobile device to help you keep an eye on the buses and places around you.



January 4, 2018

Taipei on your own

Keelung's port has a very unique location: where else can your ship get right into the city center? Here is some help with the next step: disembark and Go to Taipei on your own

The city is just 40-50 minutes away by train and bus, almost all signs are bilingual and there are many helpful and friendly locals to keep you on the right path.

Have a look at the map, the best pattern to follow is
  • Keelung-Taipei Main station as the furthest point, by train or buses 
  • Visit the city by metro and city bus, working your way toward the modern Xinyi district and the
  • Taipei City Hall Bus Transfer Station (a 10-minute walk from Taipei 101) for your return to Keelung by intercity bus.
You'll find the train to Taipei most convenient with high capacity and seats always available when all cruise passengers are trying to go to town. The buses are recommended for the return as their departures in the afternoon are frequent, spread out over time and not that busy. At the bus transfer station, you have them all at a few gates next to each other so you can take the first available bus back.

Study the map for the destinations you prefer. Leave town about 90 minutes before your intended return on board and you'll have time to spare for a stroll in the Keelung night market - which is always open at Ren 3rd road for delicious local food. A ten-minute walk to/from the ship.



You can find the full map and explanations here and turn off the layers you don't need. Feedback and questions are always welcome!

February 17, 2017

Keelung's Yellow Duck adventure

Ever wondered why there are so many rubber ducks on sale in Keelung?

Here is your answer: for Chinese New Year 2014 some in city hall thought it was a great idea to have a giant rubber duck in port. Designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, these ducks had become popular in Southeast Asia. There already had been some trouble with strong winds in Kaohsiung, so they set about adjusting the flotation device to a locally made submerged barge. So far so good.

After one week the duck became quite smudged by the soot deposits of heavy fuel oil burned by ships - so they scrubbed down the duck. When the weather finally improved on December 31, 2013, my husband and I decided to come down from our mountain view of the port to go have a look for ourselves. Alas, on the taxi ride down to the Maritime Plaza the news spread quickly - the duck had split open and deflated. "Forgot to install a pressure vent" for the expanding air on a first sunny day... Sorry ! Bu Hao Yi Si as they love to say here when things go wrong, bowing profusely.

Life goes on: to spin out this grand theme, the city then installed a giant Yellow Chicken ashore. After all, the city's name was literally spelled "Chicken Cage" until the Qing empire changed the characters in 1875 to read "Prosperous Base"...

Looked too much like Hofman's borrowed bathtub idea ? No problem - mei wen ti: 沒問題 (Mei2 Wen4 Ti2) so we ended up with a "black chicken". Giant Inflatables are still a craze in Taiwan for any occasion, to make things ever so cute.



December 2, 2015

Night image of Taiwan

Such a remarkable picture from the International Space Station ! On a cruise and rounding Fuguei cape - the northernmost point on the island, you'll see the hundreds of squid fishing boats with their very bright lights. Using their GPS they stay clear of the shipping lanes. Keelung is on the North coast in the center, Kaohsiung on the left in the South.


Oblique Night Image of Taiwan and China

April 24, 2013

Caledonian Sky, Keelung 18th April 2013


From our apartment on the hills, this ship looked so small compared to the container vessels coming into port all day. So we took a closer look at the Caledonian Sky just before departure at 8 pm.

Finally a ship that doesn't dwarf our Harbor Bureau... Just over 100 British and German passengers were on board, enjoying a break in the rainy weather we've had for most of this month. Hope to see more of such specialty cruise ships of Noble Caledonia !

April 8, 2013

Ocean Dream

   
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On a typical Keelung rainy day - on December 18, 2012 it looked as if a Costa ship had changed colors...  was I dreaming ? Not quite: the funnel of the 'Ocean Dream' was a 2001 retrofit of the original 'Tropicale' built in 1981 for Carnival cruise lines, which featured their red-white-blue-whale-tail like funnel.

It was the first new cruise ship built, setting a trend at the time. It still has the looks, but is missing the now so familiar private balconies, and since the launch ships have grown so much in size. Operated with a yellow funnel until 2005 by Costa.

Now the former cruise ship sails on trips around the world for Peace Boat, an international non-government organisation based in Japan. Previous visits of this group were by the 'Oceanic' in May 2012, and much earlier by the 'Topaz'. Both vessels have been scrapped since. Hope to see this historic ship again !