Up in the emerald green mountains of Taiwan’s north-east coast sits Jiufen, a small gold-mining village so prosperous back in the Japanese era it became known as ‘Little Shanghai.’ After the decline of the gold-mining industry, Jiufen became a forgotten spot but its old flame has recently been rekindled. So enchanting are the twisted old streets, stone paths and the blue hues of the Pacific Ocean which it overlooks that it has been the inspiration behind Miyazaki’s anime film Spirited Away, as well as the filming location of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness.
With Luke’s 22nd birthday on the horizon, I decided to whisk him away for a weekend in Jiufen where I planned a climbing trip to Teapot Mountain, and a night away in a rustic guesthouse. Of course, being on the north-east coast of Taiwan, my grand plans were scuppered by heavy rain and even heavier fog. No hiking, nor scenic view to gaze away at, sent us back to the map.
We decided to romantically amble the Old Streets, where you can buy various trinkets, including little glass bottles full of perfumed oil, straw hats, traditional Japanese-style shirts and arty postcards. Not to mention that, as with everywhere in Taiwan, there are regional delicacies around to try – in Jiufen it’s fishball soup and fried taro balls. Mmm, errrrr. We instead opted for the delicious red bean ice cream and shaved peanut brittle wraps, as we wound our way through the streets adorned with red Chinese lanterns.
It didn’t take long for Luke to get cabin fever in the tightly winding Old Streets, so we embraced the Certeau within ourselves and went off the beaten track. We took the stairs up to a higher point on the hillside in which the village is built and began walking parallel with the streets, through thin residential paths, past temples and along marble painted walls.
We also detoured to the edge of the village to Songde Memorial Park, which couldn’t have been any creepier in the weighty mist, with quirky grey stone heads looking down over the mountain sides and seemingly never-ending steep stairs.
In spite of all the foggy rain, Jiufen was a beautiful gem out in Ruifang district – one which we plan to re-visit in the better weather for the apparently amazing hikes nearby.
How to get there?
From LuoDong or Taipei you can take the train the Ruifang Station. Walk directly outside the station and turn left. Approximately 3 minutes later there will be a bus stop on your right hand-side. Take bus 1062 (Taipei – Jinguashi Route) to Jioudao stop (Jiufen Old Street) which will be very obvious when you get there. The bus ride is about 15 minutes.