When the tide goes out, Laomei's Algal Reef emerges from the sea
By Steven Crook, Special to The China Post April 13, 2006, 12:00 am TWN
Geological and natural oddities can be found at several points along Taiwan's north coast. The best known is Yehliou (野柳), which for many years has been a popular tourist destination. Laomei in Taipei County's Shihmen Township (石門鄉老梅) also has special coastal features, and you're unlikely to encounter large crowds here.
Laomei Algal Reef (老梅海岸), which is visible only at low tide, is a few minutes' walk east of Fuguei Cape (富貴角), Taiwan's most northerly point.
Water erosion has cut grooves and troughs into the bedrock here. The humps that run down to water are covered with several layers of dark green algae. When the algae die, their limestone skeletons remain in place, and new algae grows on top of them. The result is enchanting — like mountain boulders covered with moss, yet somehow much more impressive — and seen in very few other places.
This is a popular spot with photography enthusiasts. Apart from my companion and I, and four or five anglers, there were just two people near the reef on the weekday morning we visited; both were taking photos.
Laomei is a compact settlement that is not conspicuously prosperous. A few shops sell daily necessities. There are no factories or office buildings, and many of the residents are elderly.
If you're coming by car, do not attempt to park in Laomei itself, where the streets are very narrow. Park instead near Fuji Fishing Harbor (富基漁港), on the other side of the cape.
Taiwan Highway 2 runs just inland of Laomei, and buses on this road are frequent. Services between Danshui (淡水) and Jinshan (金山) and Danshui and Keelung stop here. One-way bus fare from Danshui to Laomei is NT$50; the journey takes around 40 minutes.
If you're coming by bus, consider getting off in Laomei, then walking from the reef to Fuguei Cape and its old-fashioned lighthouse. The central part of the cape is off-limits — the military radar domes here are visible from some distance away.
On foot, it's another ten minutes or so from the lighthouse to Fuji Fishing Harbor. The choice of fresh seafood here is comparable with Budai (布袋) in Chiayi County. Lobsters, crabs, sea urchins and other creatures try to escape from plastic tubs and basins. As in Budai, there are several restaurants where you can eat lunch or dinner.
To ensure you don't make a wasted journey and arrive when the tide is high, check tide times on the English-language part of the Central Weather Bureau's website, www.cwb.gov.tw. Click on "marine," then "tidal prediction." Click on "Shihmen" on the map to see tide details for the days ahead.