Jiufen, Taiwan

11:53


Oh my. I didn't realise the last time I blogged was more than ten days ago! This is why I don't consider myself a 'blogger' blogger.

Ahem anyway!

In this post I want to talk about one of my favourite places in Taipei!

































I adored Jiufen both times I went back to it. The food, the atmosphere, the tea-drinking, the foggy view, the nice temperature.Could have done without the scary bus ride up and down both times, as well as the downpour of rain both times, but I still think Jiufen is a great place to visit.

Also I was talking about Jiufen with one of my younger cousins the other day (a whopping four years younger), and I realised how much of an old lady I am compared to the college students of these days.

She said she found Jiufen boring. BORING. BORING.

Her: "Nothing to do but drink tea and eat up there."






















































Um, yeah...

Me *scandalized*: "... BUT THAT'S THE BEST PART."

Well, she did say she likes Luxy (the Taiwanese night club) while I found myself bored (not a clubbing person) in Luxy, so obviously we're two totally different people.

...

I'm an old lady in a young person's body. A tea-drinking, view-appreciating, silence-loving old lady.

...

Oh well. I am okay with this.

To get to Jiufen from Taipei Main Station, you need to take the Taipei Railway (TRA) from the Main Station towards Ruifang Station. From Ruifang Station, try to catch bus #1062 or bus #1042. Just look out for the buses with Jiufen / Jinguashi as destinations on them, and that should take you to Jiufen.

Getting from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang Station confused me enough, anyway. The first time I went to Jiufen I had Keiko with me to figure out where to go, so we stopped at exactly Ruifang and walked a little way to get the bus.

However, the second time I went with my best friend (who is, by the way, Australian and Caucasian and does not read a single lick of Chinese) we... er... ended up in Keelung Station.

The train zoomed by Ruifang Station and  ended up in Keelung Station. After that I just gave up and took bus #788 from Keelung towards Jiufen, which added a full hour plus to our journey there.

Meh. At least I got us to Jiufen in the end eventually! The saying even goes "It's not the destination, it's the journey", so, yeah. Right? Right?

Right.

Anyway, depending on the day/ your luck, sometimes you may get faster TRA trains and seats on them to get to Ruifang Station. Sometimes, you may have to stand all the way, so if you're THAT unlucky, be prepared to do some standing for about an hour and more on the way to Ruifang Station.

The most expensive, and therefore fastest, train there is the ZiQiang (自强) train. It costs about 140TWD or so per trip, so try to get on this if you can. Be assertive at the ticket counter and say "One full ticket on the next ZiQiang to Ruifang" (in Chinese if you can!), and you shouldn't have any problems.

When you get to Ruifang station, you still have to switch to buses to get to Jiufen, the small village atop the mountain. If you're prone to motion sickness... I am so, so sorry. The roads there are narrow and bumpy, and the drivers drive super fast.

I was mumbling prayers to myself on a constant basis on the mountainous roads, whether I was travelling upwards or downwards. Both times. At one point, when the environment was super foggy and rainy, I was clutching the armrest like it would prop me up JUST IN CASE anything would happen.

Luckily I made it there and back safely, obviously. THANK YOU, UNIVERSE.

The first time I went to Jiufen the view on the way up was super foggy, so there was not much to see, unfortunately. Thankfully, the second time, it was clearer, so I could take nicer pictures.


































These were taken in the bus on my way up, to distract myself from the haphazard driving. I'm sure the bus drivers have been on those roads HEAPS of times and are pros at navigating them, but I can't help but feel nervous every time we go too fast (IMO) on a bend that can't see the other side.

The scenery is great and all, but I don't think I can take living on a mountain village, even a modern  one, for long. I may not be a clubbing girl, but I need my modern utilities like shopping malls and cinemas. For a few hours, however, Jiufen is the best to spend some downtime in.

Here are some of the scenes you will see once you arrive in Jiufen.

Oh yes, the bus stops a little way down from the entrance (as seen above), so you will have to do a bit of walking upwards to get to the Jiufen Old Street entrance.

Lots of tourists come here, so just follow the crowd and you'll be fine. It was pretty packed when I went during the weekend, but nothing I can't handle because the crowd is constantly moving.



































Be careful where you walk, though! Sometimes the side of  the road give way to stairs unexpectedly, and if you don't look properly you might plunge downwards.


































Lots of Asian snacks in Jiufen - come with an empty stomach. Also come with a strong nose, because some of the smells can be... overwhelming.




































I enjoyed the burst of colours and smells everywhere, even the not-as-great ones. Things just seem so alive here, from the burst of colours to the nattering of the tourists as they try food and buy souvenirs.

The following is one of my favourite snacks from Jiufen.



































This is ice-cream wrapped in dough with peanut paste. Ingenious, I tell you. Ingenious. They're shaving the peanut block down in the upper picture, and dumping the peanut paste on the dough before wrapping it with ice-cream in it.

Can this please come to Malaysia?

Some of the food were rather questionable, like the following.

































No idea what, don't intend to find out.

Taiwan is a super pet-friendly place, so it didn't surprise me to see many adorable cats and dogs in Jiufen as well.

Behold, the dog I wish was mine.
































Such shibe much ignore so cute.

There was even a store dedicated to cats in Jiufen! I was liking Jiufen more and more already.
































This is how my future house MIGHT possibly look like. Might.

There was also a store with some scary masks that intrigued Poh Nee and scared me to bits.

































Sometimes I wonder why these are a thing.

Oh yes. This was how Jiufen looked like on my first visit there with Keiko, Poh Nee and Aeryn.
































Such fog so sad no sunset.

My main must-visit place in Jiufen, however, was Ah Mei Teahouse.

You know, the place that is said to inspired the bathhouse in Spirited Away. It is also said that Jiufen inspired the place where the spirits lived in Spirited Away, as well as other places.

How can I not love this place?

We went to Ah Mei Teahouse and had some pretty expensive tea and snacks (300 TWD per person when I went with the girls, 450 TWD per person when I went with my best friend).






































There we sat in the balcony in the fogginess, surrounded by people of all nationalities (Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean), just chatting and drinking tea. A deep and impenetrable fortress of calm descends upon me, and I could have whiled away hours just talking to the people I treasure, drinking tea, and because this is the age of the smartphone, just scrolling through my social media news feed.

I think most of the calm is reinforced by the fresh mountainous air, being taught the art of drinking tea (Remove tea from teapot to another teapot, smell the aroma of the tea leaves, count the seconds before boiling water has to be removed from the teapot with the leaves to another teapot etc), listening to the natter of Japanese and Chinese in the air, and of course the presence of my friends.

So much preferable to loud blasting music and squeezed on the dance floor like we're sardines in a can, but that's just me, obviously.

The second time I came back with my best friend, I was totally excited that the fog had cleared enough for me to take this picture from Ah Mei Teahouse.

































This is how Ah Mei teahouse looks on the outside, by the way.


































I'm glad I got to enjoy this relative peacefulness twice over the course of my trip. Please visit if you can, at least once in your life. Jiufen was definitely a major highlight of my trip.

Tea over alcohol for me anytime, please!

A note of caution - Jiufen is prone to rain, so please bring an umbrella with you if you choose to visit. I had a tiny umbrella that I had to share with my best friend, and yeah we both got drenched on our way towards the bus. It is not covered everywhere in Jiufen.


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