Wednesday, May 19, 2010

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Keelung 基隆

5/19/2010 Taiwan Explorer

Keelung 基隆 (pronounced as Jilong in Mandarin and Kelang in Taiwanese), is the biggest and only city on Taiwan's northern coast. It's approximately 1h away from Taipei City, if you take the usual train. Unfortunately the city lacks good traffic connection with the rest of Taiwan, but I've read that the local government strives for the extension of a Taipei MRT line to Keelung (source). Not sure, if that will happen, but it would definitely be great for the further development of this disconnected city. Together with Taipei and New Taipei, Keelung is part of the biggest metropolitan area in Taiwan with nearly 7 million people commonly referred as the Taipei-Keelung Metropolitan area (台北基隆都會區).

The history of the name of the city is pretty interesting. The current pronunciation originates from Taiwanese "kelang" or 雞籠, which means "chicken cage", "hencoop" or "hennery". However, during the Qing dynasty (in 1875), the Chinese characters were changed to 基隆. The current name, which means "prosperous base", but it's pronounced same as 雞籠 (jilong). So only the Characters were changed (and the meaning became more dignified), but the pronunciation is the same (source). Pretty cool, isn't it?

Keelung City today has nearly 400.000 inhabitants and is Taiwan's main northern port and after Kaohsiung, the second biggest port in the country, catering mainly to Taipei City. During my trip to Danshui, I've seen they're building a big port nearby, which means Taipei will have its own port closer to its city center and with a better traffic connection. I wonder what will happen to Keelung's development after that's completed.

Map of Keelung, found near the railway station.

How did I see Keelung? Keelung is one of my favorite Taiwanese cities. I like it, because it's different than the cities and towns south from Taipei. They're mostly huge and spread all over the place, while Keelung is small, squeezed between mountains and the northern coast. Keelung is a real port, a city that lives for the sea and depends on the sea. I like the squarish old city center, which looks like a chessboard. And there's also one of my favorite night markets in Taiwan: The famous Miaokou Night Market. The whole city has a very special feel to it, it's hard to describe. You need to go there and see it for yourself, I highly recommend it to you.

Let's have a small walk around Keelung:

The railway station is not really worthy of such big city.

This is what you see right outside the railway station, taxis everywhere.

The tallest building is the Hua Guan Tower, seen from most parts of the city.

This building is from the Japanese times. Keelung was pronounced Kiirun in Japanese.

The railway station was definitely built after 1945. It looks pretty gloomy.

One of the streets close to the station, which is located in the northwestern part.

Is this Taiwan's Hollywood? Not sure, but it does resemble the Hollywood sign.

A view on Keelung's port.

The green tall building is the Evergreen Laurel Hotel.

A view on the central Keelung. That day the weather was very fickle.

An overpass, which is a good solution, since Keelung desperately lacks space.

The central part of Keelung again. The traffic is bad here during rush hour.

And this is in one of Keelung's suburbs. The city is spread out on various hills.

Keelung is a very interesting city. There is so much to explore and I will do so in the future. If you go, I highly recommend you to visit the Miaokou Night Market. But try to go out of the city to see the nearby Yehliou Geopark, which is one of Taiwan's biggest natural wonders. Keelung will surely capture your heart, it's simply amazing.

Read more of my posts about Keelung:

Yeliou Geopark, travelogue, photos
Keelung at Night, my photos
Miaokou Night Market, my review
Hua Guan Tower, info and photos
Wanli Town, info and photos
Sunset in Yeliou, my photos
Queen's Head, my photos

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