Time: 40 minutes
Difficulty: 1/10 – as long as you can manage a few steps you can do this.
Total ascent: 69m
Water: 0.5L – on a cool day you could probably get away without carrying any.
Shade: not much shade here, we went near dusk so I didn’t fry even though I didn’t have an umbrella.
Mobile network: good
Enjoyment: 5.5/10 – the views here are really lovely but the path is very heavily constructed, the shortness and easiness of the route also means that it’s a really popular spot.
Link to downloadable version available here.
We arrived at the car park next to the northwestern park entrance in the law afternoon, (there’s another entrance at the western tip of the park which would add another 800-900m to the total length of the walk). There are noticeboards and a big marker sign at the start of the trail so you definitely cannot miss it.
The first section climbs up a pedestrian road. As you reach the top you connect to a path which leads up to the westernmost peak of the park – it has been called the “Good Luck Trail”. I asked my companions if there was any reason but they couldn’t come up with anything more insightful than “because there is a statue there”.
Looking south you can catch sight of Wanli District Xia Liao Beach (万里区下寮沙滩). We’d wandered along there earlier in the afternoon watching the ghost crabs dash from the surf to the safety of their burrows and trying to lure the sand worms out by poking them with a dead fish.
The geographical location of this piece of land meant that it has been taken advantage of by the military in the past. The area was first used by the Japanese army after war broke out in 1941, the nearby port of Keelung was a major military base so Shitoushan became a strategic defense point. They built batteries where they installed cannons, gun emplacements, several pillboxes and a tunnel. Most of these structures are still here but since the grass has reclaimed some, not all of them are visible – the most obvious being the barracks surrounded by trees.
As it heads out to sea, the road narrows to become a path.
Since we went at dusk we were lucky enough to see the evening sun picking out details over Huangguang harbour to Jinshan Beach and the Datun mountain range beyond. The harbour takes its name from the river which runs into the sea at this location, Huang River, and the river itself is named because of the hot sulphuric springs in the area. To make things even more exciting, there were heavy rain clouds over the hills giving everything a dramatic sickly yellow-grey light.
There are a couple of bright red pavilions near the far edge of the cape where people stop to view the two candlestick rocks. Once joined to the cape itself, these two pillars were formed after the sea eroded away the rock connecting them to land. There is a sad-sweet local story about these which reminded me of the story told about amah rock in Hong Kong. In the past, (as is still partially true now), the local residents of Jinshan area relied on the seas to provide food for the family. Many men worked as fishermen, a job which was filled with dangers. When her husband didn’t return one day, the wife of one of these fishermen waded out into sea to try and spot him but she couldn’t, she was worried, but this kind of thing sometimes happened and the boats would come bank in the morning. The next day when he still hadn’t come home she went back out to sea to wait for him. As time passed, she spent longer and longer stood in the waters, waves lapping at her calves, eyes scanning the horizon until eventually she turned to stone. Unlike in the Hong Kong story, her husband had survived the storm which dragged his boat away from the safety of the port, but by the time he returned it was too late. When he asked the villagers where his wife had gone they seemed uncomfortable and their eyes darted towards the stone figure in the bay. Understanding what this meant, the grief-stricken fisherman ran into the shallow waters and embraced the stone that was once his wife. Over time, he too turned to stone and it is the remains of these two that can be seen standing in the water to this day.
At the last pavillion a small gate marks the path down to the shore – I was up for going down there but my companions were feeling hungry so they gave it a miss. I think it’s probably worth it though, you can find out what’s down there on this site.
On the return journey we decided to detour on one of the smaller paths (the one right next to the camouflage decorated pillboxes). It’s signposted as going to Shuiwei Fishing Harbour but we didn’t go that far. We took the first right, before the pavillion signposted as going towards the exit.
This path was considerably quieter than the main one and the only signs of life we saw were the skinks and tree lizards darting out of our way.
We passed a couple of right turns and continued straight until the steps rejoined the main path and from there it was just a case of retracing our steps down to the car park.
How to get there
Google maps address: 號金山獅頭山公園步道, 208, New Taipei City, Jinshan District, Wenquan Road, 229
Public transport: the 1815 bus goes from Taipei main station (passing all five stops on the blue line between there and City hall), then heads out to Keelung along the coast. From memory you need to go into the bus station waiting room to purchase a ticket for this one, (I may be wrong though).
My new words learnt on this hike:
- 自己以為 / zìjǐ yǐwéi / similar to selfish or arrogant, think only of one’s self
- 機掰 or 機歪 or just GY / jī wāi / bullshit, or similar, quite strong and can be used to describe a person – maybe the literal translation is something like ‘dick out’ – which if you can imagine someone waving their member around is quite offensive and ridiculous.
- 鄰居 / línjū / neighbour
- 狗腿 / gǒu tuǐ / literally this means ‘dog leg’, but it can be translated as ‘brown noser’ or ‘arse licker’, there’s a folk story behind this one but I’ve forgotten it.
- 賤人 / jiàn rén / bitch – as you can see, my company on this day was full of foul language.
- 離婚 / líhūn / divorce
- 閉 / bì / shut – as in 閉嘴 / shut up and 眼睛閉上 / close your eyes
- 必要 / bìyào / need or necessary
- 沒有必要 / méiyǒu bìyào / no need