A Photo Tour of Keelung, Taiwan: Port, Fairy Cave and Street Food

keelung port


Not that you could ever run out of things to do in Taipei, but we decided to take a day trip to the nearby port town of Keelung.

Pronounced Jīlóng in Mandarin, the city of Keelung was originally founded by Taiwanese Aboriginals.  When the Spanish arrived in the early 17ᵗʰ century, the city developed into a center for military and commercial trade throughout the Spanish, Dutch, and Qing Dynasty periods of rule on Taiwan. With the arrival of the Japanese in the late 19ᵗʰ century, the port was further developed specifically for trade with Japan as Keelung is located along Taiwan’s Northeast coast.  Keelung’s port eventually grew to eclipse Tamsui and Kaohsiung Harbors. By 1984, the port had become the 7ᵗʰ largest container harbor in the world.



Keelung is a bustling yet peaceful city centered around its port and adjacent downtown area, but there are also natural and cultural attractions nearby.  We were curious about the “fairy cave” we had heard about, and took a quick taxi ride from the train station to visit.


Xiangdong Fairy Cave


photo courtesy http://emmachphotography.blogspot.com

The fairy cave is a Buddhist temple that was originally constructed during the Japanese occupation, and has since been preserved and further developed.  It contains altars and is still actively used for worship. It’s also visited by the occasional tourist interested in seeing the Buddhist relics and carvings that have been built into this cave.

fairy temple buddha


cave gods


cave buddha


fairy altar



 photo courtesy http://emmachphotography.blogspot.com


photo courtesy http://emmachphotography.blogspot.com

About midway into the main part of the cave is a narrow passageway which leads to another small shrine.  Be prepared to duck and make like a pancake– it’s very narrow at one point and also damp, this being a cave after all.


photo courtesy http://emmachphotography.blogspot.com

Back outside, you’ll notice stairs to the right of the main entrance leading up to another temple that was more recently built.  Besides a lot of stairs to climb, there are apparently snakes as well.  I was glad not to have seen any.


Your trek to the top of the few flights of steep steps leads to a small park with an expansive view of the port, as well as a large Buddhist/Taoist temple.




After the Fairy Cave and Temple visit, we rejoined are awaiting taxi driver for the ride back to town.  This was for the original reason why we chose to visit Keelung: to visit what is known as the “best night market in Taipei,” Miaokou Night Market (廟口夜市)— that is saying a lot for Taipei’s well-known night-time street food scene.  Miaokou is one of Taiwan’s more traditional food-focused night markets and is a great place to try local Miaokou is located adjacent to Keelung Harbor and forms the downtown area of the city. 




There are all sorts of traditional treats to try, such as these sugar coated fruit skewers (strawberries and cherry tomatoes).



There are also a lot of stalls selling the abundant seafood from the area.  This includes Japanese-influenced sushi and sashimi as well as sticky rice with crab.  I wish I had had time to try everything, but I’ll be back.



You might recognize the smiling man in the photo on the upper left.  That’s Anthony Bourdain, who featured Taiwan in an episode of The Layover.  The man knows his food!  Near to this stall was my favorite stop of the night, one which sold “Taiwanese Meatball,” which is otherwise known as ba wan in Taiwanese.  These are large dumplings made of pork-based meatballs surrounded by steamed glutinous rice cake and enrobed in a luscious, garlicky brown sauce.  You can garnish with cilantro and chili paste.  I will try to make these and post that recipe if I succeed.  It’s a traditional Taiwanese snack food which is rarely available outside Taiwan.




All in all, the day trip was well worth it.  It’s a more traditional version of Taiwan, kind of a smaller, more relaxed Taipei.

Getting there:

This is an easy, quick, scenic and inexpensive train ride by local train from Taipei.  All aboard!

taiwan rail



Thank you for visiting! I hope you enjoyed this photo tour of Keelung.  Please leave a comment and share this with your friends! 

And come back week for another glimpse of Taiwan!