Taiwan’s North Coast: Jinshan 金山

Another popular destination on Taiwan’s North Coast, Jinshan 金山offers beaches, hot springs, and scenic views of the coast. Jinshan District is located north of Keelung 基隆 and is considered part of New Taipei City 新北市.

If you live in  or near Tamsui 淡水, you can take the coastal bus no. 863 right outside Tamsui MRT Station to Jinshan. Bus no. 862 to Keelung also stops in Jinshan. It should take about 1.5 to 2 hours.  If you live anywhere in Taipei city proper or in the southern part of New Tapei, it is probably faster and easier to go to Taipei West Station (Building A), which is within walking distance of Taipei Main Station, and get on Kuokuang 國光客運 bus no. 1815 to Jinshan. The ride all the way to Jinshan should cost around NT$125, but the bus also stops at a number of other popular attractions, such as Yeliu Geopark 野柳地質公園 famous for its unique rock formations, so if you start early enough during the day, you can visit multiple spots along the route.

There is Shitoushan Park, whose trails leads you up to a small pavilion with a view on Jinshan’s famous “Twin Candlestick” rock formation.

11178298_10206076124169391_2910023356645550048_nMaybe think of them as two half-molten candlesticks…

Once you’ve reached the pavilion and taken your pictures, you shouldn’t just head back the way you came from, but continue down the stairs to the south eastern shore of Shitoushan. Eventually, you will reach the end of the paved trail, but you can walk towards Shuiwei Harbor across the rocks lining the coast.

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It’s not a very difficult climb (I managed to do it in flip flops; I had no idea I’d be hopping from rock to rock that day, so I came unprepared), but it’s probably a good idea to wear proper shoes and maybe bring an extra pair of flip flops for the beach.

This trail might be closed off during winter or when the weather is bad or the rocks are under water, but when it’s open, it’s definitely worth it. I’d go so far as to say it was the best part of the Jinshan trip. You can also access the strip of rocks from Shuiwei Harbor.

10371952_10206076157210217_5895954102222354823_nThe rocky southeastern shore of Shitoushan is a popular spot for artists who come here to paint the scenic landscape.

11164806_10206076149330020_6900902717987128981_nI can certainly see why.

 Once you’ve passed the artists, you make your way through this crack in the rocks, and you’re on your way to good food:

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Around nearby Shuiwei Harbor, there are several restaurants offering fresh sea food. Most of the food is on display, so if you don’t speak or read Chinese, you can just point at things, and they will cook them for you.

0427_5This is a bowl of huge fresh cooked oysters with eggs. Take note that the portion sizes are pretty big by Taiwanese standards, so one dish plus rice (which is usually free) is plenty for two people.

There is a long strip of beach right next to Shuiwei Harbor, which you can access via a bridge:

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I don’t know if it’s suitable for swimming – when we were there in late April, nobody was in the water. A lot of the beaches in Taiwan have dangerous currents, so don’t go in the water even if it seems calm unless you know it’s safe. There’s another more famous beach on the other side of Shitoushan called Zhongjiao Beach, which is popular with surfers for its high waves. Then, of course, there’s this:

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Both beaches are located in a nuclear evacuation zone. In case something ever goes wrong at No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant. Nothing says “Have fun at the beach” like a nuclear alarm sign and evacuation plan in an earthquake and tsunami zone. Somehow, Taiwan loves to put its power plants next to its most popular beaches. Whenever I see a beach, I always play a game called “Spot the nearest nuclear power plant.” But then again, maybe if you live on an island with over 1000 Chinese nuclear warheads pointed at you at any time, a tiny radiation leak at the beach might be the least of your worries.

There are a number of facilities in Jinshan that are run by the district’s Youth Activities Center. This including a large hot spring bath, the largest in Southeast Asia, according to the Center’s own website.

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Jinshan Youth Center is housed in this scary-looking fortress. The bath is not located in the same building, but it’s close by, so if you can’t find it, the people at the Center will be able to point you in the right direction. At NT$300, the entry fee for the hot spring isn’t cheap, but the bath offers a large number of different pools as well as a steam room, and you can stay the entire day. We almost had the whole bath to ourselves, which was a nice alternative to the chronically crowded tiny public hot springs in Beitou. If you forgot to bring your swim suit, you can buy one here for ca. NT$600-800.

Most (all?) of the buses to and from Jinshan, including both the coastal line (863) and the Kuokuang bus (1815) have their terminal station at the Youth Center, so this is a good spot to get on and off the bus. You can also catch a bus to Keelung from here, which is closer to Jinshan than Taipei City proper, to finish the day with a snack (or two, or three) at Miaokou Night Market.

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