My brother has been studying in Hong Kong for a few months now and, having some time left by, he came to visit last weekend. Naturally me and Yini wanted to show him around a bit, so we went for a couple of rather long drives, both on Saturday and Sunday. During our little outings we kept stopping here and there to check out some interesting sights. We started with a gigantic Buddha statue by a lake in the Hsinchu mountains. The Buddha is part of the temple complex of a Buddhist organisation called Universal Family. We were shown around the temple by a bunch of suit clad, excessively smiling people talking about the “Nature Loving Wonderland”. It felt like they were part of some sort of sect.

From there we  drove to the Lion’s Head Mountain and found a small walking trail. It was blocked off, but usually, that only means there is some slight damage, so we climbed past the fence and had a pretty nice walk along a river gorge. At the very bottom, it turned out that there was a real reason for the trail being closed off: the bridge across the steam had been washed away (we found it lying some ten meters away. Being of an adventurous nature, we clambered down to the waters edge and made it across without all too much difficulty.

Climbing up past some fallen trees, we headed back to the car then drove to a small cafe nearby. There had dinner and chatted while waiting for it to get dark. When darkness fell, we took a walk looking for fireflies. We soon found some which my brother though were pretty cool. Having seen them three weekends in a row, I was less excited than before, but I do enjoy seeing them. Alas, I once more failed to capture their flickering lights on camera. We ended the evening with a soak in some nearby hot springs. This one even had a pool full of fish that eat your dead skin. It tickles more than you can imagine and is therefore both kind of pleasant and painful at the same time.

On Sunday we drove further north, to a small town near Keelung called Jinguashi. It is home to the Shuinandong Smelter, a gigantic ore works that has been abandoned since the late 70’s. When you leave the main coastal road and enter the village, the first thing you see is big, brooding, complex of factory, sprawled over the mountainside in several terraces, looming over the beach like some kind of monstrosity.

The abandoned copper refinery seen from the parking lot

This naturally piqued our interest to go exploring, so we parked the car and started walking up hill. On the way up, we noticed the strange golden orange color of the rocks in a small creak by the roadside and even a pretty special looking, orange waterfall.

The golden orange river

I like waterfalls as much as the next guy, and strange color made this one extra enticing, but despite this, the  allure of the abandoned factory made us linger but a short while near the creak. Sneaking past the inadequate fence we went inside and spent much of the afternoon exploring several of the abandoned buildings and tunnels. I had a great time of it, but i wish I had more time because the place is big, and very exciting to climb around in. I must admit I am getting quite a taste for urban exploration.

These smoke tunnels climb across the mountains, like gigantic snakes lounging about on the hillside

The inside of one of the builings

Some shots from the outside

Another view from the parking lot

Even the storm drains are cool in this place

The top of some kind of silo/storage facility

Train tracks leading up the mountain

One final shot of the refinery from above

I would have liked to stay and explore the rest of the factory but the others felt they had enough, not to mention we were all getting hungry. So, just as it started to rain, we headed to the more popular tourist destination of Jiufen for some dinner. Jiufen was much too crowded for my taste and the dinner was pretty mediocre. However, I had a great day so far so I din’t much mind. The reason Jiufen is crowded is that it was the inspiration for a lot of the scenery in the animated film Spirited Away. While some parts of the town do look a bit like the movie, it hardly warrants the mass of tourists, especially give the much more interesting tourist destination just around the corner.

We did finally find a tea house that resembles  something out of Spirited Away to a much larger extent than the rest of the town, which I do like. It will have to suffice as the final picture in this entry:

The Spirited Away tea house