During my first few weeks in Taipei, I went on a bunch of touristy excursions knowing that as school picked up, I would have less + less time for such activities. My first semester ended last week + I am gallivanting around Taipei + Singapore with my mom this week (here from NYC!! Posts to follow!!)! So here’s a li’l blog supplementation with shots + tales from the archives:
On the weekend before New Year’s I took a bus to Jiufen for a day trip.
I heard that Jiufen was beautiful + the place that the spirit world in “Spirited Away” is based on. I hadn’t seen “Spirited Away,” so I did a little research + learned that Jiufen was a gold mining town during the years of Japanese colonization.
It is now one of the few remaining towns in Taiwan with the remarkably narrow streets + Japanese-style architecture of the 1920’s + ’30’s. There are a few temples to check out, historical sights, breathtaking views, hiking trails, thousands of red paper lanterns + a whole lot of tourist-cheese.
One of its main draws is Jiufen Old Street, a covered alley way lined with food stalls of all kinds, souvenir shops, clothing stores + tea houses.
One thing that I + most of my NYCity friends have in common is complete + utter disdain for tourist traps, touristy areas, touristy things. Alas, when you move to a new country, they are often unavoidable. When I arrived at Jiufen around noon on Saturday, December 28 (I know, first mistake), the covered alley was already bustling with people. I grabbed a couple snacks + ran for the hills. Literally!
I really enjoyed wandering solo. How could you not love these views?
Despite the fact that Taiwan is one of the safest places you can be, I didn’t want to get too risky with the hiking alone. I decided to make it back to the rest of civilization, knowing I would have to come back to Jiufen to explore with a buddy.
I had high hopes of grabbing some more snacks on Jiufen Old Street on my way to the bus stop for the return journey to Taipei. (I need my sustenance, yo!) But by that point there were so many people in the alley that I got stuck in a people jam so tight that at times no one was moving. At all. Not my idea of a good time.
Somehow I was able to grab a sweet potato cream filled pastry + escape! Lesson learned. On the bus back to Taipei, I vowed that my return to Jiufen will happen early on a week day.
While I didn’t lose my wallet in Jiufen, I can’t resist closing with this Tribe classic illustrating the trials + tribulations of city kids outside of theNYC.
Hi there, my name is Adriana and I’m planning on teaching abroad in Taiwan in the next few weeks. I’m looking for a smaller city or town to teach in and stumbled upon your blog. Jiufen looks absolutely charming, was it filled with tourists or mostly Taiwanese people? From being there, do you think it would be a good place to teach (i don’t want to be anywhere too touristy). Thanks!!
Hi Adriana, What a great idea! In my opinion, Jiufen is not the place for you. It is extreeeeeemely touristy. I would look to cities and towns in the south of the island if you’re looking for a more “authentic” Taiwanese experience. Good luck!