Spirited Away in Jiufen… Maybe Not?

This was my first time travelling alone in Taipei. On the first day, after a quick breakfast, I wormed my way to the nearest MRT station, went straight to TRA ticketing in the Main Station to buy a ticket going to Ruifang 瑞芳. From Ruifang, I’m going to take a bus going to Jiufen 九份. I met two tourists who can speak English and they helped me how to purchase a ticket from the vending machine. However, I boarded the wrong train and arrived in Yilan 宜蘭 instead. Yilan is a town along the Pacific side of Taiwan’s eastern coast, more than an hour away. I waited for the train which will arrive on 12:06PM going back to Taipei.

Jishan Street

I arrived at Jiufen around 2:00 PM, hungry and distressed from being lost. I dashed towards Jishan street 基山街, the historic old street of Jiufen. I would have been transported to that spirit wonderland in Spirited Away if not for the hordes of crowds going in and out.

Crowd in Jishan Street

Before I knew it, I was tossed among the sea of people and only had little time to linger on the shops to check on the goods for sale. Shame, the shops are an attraction themselves but you can’t linger too much to enjoy them. It was already 2:30PM and I was so hungry. First thing I need to do is to eat lunch before doing any sightseeing. A little later on, walking through the narrow Jishan street became more enchanting. There’s always a left or a right turn, like a never ending maze where you either you walk slowly or time stood still. There are dimly lit alleyways that leads to somewhere else, who knows, a magical secret place which adds to the mystery.

A Taoist Temple
A Taoist Temple

Finally, found a decent restaurant where I ordered beef pepper steak with milk tea. Since the tables were already full, the waitress led me upstairs to the rooftop where I had the wide view of Jishan street, of Ruifang town below in the valley and the far away city of Keelung leading to the northern sea.

View overlooking Jiufen
Beef Pepper Steak for Lunch

After lunch, I continued and veered away to the quiter streets where there is an open space and the breeze is cool. I passed by an antique shop and youth homestays. There was also a huge bronze mural showing the mine workers that used to be here in Jiufen when it was at its peak gold mining days.

Mountainside Community in Jiufen

I went on further till I reached Shengping theatre, which was now a museum featuring how the theatre was during the olden days.

Shengping Theater

I realized that I got back close to Jishan entrance and now was on the foot of Shuqi street 豎崎路, where it was quieter and the shops look more interesting and colorful. The shops all the way uphill were adorned with hanging red Chinese lamps.

Shops in Shuqi Street

I had a good time taking lots of pictures and taking a look at the shops. Next, I went to the inner alleys and found out that there are houses with people living in them. You can’t image that a busy Jishan street was just nearby. It was as if the noise has all gone out and what lay before me is a quiet, rural neighbourhood.

Jiufen's Quieter Neighborhood

At about 4PM I went back to Jishan street to check the goods. I went back Jishan entrance where the bus stop is, boarded a bus back to Ruifang and back to Taipei by train – yes the Local Train.

Directions:

1. From Taipei via TRA: Go to TRA station at Taipei Main Station or at Songshan station.

2. At ticket vending station press Local Train (區間 Qū Jiàn ) going to Ruifang. Tickets costs approx 50NTD. Make sure you put a NTD50 coin.

3. Disembark from Ruifang Station. You need to ride a bus going to Jinguashi. The bus stop used to be directly in from of the train station but it was moved a block away to the left if you’re coming from the station. Walk towards that direction until you reach the police station where the bus stop is near.

4. Unless you use a normal Easy Card, you need NTD15 fare going to Jiufen. Unlimited day passes do not work.

5. You know you already reached Jiufen when you see Jishan old street and a 7/11 store just on the left of the entrance.

Jiufen Guide

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