The Laodifang lookout sits on top of a hill close to Taipei's centre, just North of Keelung River. It's easy to access from Jiantan or Shilin, and its proximity to Songshan, Taipei's intimate city airport, makes it a popular spot for planespotting too. I plan to start from Jiantan and find my way home from one of the brown MRT line's stations. However, I purposefully don't have an exact route in mind when I set out.
I leave home around noon. It's one of the few sunny days in Taipei this month and surprisingly warm for the end of December. I hike in shorts and barefoot shoes and somehow decide I also don't need socks (a decision I shall soon regret coming down with a cold shortly after).
There are a few lovely vistas along the trail as my path keeps alternating between stone stairs, hiking tracks and dirt trails used by locals pushing and torturing their motorbikes uphill. Step by step, I make my way further East, hiking longer than initially planned.
As it gets colder and I decide to head back, I see a sign pointing to 金面山 Jinmianshan. Having no idea about this shan, I contemplate whether I shall make the detour. In the end, my curiosity wins, and the larger crowds on this part of the trail soon tell me that it's more than just another random hill. Jinmianshan Cliff is a beautiful ridge; multiple large boulders double as the trail and a platform for people to sit and enjoy the views. I arrive at the most popular time, and many hikers have already gathered to take selfies and sit in expectation of a beautiful, albeit somewhat cloudy, sunset.
Finally convinced that I'm mildly underdressed for the coolness of a late December afternoon, I don't stay much longer, and after briefly stopping at 剪刀石山 Jiandaoshishan, I descend (run) down a few flights of stairs to the trailhead. Another 15 minutes later I'm at Gangqian and on my way home.
At night a Taiwanese friend sends me a message, excitedly announcing that she can finally recommend a place to hike in Taipei which I haven't been to. I look at her picture thinking “This looks familiar”. Then I smile and send my own photo from the top of Jinmianshan back.