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January, 16, 2017

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Elsewhere in northern Taiwan
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Travel > Taiwan North > Taipei
A short yet solid hike up Lion Mountain
Driving along the back roads behind Xichi (汐止), midway between the northern cities of Taipei and Keelung, I stumbled across perhaps the oddest signpost I've seen during all my years in Taiwan. I've witnessed my share of unusual-sounding translations, including "Sun Link Sea" and "Water Running Up," but this one took the biscuit.
 
Danshui's war history revealed at Huwei Fort
Conveniently located at the end of the MRT's red line, Danshui is one of the most popular weekend destinations for residents in the Taipei area. The orange Fort San Domingo must be included in any brochure promoting Taiwan and it's arguably the first place you take visiting friends.
 
Keelung's unforgettable caves
Hemmed in by steep hills crowned with the remains of five old forts, Taiwan's northeastern city of Keelung is a much more interesting, even surprising, place than many give it credit for. Still stubbornly best-known for its (very) wet winters and delicious "miaoko" snacks (廟口小吃), there are enough curiosities, historic relics and places of outstanding natural beauty to keep a visitor amused for a day or more.
 
A hidden oasis by the northern city of Keelung
Stick a pin into a map of any part of Taiwan, and chances are there'll be something worth seeing within a stone's throw of it. Real caves worth exploring, however, are one of the few natural attractions in short supply. Luckily, on the outskirts of the northern city of Keelung is Mt. Xiaquo and its hidden stalactite caves.
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Guandu: Bird-watching in Tamshui's nature-rich neighbor
For many, Guandu is just another thank-god-we-are-almost-there MRT stop on the way to Danshui. Yet this town is well worth exploring for two reasons--its riverside marshland ecosystem with plenty of bird-watching opportunities, and the major Matsu temple.
 
Ping Ding Old Canal Trail: Yangmingshan's 'Sleepy Hollow'
The calorie-burning Ping Ding Old Canal trail that cuts through a secluded glen in a thickly wooded, low-elevation corner of Yangmingshan National Park is eerily similar to the setting of Tim Burton's film adaptation of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1999). While the threat of headless horsemen is fairly minimal, there are enough silent, mist-filled trails meandering through dark forest to keep one guessing.
 
View from the top of Mt. Siaoguanyin
On a clear, sunny day, there's nothing quite like the feeling of euphoria and exhilaration (often relief) as you reach the summit of a hill or mountaintop, throw the pack down, turn around and take in the magnificent panorama that unfolds below.
 
Shihsanhang - a trip back to pre-Chinese Taiwan
Shihsanhang (十三行) is the archeological pride of northern Taiwan -- and a pleasant day trip from Taipei within easy reach of the MRT.
 
Hiking on Zhitanshan in Xindian
It was a sunny morning, clearly the beginning of a lovely day, but I still found myself desperately tossing and turning in bed with a dilemma.
 
An alternative route on Mt. Kwanyin
Right about now is one of the best times to visit Mt. Kwanyin (觀音山), across the estuary from Danshui in Taipei County. While countless hillsides throughout Taiwan turned white last month under the annual deluge of white tung blossoms (which seem even more spectacular this year than ever), Mt. Kwanyin doesn't have a very large population of tung trees.
 
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