Over our Christmas break we headed off for an afternoon drive. We didn’t have any firm destination, and being a bit disorganised set off fairly late after lunch. But within 45 minutes of driving north we hit Taiwan’s spectacular Northeast coast.
I had heard about the beauties of Taiwan’s Northeast coast in tourist propaganda, but had thought it must be overrated. So it was a pleasant surprise to be proved totally wrong.
We kept driving along the narrow coastal road, dodging cyclists and trucks. Thankfully there were not too many tourists, but this may have been because we visited mid-week and in winter. After twenty minutes or so we saw what looked like a giant Greek-inspired marina complex at Four Seasons Bay (四季灣), and stopped to take a look.
The view from Four Seasons Bay was simply stunning. Other than a few people searching for shellfish on the rocks, the bay was pretty much deserted. The complex had unfortunately seen better days. In its hey-day it would have been a center for all sorts of sea activities including scuba diving. There were also several fresh-sea swimming pools, which had also seen better days and were closed. It was a pity: I would have liked to have come back in summer to swim in the dark blue ocean. We walked around on the wooden board walks for a while, and just admired the view out across the bay.
We walked up onto the first floor of the complex to have a look. We couldn’t see anything open: not even a cafe or bathroom. It looked like a ghost town, and reminded me of the deserted theme-park in the movie ‘Spirited Away’. The really strange part was that as we drove away we suddenly heard a loudspeaker announcement, with an upbeat female voice suggesting people go to the second floor of the complex for coffee. We checked again as we drove out and still couldn’t see anything open, so decided it must either be a pre-recorded message or else someone really desperate for business. Either way, we didn’t stay to check it out.
We headed around 50 meters back towards Keelong, and decided to make a detour to a small temple on the hill (新興宮, xinxinggong). What a serendipitous discovery! Not only was the view from the cliffs even more spectacular, but the temple marked the entrance to a scenic walk around the Cape Bitou (鼻頭角). So we headed out to walk to the top of the cliff and back. Had we more time, we could have gone further and walked the length along the cape and out to the lighthouse. But we didn’t want to drive (or walk) in the dark so didn’t venture too far. Richard Saunders has written about his more detailed walk on his site, which I recommend to anyone who plans to visit.
The view from the top of the cliff was even more stunning than down at Four Seasons Bay. It was a perfect midwinter sunset, and we could not have timed our visit better if we had tried. We will definitely come back for a longer walk soon.
Did you notice that the cliffs are quite steep? We laughed at this sign! Surely people would know not to jump off the cliff?
Even stranger was a van manned by the local fire department, with firies sitting next to bundles of safety vests and helmets. At first we thought that they must be doing a safety and rescue drill. But no, their job was to hand out safety equipment to recreational fishermen. Rock fishing is popular in this area, and several fishermen were perched precariously on the rocks at the base of the cliffs. The two young firemen on duty seemed bored and frustrated: although they were handing out free safety equipment, not many fishermen availed themselves of the offer. They said there were around two to three fatalities from rock fishing a year. The fishermen do not realise how strong the waves can be. Basically no-one could survive the impact if a big wave swept them off the rocks, especially without head protection. So all the firemen can do is recover the bodies.