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To Taipei's Outskirts: Exploring the Northeast Coast of Taiwan
(Donna Allanigue/ Nov 15, 2018)
Recently, the Taiwanese government has made it easier for Filipinos to visit and explore their little, yet majestic country by granting us visa-free privilege until July 31, 2019. At first, Taiwan wasn’t really at the top of my priority list in terms of the first country I’d like to visit for my first international trip. But, hey, this is where the original Shan Cai and F4 live, so why not give it a try? LOL. In all seriousness, I fell deeply in love with Taiwan in a snap, thanks to the hundreds of photos and posts being shared online documenting the beautiful city of Taipei and its equally charming outskirts.
My friends and I stayed in Taiwan for four nights and three whole days, and we’re lucky enough to visit most of the places we originally included in our otherwise jam-packed itinerary. As much as I want to tell you everything—as in, EVERYTHING (hint: almost missing the flight back home)—about our trip, this post will be about Taiwan’s Northeast Coast and the amazing things that await you in this quaint and picturesque region outside Taipei.
Yehliu-Shifen-Jiufen Tour
I used to think that Taiwan is just another urban jungle like Metro Manila, but its Northeast Coast effortlessly proved me wrong. In fact, while feasting my eyes on the view as I sat in the van, the region’s luscious greenery, rugged terrains, and hints of incredibly rich culture reminded me of our very own Batanes. You see, this is what I love about traveling; you encounter hidden surprises along the way that make you appreciate the little wonders of every destination you visit.

Since our flight was scheduled at midnight, our first night in Taiwan was mostly just about resting and unpacking our baggage. The real adventure started the next morning. We kicked off our first day in Taiwan really early. After eating breakfast in our rented apartment, we headed out and prepared ourselves for a full day trip to Taiwan’s Northeast Coast.
Yehliu Geopark
The first spot we visited was Yehliu Geopark, which is a good 45-minute drive from Taipei. Located within a 1.7 km stretch of cape in Wanli District, New Taipei City, this reserve is home to unique, mushroom-like rock formations that have been shaped naturally by erosion and other extreme weather phenomena over the years. Many of the rock formations here are said to look like ice cream cones, gorillas, and even sweet buns, but none are more famous than the Queen’s Head.
Unfortunately, the place was already crawling with tourists when we arrived and the heat was a bit unbearable that we didn’t get the chance to take a picture with the Queen’s Head. We were content just by looking at it from afar because of the long queue. We took pictures with other rock formations, and that was it. We went back to the entrance to buy some snacks (we tried fried cuttlefish, pork sausages, and fresh fruit juice—they’re really yummy!).

Personally, I think the rock formations are really interesting. Take away all the people and the heat, I bet you’ll feel like you’re in some strange alien planet. After getting some snacks, we headed back to the van for our next destination.
Shifen Old Street
Now, this is one of the experiences I truly looked forward to—the Shifen Old Street sky lantern experience! The place is not that far from Yehliu, maybe just a quick 30- to 40-minute drive away, but you will need to walk for about 15 minutes to get to the old train station where the sky lantern activities take place. Each sky lantern costs anywhere between 150 NTD and 350 NTD, depending on the number of colors (each color represents a certain life essential, such as money, career, and happiness). We opted for a four-color lantern that costs 250 NTD (group price).
It was a fun experience because we got to write our personal wishes on it before releasing it to the sky. The funny part was, the girl who assisted our group strictly required us to do certain poses whenever a specific side of the lantern faced the camera. The overall experience lasted for about an hour, including some pictorial of sorts and snacking along the way.
Shifen Waterfalls
Afterwards, we went straight to the Shifen Waterfalls. It was afternoon and the scorching August sun has started to take a toll on our energy. We didn’t get a proper lunch and instead settled on some snacks while walking towards the waterfalls. To be honest, I was really tired at this point that I could barely move my legs and feet, but I had no choice because we had to walk for at least 20 minutes (including stairs) to get to the falls and another 20 minutes to head back to the van. The falls was nothing short of gorgeous, though. It didn’t disappoint. After taking a handful of pictures, we went back to the van to head to Jiufen.
Jiufen
Jiufen is also a must-visit spot, especially for me because I love Spirited Away! This town is known to be the inspiration for Studio Ghibli’s most famous and award-winning animation masterpiece. It’s also popular for its tea houses and beautiful red Chinese lanterns hanging outside each store. Most of all, it is home to Taiwan’s most popular dishes and pasalubongs, and these, of course, come with free food tasting! We got full just by trying out a free taste of different local snacks and drinks. If you happen to visit this place, don’t miss out on their unique, delicious food! Some of the treats you should try are pineapple cakes, taro balls, peanut ice cream, yakult milk tea, and nougat. I swear, these snacks are BOMB.
Overall, this is probably the one-day tour you should do if you had time for just one during your stay in Taiwan. You’ll find yourself at interesting locations across the country’s Northeast Coast without travelling too far from Taipei. I, for one, enjoyed every stop on this tour, though my favorite was Shifen Old Street (and fine, Jiufen, because of Spirited Away!).
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