(The long, winding streets of Jiufen are best viewed at night.)
This quaint little town nestled in the mountains above Keelung and Taipei County(now called New Taipei City, though it’s actually a conglomerate of cities). During the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, Jiufen was rich in gold deposits and became very important, because who doesn’t love bling?
(One of the miners!)
Located on Keelung Mountain, there are several ways to get there. I have personally taken two of these routes, because I used to live in Keelung, but there is a third option as well. If you are planning to visit Keelung city and want to also see Jiufen, I’d recommend taking the bus nearby the Keelung train station. The ride is about 30-40 minutes long and the fare is 30NT. Another option would be to take a train to Ruifang station and then take the nearby bus to Jiufen. The ride should be a little shorter than the one from Keelung. Another option, maybe ideal for those of you based out of Taipei, would be to take the Jiufen bus from the Songshan train station. I’m not sure about the details of the ride or the fare, as I’ve never taken this bus, but it should be over an hour ride and probably around 100NT(have an easy card with several hundred NT and you should be good).
Well, nowadays if it’s gold you’re looking for, then Jiufen might not be the place for you. But it has tons of other attractions that might catch your eye.
(A cool museum of masks located in Jiufen…what seems to be out of place?)
lăo jiē 老街, old streets are some of my favorite places in Taiwan. They are a perfect blend of the traditional Chinese feel, with a touch of the modern. Jiufen is my favorite old street (I’ve been there six or seven times, but who’s counting?), but there are tons more that I’ll be writing about in the future, and they are all worth a visit.
Jiufen is a great place to see and buy tons of traditional items, from clothing to toys, charms and the list goes on. There are also quite a few stores that sell hand-made leather items(though a little less traditional in nature) and even a novelty sex gag store, which was definitely not around when this was a booming mining town! This is just one of the signs of how much Taiwan has changed in recent years.
(What can I say? I love playing with all the cool traditional toys!)
Another popular attraction are the beautiful tea houses spread out on the hills of the old street, and the spectacular views that you can get from them!
(Feeling thirsty? Check out this awesome tea house!)
And of course, you have a wide variety of snacks to choose from(we’re in Taiwan after all!). You can get just about anything you could possibly want and more, but a few of my favorites are wild boar sausages shān zhū xiāng cháng 山豬香腸, and yù yuán 芋圓.
(芋圓 a chewy dish made with flower, taro and sweet potato and served with red and green beans)
I’m not sure if she’s still there, but there was a very friendly old woman who sold 山豬香腸 at the end of the first part of the old street, before you start climbing all the stairs. Even if you don’t like sausage, her stand is worth a visit, as she dresses very uniquely. She might look funny, but this clown is a good cook!
(You know you want some of her sausage! Get in line already!)
There is a great place to get 芋圓 at the very top of the old street(so save some room). The restaurant is simply called ā pó 阿婆, or grandmother, and the view from the giant window there is amazing! It’s a great place to get a view of the surrounding mountainside and ocean while eating a great Taiwanese snack.
(A few pics of the amazing view you get from Jiufen…the pictures really do it an injustice.)
How To Get There:
If you are planning to visit Keelung city and want to also see Jiufen, I’d recommend taking the bus nearby the Keelung train station. The ride is about 30-40 minutes long and the fare is 30NT. Another option, maybe ideal for those of you based out of Taipei, would be to take the Jiufen bus from the Songshan train station.
Chinese phrases of the day:
老街= old street
山豬香腸= wild boar sausage
芋圓= a chewy dish made with flower and different ingredients, usually taro and sweet potato
The pictures are all mine, except the ones of the 山豬香腸 and the 芋圓 , I got them from here http://www.flickr.com/photos/22151591@N07/8149875532/ and here http://chriszeekent.blogspot.tw/2010/07/blog-post_15.html