New Taipei City, Taiwan: Spirited Away in Jiufen

Taiwan wasn’t in my bucketlist. But after watching a travel show episode showcasing Taiwan, I got interested to visit the country, especially Jiufen. If you’ve seen the Japanese movie Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki, then you might recognize this quaint, little town situated in the mountain.

Jiufen is about an hour away from the international airport. I arrived on an early morning, and was picked up by my tour guide Bill of My Taiwan Tour at about 8am. It’s cloudy, and rain was in the forecast. But I didn’t mind, plus Bill came prepared with an umbrella and raincoat. Before we reached the tiny, old town, we stopped over at an abandoned mining factory. Jiufen was famous for its gold back in the days. But after mining stopped, the town was slowly forgotten, until the movies brought it back to life.

The Golden Waterfall is located not far from the mining factory. The mountain turned “gold” due to the mineral deposits and mining. It’s a quick stop, probably 5 minutes tops. It’s not spectacular, but interesting enough to see.

We drove higher into the mountain to see the Yin Yang Sea from afar. It wasn’t as visible because of the weather, but there’s a mix of yellow and blue near the shoreline. This was again due to the reactions of the mineral. Because of high level content, it’s advised to avoid the water.

A little walk will bring you to more abandoned buildings, hiking trails, and a mining tunnel that was used for transporting gold.

Before continuing to Jiufen, we stopped over at a temple dedicated to the God of War. It is also the best place to take a bathroom break, since it’s cleaner than the ones in Jiufen.

It was a weekend, and parking space was scarce. I was surprised that there’s a lot of people despite the rain. And because the alleyways are narrow, we donned our raincoats instead of using the umbrella. We arrived before 11am, and the shops were still preparing and cooking.

Juifen is a streetfood haven. There’s so many to see and try. One on my list was the fish balls. Bill brought me to a store he described as one of the best and usually has a long line on peak hours. And he’s right, the fish balls were so good!

Next, I tried the peanut ice cream rolls. Yum, yum, yum! And look at those giant calamares!

There’s really so much food to try. There’s squid on stick, taro balls, snails, tea eggs, giant mushrooms, steamed buns, and stinky tofu among others. I almost tried the stinky tofu, but he said the smell stays in the mouth. So I had to pass since I’m still a few hours away from my main destination. And to be honest, it was really stinky. I thought I was smelling the sewage at first!

Despite the weather, I think the scenery was beautiful. It felt like that’s how it’s supposed to be. And he did say it almost always rain in Jiufen.

On our way back, we saw a celebratory procession. It was the birthday of one of the deities. But how difficult it must be to carry everything on the slippery, narrow, and crowded alleyways.

And our last stop before lunch was the most photographed tea house. This particular location reminds me a lot of the anime movie. I’d love to see the place at night with all the lights on.

Aside from food stalls and restaurants, there’s a lot of tea houses. If I had a longer time, I would have enjoyed sipping tea while admiring the mountainous view. In the end, I still enjoyed the quick trip to this charming, small town. It’s definitely a must see if you enjoy food and scenery.

 

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