One of the most memorable experiences in travels are those that were unplanned, rushed or unexpected. It was on another visit to Taipei and on the first day, it rained so hard that my friend and I ran out of options what to do. So, my friend suggested that we go to Jiufen. I had my doubts, I told him. So I offered another option which neither of us had the enthusiasm to go.
Honestly, I was not keen on going to Jiufen again. Not after my first horrible experience – getting lost along the way and going through overcrowded streets. But we haven’t had any good options at hand so we decided to go. And maybe as consolation, hoping that the weather there wouldn’t be as bad.
It was already near dark when we reached Jiufen but the weather there was worse. The rain fell harder, the wind was blowing and it was freaking cold. Fortunately some aunties by the street sold plastic raincoats just beside the bus stop.
We stopped by a tea house just to let the rain pass by and have a bit of tea and some dimsum. A familiar song by Lala Hsu was played over the radio.
When the rain stopped, we left the tea house and it was already dark. The sight before us was overwhelming. Houses and shops were lit and the place transformed into that magical landscape filled with lights. Neon lights run on every shop’s name.
Chinese lanterns, their exteriors in bright red, swayed against the weakening wind, like haunted spirits beckoning. Around the corner, an alley vanished in the dark as a fog descended ahead of it, blanketing it in a melancholic mystery. The lights reflecting off the puddles of water from the rain seemed to have magnified the effect.
And so we explored every nook and alley. It was a world entirely different from what it was during daytime. Just like the spirit world from that famous anime, Spirited Away, it only comes alive at night.
I believe Jiufen has truly captured that ideal – in its solitude at night, when all the daytime tourists have longed departed and all you have is that feeling of content with yourself and the magic that surrounds you.
1. From Taipei via TRA: Go to TRA station at Taipei Main Station or at Songshan station OR you can try what we did this time. There’s a bus stop just around the corner of Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Exit 1. There are buses that stop there that go straight to Ruifang. However, the bus intervals are quite long and so are the queues.
2. If you ride the local train, at ticket vending station press Local Train (區間 Qū Jiàn ) going to Ruifang. Tickets cost 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 across 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. Buses such as the Golden Fulong can take you to Jiufen, as well Jinguashi Gold Museum, Jinguashi Waterfalls and other scenic spots further.
4. Unless you use a normal Easy Card, you need NTD15 fare going to Jiufen. Taipei Day Passes do not work outside Taipei.
5. You will know that you already reached Jiufen when you see Jishan old street and a 7/11 store just on the left of the entrance.
Going Back to Taipei
The buses at night are very hard to come by. Some touts just outside Jiufen old street organize car pools to anxious tourists who are individually charged with exuberant fares. These vans stop at Taipei Main Station, by the way. But actually what you need is any bus that will only take you back to Ruifang station. Every bus stops at Ruifang station so no need to wait for a particular bus number. From Ruifang, take the train going to Taipei. Buses going to Keelung most certainly pass by Ruifang station and it only took 15TWD from your pocket.