The Golden Fulong Route Attempt…That Failed

The Golden Fulong route has been on my mind for the past few weeks. It’s one of the prestigious beaches here in Taiwan and it isn’t called golden just because. It’s got sands of gold…or gold-ish at least.
So I went last Saturday, determined to ride the Tour Taiwan bus and eventually end up in Fulong beach. The plan was simple: take the local train (TRA), get off at Ruifang station, then ride the tour bus there that would travel the Golden Fulong route. I already listed the places where I would hop off. Then I would spend sunset over at Fulong. And if I am feeling really grand, I would just spend the night there. 
I packed a change of clothes, my camera, my Holga, and a portable charger. I was set and ready, toting a cap to “cap” off my look. I was feeling turista mode that day. I will speak in English and rest my still-pitiful Chinese-speaking ability. I wore my camera like a necklace.
That was the plan until Jiufen happened.
Actually, before we even go there, let me tell you how it came to be.
From Taipei, you can take the bus or take the train going to Fulong. Since I went on a weekend squeeze (the day in between two holidays), I thought about facing traffic so I decided to get on the railway track and conquer the regular TRA for the first time.

You can get to the TRA (Taiwan Railways Administration) via the Taipei Main MRT station, but it would take some navigating skills to do so. I will explain it on a later post. To save time and effort, I suggest you just exit the Taipei Main MRT station look for the TRA building which is quite an outstanding feat and hard to miss. If you’re taking the taxi, just ask the driver to take you there.

After clearing my head, I found the right way leading to the TRA station. Clearing my head, you ask? Well, I got lost in Taipei Main MRT station. It was a maze and an intricate connection of all public transportations in Taipei—something I forgot to take note of. 
Long story short, I eventually found the main TRA station. I looked at the grandiose space before me and wondered if I should try the ticket vending machines or just go to the ticket booths. I tried the latter, which was a better idea. There’s someone behind the booths who can speak English and would be able to explain the details of your ticket.

This large chessboard-like space transforms to a picnic ground especially during rush hour.
One thing you need to understand is that there are different trains that run along the TRA. There’s the high speed rail and a smorgasbord of other names. The important thing to know is your destination. When you buy your ticket, this is all you need to know. The rest is left to experience.

My train type is the T.C Ltd. Express and the train number is 228.

The appearance of the ticket varies depending on destination (or maybe your train). The ticket is printed with Chinese characters so I asked the counter where the platform is. She said it’s on 4. She also explained that after Badu station, I have to give up my seat to someone else. I found this interesting and kinda unfair but hey, that’s how they do it here. At least I can sit for as long as I can during this trip.
The entrance to platform 4 is pretty easy to find. 

On the platform, I noticed how different the regular trains are from the HSR—they are more ordinary. It’s so ordinary I felt wonderful because this is how locals do it. I didn’t find a westerner amidst the crowd. I made a mental note of all the Chinese words I knew in case I needed to say them. There goes my English-only plan.
The train arrived on-time and it was easy to find my seat inside because it looked like the HSR. Kind of. The train is also separated per cab and as with the HSR and the MRT, most passengers graciously gave way to others. Inside, I found some people lingering between the cabs and on spaces where they can stand. I later found out that if you purchase tickets from the vending machine, you would be issued with a “No Seat” ticket. So those machines are good for chance passengers who just wanted to ride the train. I suppose I’m still lucky I got a guaranteed seat, even for just a while.
Like the HSR, you can also take your food and eat it inside the train. I didn’t have time for a bian dang so all I grabbed was this rice ball stuffed with burger patty. 

Eventually, someone would come in and sell food too. He sold chips, bian dang, and drinks. I was kinda hoping he came sooner so I could buy bian dang but then again, it’s okay. I thought about my destination and got excited with the prospect of eating there instead. 

Just so you know, it’s SOP for food vendors to wear a mask. So surgical masks are quite common in Taiwan, especially for people who have coughs. It’s a habit formed from the SARS days. 
So here’s my plan: get off at Ruifang station and take the Golden Fulong route tour bus. I didn’t know where the tour bus stop is in Ruifang but I thought I could find it near the train station. 
Finally reached Ruifang!

The trip from Taipei to Ruifang took 30 minutes. Once there, all I did was look for signs towards the exit and figured if I cannot find the bus stop easily, I would just ask the Visitor’s Information Center. I think this is one of Taiwan’s tourist strengths. These centers are present in MRT and local train stations island-wide.

Once outside the Ruifang station, I immediately spotted the red bus stop. It was just on the other side of the train station’s exit. I immediately went there, checked my watch, and saw that I am fifteen minutes early. It was a weekend and according to my brochure, a tour bus would be coming every thirty minutes.
I should’ve known something’s wrong when I saw this grimy bus stop sign…

However, there was a crucial thing about this bus stop that I didn’t know. IT WAS MOVED ELSEWHERE. 
How did I eventually know? A seemingly pissed off lady used an umbrella and pointed at the placard below the bus stop. She tapped on it quite loudly then pointed using her index finger down the street. She did this to two Korean-looking girls. I decided to follow because I was already waiting there for forty minutes and figured it shouldn’t be taking that long for a bus to arrive. 

The new bus stop was straight ahead after the traffic light, near the police station. There were plenty of other people waiting there, some were the same people who dropped by the previous bus stop and decided to go elsewhere. So that elsewhere was this new stop. A few minutes later a bus came and people just crowded on the entrance door and rode it. I was one of those people and this is where the adventure spiralled down to full misadventure.

I was so eager to go to Fulong I didn’t even notice the bus was blue. The Tour Bus is white and has the Tour Taiwan logo. This had none of that, only Keelung.
After tapping my EasyCard on the sensor and settling inside, I looked around and realized it wasn’t the Tour Taiwan bus. It was an ordinary bus heading to Jinguanshi. From the snippets I understood, I learned that it would pass by Jiufen. 
I went to Jiufen before. Think of Shilin night market but with old-school Japanese stuff, high up the mountain.
One of the reasons why people go to Jiufen is the view because it overlooks a part of the New Taipei City and the village where old gold miners and their families used to live. More of that on a later post.
Anyway, at this point I was already growing very impatient. I was already off-track. It’s already 2PM and I’m nowhere near Fulong. Judging by the map I have (thanks Visitor Center), I am approximately still an hour away. Traffic was also painfully slow going up to Jiufen. As soon as the bus decided to stop and opened its doors, passengers started to pour out. I took this as a queue that we reached the Jiufen bus stop and I figured I’d get off too and finally ride the Tour Bus there. 

Again, wrong move. Or maybe I shouldn’t have rode that bus in the first place. OR maybe I should’ve checked the bus that I rode in the firstest first place.
To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult to find the bus stop on Jiufen. The problem was there were so many people and so many types of bus that stop by. I could’ve just asked someone, right? But I didn’t. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the tired and frustrated part of me who just wants to ride the right bus and go head. Or go home. Whatever. Bear in mind that I only ate that stuffed rice patty and some orange juice since I woke up. I was hungry, growing tired, and very frustrated. And stressed because I have no idea what to expect of where I am going. Asking people in Chinese and trying to figure out how to speak to them with my limited skills will just make me even more frustrated. The thought, at that time, was enough to frustrate me.
There were so many tourists I decided to just pass for now.

I can’t even take a photo of the Jiufen sign. 

So I decided to walk past the bus stop I saw. Because I didn’t initially see the red stop there, I thought maybe it was somewhere further down the road. I went too further ahead I ended up going back eventually.


Walked on the side facing the oncoming vehicles coz it’s safer. It’s not fun to have buses zooming past you from behind. But the walk wasn’t for nothing because it gave me these…


Curiosity satisfied. Tired but all worth it.

Though tired and becoming hopeless, I went back still happy to have seen a view that others in Jiufen are probably scrambling to get considering the number of tourists. As I passed by the same bus stop, I decided to inspect it. Lo and behold the red stop I was looking for. It was small and wasn’t so much a sign. It was a mere sticker on the stop’s wall that instructed passengers to fall in line. No wonder I didn’t spot it the first time. 
So I decided to stay there. I was so tired of walking and trying to figure out a way to get to Fulong. I wasn’t going to try to ride a bus again because the only destination I recognized on their signs was Taipei. When I also saw how long the queue was, I got scared that I might not be able to get home before night falls. I didn’t want to get stuck in Jiufen. It was already 4PM. The Tour Taiwan bus would take it last trip from Fulong towards the Ruifang train station at 5:15 PM. It was already too late to push through.
At this point, I resignedly stashed my camera away and just sat there waiting for any bus to Ruifang station. I eventually figured out that the shortest line at the bus stop was for the Ruifang destination. I learned about this by listening to other people asking around. The snippets I understood was enough for me to know what I needed to know. I still refused to talk to someone because I was pissed off and hungry. The rest was a blur.
Inside the bus back to Ruifang, I thought dejectedly of my unsuccessful trip. It went down the drain because I didn’t start early and didn’t ask for directions. Honestly, I decided to just figure everything out by myself because that’s my adventure’s secret ingredient. It also helps me stay calm because it’s additionally stressful to ask someone in English and figure out how to talk to locals who only spoke Chinese. At that time, it’s also not the smartest thing to do. It’s hard when everyone’s just as stressed as you are—them wanting to just ride the bus back to Taipei or wherever they want to go next. Jiufen was packed full of tourists and those at the bus stop already look too tired to bother taking on a lost foreigner as an additional problem. *sniff*
The rest of that trip became a blur. I only remember buying a ticket back to Taipei, standing inside the train reading each station name I see, calming my frustrated nerves.

Going back, I had to stand for the entire duration of the trip.

And oh God I need a pizza. A thick crust melts in your mouth piece of meaty cheesy goodness.
Pizza Hut was the only gamble I won that day. I only went here one time to celebrate a friend’s birthday but I still remembered the MRT station where this buffet-style Pizza Hut restaurant can be found.

Yup, you read that right. Buffet which means pizza all you can, salad all you can, soup all you can, drinks all you can…basically everything you know about Pizza Hut, yes you can. It’s located near the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall MRT station. This was the turnaround of events that I needed to lift my spirits up that day.
On the leftmost side I’d like you to meet the caramel toffee mallow pizza.

Also ate healthy by way of fresh oranges, green tea jelly, and tuna salad after the nth serving of pizza and bbq chicken.

So the next day, I redid my Golden Fulong route trip. And this time, I was able to redeem myself. It was a wonderful success. It was so successful I realized that maybe my failed attempt was meant to highlight the success it will eventually be.
And that, my friend, is a truly golden trip that I will also share to you. 🙂
To be continued…

3 Comments on "The Golden Fulong Route Attempt…That Failed"

  1. Hi Constance! Thanks for dropping by. Actually, I have been in Taiwan for a couple of years now and this is the first time I experienced being frustrated on an impromptu trip. I think it's largely my fault though haha. 😛 I should've gone earlier. Yeah, I still got to enjoy the experience and it taught me that impromptu trips, though fun, should also be planned properly (which I didn't really do this time hehe) 🙂 BUT this trip inspired me to come back the following day and try again. I'm blogging about that next!


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