Monday, November 25, 2013


I went to Jinguashi just a few months ago, but I decided it was worth visiting again to see the golden waterfalls I had missed on my last trip.

Jinguashi (金瓜石) is a quaint mountain town in the Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan. It is known for it's historic gold and copper mines. It is situated on Keelung Mountain (基隆山).  right next to the coastline, which makes for exquisite views. It is known as Kinkaseki in Japanese from the period when it was under Japanese control. It was used as a POW camp from 1942 to 1945.

Arrangement of houses in Jinguashi. The Cyuanji Temple with the Guan gong deity on top is in the top right side
Arrangement of houses in Jinguashi. The Cyuanji Temple with the Guan gong deity on top is in the top right side
I took the Yilan express train to Ruifang (Taipei Padu- Rueifang- Ilan- Suao). The last time I was here with Andy, we took a taxi to Jinguashi, which costs about NT$240. This time I opted for the bus (On these busy narrow mountain roads, taking a taxi doesn't seem to be any faster).  To get to the bus stop, walk out of the station, cross the pavilion, and cross the road. There is a bus stop there. The bus does not stop here on weekends, so if you are there over a weekend, turn left and continue walking to the next bus stop. The sign on the bus will say "Jinguashi (金瓜石)."  There are also buses from both Taipei and Keelung which go to Jinguashi and Jiufen.  I took the bus all the way from Taipei a few years ago on a trip to Jiufen. It was a crazy ride, and I wouldn't recommend this to people with weak stomachs. If you dare, you can go to bus stop by Zhongxiao-Fuxing MRT station, exit 1. The bus will be from the Keelung Bus Company and say "Jinguashi (金瓜石)."

Gold Ecological Park (黃金博物館區)

The bus stops right by the Gold Ecological Park, which is the main attraction for visitors here. The small park preserves and reproduces the town's mining heritage to recreate the atmosphere of 1930s Taiwan. It includes a gold museum and a number of renovated residences from the Japanese Colonial Era. The excellent translations around the park and incredibly helpful information centre make for an extremely tourist-friendly destination.

Entrance to Benshan Tunnel

The first building on the route is the Japanese ‘Four-Joined’ Style Residence, an old typical Japanese-style Residence from when Taiwan was still a Japanese colony. I hear it is interesting inside, but I gave it a miss as there was a long queue outside both times I walked past, and there were many other things I wanted to see.

Further along the route is the Crown Prince Chalet, another traditional Japanese style house once occupied by Emperor Hirohito. The interior of this house is off-limits, but the beautiful garden complete with a small golf course and archery range is worth seeing.

The Museum of Gold (黃金館) is in the former offices of the Taiwan Metal Mining Corporation. The first floor contains numerous artifacts from the town's mining history, including tools, mining transport systems, and cultural artifacts. On the second floor of the Gold Museum you can see various products made of gold and the world's largest gold brick. You can even touch this 220 kilogram pure gold brick!

The Benshan Fifth Tunnel (本山五坑),  is an abandoned mine next to the Gold Museum.  It is an interesting place to learn more about the daily activities of miners. There is a $NT50 entrance fee. Benshan used to be called "Dajingua" (大金瓜), which means "big pumpkin" in Chinese. The discovery of gold here was the catalyst for the prosperous development of Jiufen and Jinguashi. The tunnel is a real life example of what it was like to work below ground.

The area outside the Geological Park is also visitor-friendly, with many scenic walkways, trails for mountain climbing, as well pagodas and benches to take a rest and enjoy the view.

Cyuanji Temple

The Cyuanji Temple was built in 1896. It boasts having the largest statue of Guan Gong (關公)—the God of War—in the world on its roof. The gold and bronze Guan Gong statue weighs more than 25 tons.  

Some of the pagodas offer a wonderful view of the bay below. You can also see the Ying-yang sea.  This is a strange sight  where the sea is a mix of yellow and blue.  It was believed that the sea color was the result of smelting activities from Taiwan Metal Mining Corp. But, the company stopped activity there over 10 years ago and the Yin-yang Sea is still there. Scholars say that the land in Jinguashi has a large amount of pyrite that has formed Fe3+ which does not dissolve easily in water. This forms iron ion particles which float into the sea.

Souvenir steel lunchbox from one of the diners at the Geological Park

After walking around the park, I took a bus down to the Gold waterfall. The waterfall on the golden earth is one of the sources of the Ying-yang sea.  The heavy rain seeps into the mine shafts through cracks in the rocks, and reacts with the pyrite and energite underground, undergoing oxidation reduction to become acidulous water. It is a spectacular sight. It's best to see it after heavy rains for the full effect.

Golden waterfall on a mountain
Gold Waterfall at Jinguashi
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:

There are a few other sights around Jinguashi that should be seen. I will return again soon to take photos of these other places. If you decide to take a trip here, don't forget to just spend some time walking around the mountain paths and trails.

For more information about the Gold Ecological Park, visit their website:

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Feitsui Reservoir in the Pingling District

After leaving Shiding, I was still intent on getting to Shifen before the light faded.  Shifen appeared to be on highway 106 after Pinglin. However, when I reached the Pinglin District, I realized I had gone onto Route 9 at some point as I was only 16 kilometers away from Xindian.

The Pinglin District (坪林區) is the third largest district in New Taipei City, Taiwan. It's a rural area in the mountains which connect to Yilan County on the east coast. It took about 20 minutes to get there from Shiding by scooter. I think this was Yongan village.

Buddhist Guanyin Statues protecting a dangerous part of the road to Pinglin
Buddhist Guanyin Statues protecting a dangerous part of the road to Pinglin
I decided that rather than backtrack and try find the route to Shifen, I'd have a look at the beautiful reservoir with an emerald surface I saw from the road. There were no safe places to stop along the highway, but I finally found an entrance to the reservoir itself.

It turned out to be the  Feitsui Reservoir, which  flows all the way from the Fetsui Dam (翡翠水庫)  in the Shiding District.  The Feitsui Dam spans the Xindian River and is one of two major reservoirs supplying water to the Taipei-Tamsui-Taoyuan region. The other is Shimen Dam in Taoyuan County. This hiking and bicycling area around Pinglin is one of the few places the reservoir is publicly accessible.
The enchanting views of these serpentine bright emerald green waters among the steep hills and tea farms is quite spectacular.

 To get there directly from Taipei, ride along Route 9 from Beishin Road in Xindian. Or to go through Shenkeng, and Shifen, take Route 106 from near the Taipei Zoo in Muzha.

To learn more about interesting places and sights to visit in Taiwan, check out my list of Places to see in Taiwan

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shiding (石碇區)

It's winter time here, but today was an unexpectedly great day weather-wise. So I decided to head out and make the most of the good weather before the winter rains start. They usually don't stop for a month or so. I wanted to go see Shifen, which I have heard lots of good things about. However, on the way there I stopped at Shiding and Pingling which took up most of the day.

This was my first time in the Shiding District (石碇區), despite it being only an hour away from Taipei. Shiding (literally "stone anchor") is a wonderful rural district in the mountains in southern New Taipei City, Taiwan. The area was developed during the Qing Dynasty, presumably for tea farms. The town had a boom in its development when coal was found there during the period of Japanese occupation.
Beautiful rock formations under Wanshou Bridge in Shiding, Taiwan
Beautiful rock formations under Wanshou Bridge in Shiding, Taiwan
Shiding used to be an important distribution point for local of local products. The logistical advantage it had declined when the Taipei-Yilan Freeway opened. But, the tea plantations still remain an important industry there. Shiding recently began to host the local Shiding Oriental Beauty Tea Festival in an attempt to attract more people to Shiding.

These days Shiding is a peaceful town, where tourists can relax at coffee plaza, walk around Shiding Old Street, and try the famous tofu. There are some interesting things to see that are unique to Shiding such as the suspended architecture and the last old blacksmith.

Shiding Old Street

Wanshou Bridge, which is built entirely out of stone, divides Shiding Old Street into the East and West streets. On the west Street is Jishun Temple Square and on the East street is Bujientien Street, stone houses, century-old Wang’s Tofu and Fubou Restaurant.

Diaojiaolou and Bujientien Street

The unique Diojiaolou (“Suspended" or "Hanging Houses”) are the first thing you see when coming into Shiding.  Due to the limitations of building houses in mountainous areas, the people living there had to suspend a part of the house in order to build their houses in a good location. Which is why the houses facing the stream on Shiding’s East Street are supported by beams. This unique architecture is a remnant from the Japanese colonial period.  

The covered passage between the houses on Bujientien Street result in the sunlight never reaching there. The name "Bujientien" means literally "do not see the light of day."

Diojiaolou Suspended Houses in Shiding
Diojiaolou Suspended Houses

Jishun Temple

Jishun Temple (No. 9, Shiding West Street, Shiding District, New Taipei City) is an important religious center for the people of Shiding. The temple enshrines Ludongbin (or Divine Emperor of Broad Protection) on the second floor. Ludongbin is known as the god of coal as this area was originally used for coal production. In the days when Shiding was an important distribution center, tea buyers and tea vendors used a tiny square in the courtyard of the temple as a tea market.

The Century-old Stone House

The Century-old Stone House, (No. 53, Shiding East Street, Shiding District, New Taipei City ) built in 1905, is just over Shiaochen Bridge. The first floor of the stone house displays traditional appliances and kitchen utensils.

Eating in Shiding, Taiwan

Wang’s Tofu is a hundred-year-old restaurant. It uses Shiding's pure mountain spring water in its traditional ancient tofu making process. Wang’s tofu doesn't contain any unnecessary artificial ingredients, so the pure scent and flavor of the soybeans is sealed inside each delightful piece of tofu. I found the sweet scent of tofu enveloping the streets due to the bean curd dessert and soy milk that Wang’s Tofu sell over weekends.

Fubou Restaurant is popular with tourists for its local Taiwanese dishes, such as, "White Chicken,” “Tofu Eaten 3 Ways,” and “Thee-Layer Pork.”  The tofu here is also made using Shiding’s pure mountain spring water and traditional methods, which gives it a slightly charred flavor. 

Shiding Danlan Art and Culture Hall

I didn't go in here but plan on going back soon to check it out. Shiding Danlan Art and Culture Hall  is an exhibition showcase for local culture and historic groups and artists as well as ecological industries.  Many artists have made a name for themselves here, resulting in more and more people visiting the culture hall, turning it into Shiding’s most famous tourist attraction. 

So for anyone in or visiting Taipei, I recommend taking a trip to Shiding. It only takes about an hour to get there by bus or train. Going from Shenkeng to Shiding to Pingling makes for a great daytrip and pretty easy to do with buses.

To see more of my photos of Taiwan, please visit

To learn more about interesting places and sights to visit in Taiwan, check out my list of Places to see in Taiwan