A day trip to Jiufen is a must-go for many travelers visiting Taiwan. Jiufen is a mountain town that was first founded in the Qing dynasty. It remained isolated until it was discovered by the Japanese in 1893 due to rich gold mine hidden beneath the earth. During WWII, it functioned as a prisoner camp where many British were held captive and worked as gold miners. When the war ended, so did the gold rush. Today, the town remains a popular tourist destination where visitors can learn about the history and Taiwanese culture.
There’re several ways to get to Jiufen. The post will mention only public transportation this time. If you’re going by public transportation, hop on the train heading north and get off at ReiFang Station. Once you get out of the train station, keep walking straight until you pass the road. You see many buses lining up the street with their signs saying Golden Museum (黃金博物館), or Reifang (瑞芳) or Jiufen (九份). Any of these buses will take you to Jiufen old street. If you have an Easy card with you, you can use it when boarding the bus. Otherwise, you can just pay cash of 15NTD for the ride.
After many zigzags and turns, you’ll be reaching the entrance of the Jiufen Old Street. There is a Observation deck/Resting spot right where you get off the bus. If you look to your right, you’ll see mountains and pavilions. The mountain you see is the Keelong Mountain. There’s a hiking trail that leads you all the way to the top at the pavilion. I would suggest you come early for the hike and then reward your hungry tummy with all the traditional, delicious local cuisine at Jiufen Old Street!
Here’s a list of some of the Top 5 street food to try in Jiufen.
1. 阿柑姨芋圓 – The first and original Taro Ball dessert Shop in Jiufen (Map)
If you’re not in a rush, order your taro balls and eat in the shop. From the dining area, you can see how the villages are built along the mountain range, which continuously descend and merge with the sea afar.
2. 阿蘭草仔粿 – Herbal cake with sliced radish (Map)
The color green comes from cudweed and the sticky dough on the outside comes from glutinous rice flour. The fillings ranges from sweet red bean flavour to salty sliced radish taste. The cake is about a size of your fist and costs only 15NTD. It’s a must-try when you are in Jiufen.
3. 魚丸伯仔 – Fish Ball Soup (Map)
The signature dish here is 豆干包, which minced meat is wrapped inside a fried bean curd and sealed with fish paste. The taste brings out our childhood memory. Each bowl is around 40-60NTD
4. 阿婆魚羹 – Thick Soup Fish (Map)
This shop is famous for its fish ball soup. The shop is established since the 40s and its famous thick soup fish is the reason why people are willing to stand in line for.
5. 紅槽肉圓 – Red Yeast Taiwanese Meatball (Map)
As the name suggested, this particular kind of Taiwanese meatball has a distinctive red on the outside. The sauce on top of the meatball taste a little bit sweet, which makes a perfect combination with the salty minced meat inside.
After pumping yourself with all the goodies, you would have been finishing touring the Old Street by then. You shall see a long staircase that leads all the way down to a lower level when you reach midway in the old street. Make sure you take the stairs and have a look there. You won’t want to miss the most iconic site of all Jiufen, will you? What lies beneath those stairs is the famous Amei Tea House (阿妹茶樓), which inspires the formation of a Hotspring Hotel in the movie “Spirited Away” by the famous Japanese animation artist, Hayao Miyazaki. You can experience a thorough tea culture there by learning how to brew and taste tea.
If you continue going down the stairs, you’ll reach a small patio where sits the very old Shengping Theatre (昇平戲院). The theatre was built during the Japanese colonial period. During those times, the tea houses you see today used to be taverns. The wooden architecture is preserved well and even the ticket office window remains intact. When you step inside, it’s like stepping back into time because you see all the yellowing newspaper or vintage posters displaying the movies that were shown at that time. They will play a 15-minute introductory video about the theatre on the hour.
After Jiufen old street(九份老街), you can carry on your trip by visiting the Gold Museum (黃金博物館), Golden Waterfall (黃金瀑布), and the YinYang Sea (陰陽海). The world golden illustrates the history of Jiufen as a gold mining village and also the after-effect of the mining activities. For example, the Golden waterfall is famous for it’s light brown, yellowish earth color because it’s tinted by all the minerals under the ground. And YinYang Sea comes from the fact that the ocean is in two distinctive colors – gold and blue due to the minerals adjacent to the sea gate.
If you’re planning to visit Taiwan, make sure to put Jiufen on your list to experience an authentic Taiwanese culture here!