spirited away in Jiufen
Jiufen: a magical little town full of winding alleys, red lanterns, tea houses, stone stairways, and sweeping ocean views. even if you haven't heard of this place, you've probably seen it on Pinterest. a mining town turned tourist attraction [and photographer's dream] this town was the setting for A City of Sadness and the inspiration for the animated Spirited Away.
it's been on my Taiwan bucket list for years, but yesterday I finally made a visit. Anna [from the blog Slightly Astray] and I decided to meet up and explore Jiufen together. after an hour or so bus ride from Taipei, we arrived at the most scenic bus stop in all of Taiwan. overlooking a temple, the ocean, and Mount Jilong / Mount Keelung - we had to stop for photos before we even started walking. [clearly, I cannot resist the lure of dragons. or mountains.]
we wandered up around a curve and found an entrance to Jiufen Old Street. it was crazy crowded, even though it was a monday afternoon. not to mention how insane that twice we had to duck into shops to avoid scooters making their way though the street twice - and once for a truck. I can't imagine the madness that happens here on weekends!
the street is a narrow alley, sometimes gently sloping and others with stairs. occasionally you will get a peek down a side alley, with views of the town or the ocean below. many of the buildings have put up awnings which keep the frequent rains from reaching the crowds. and of course - the pathway is lined with red lanterns on either side.
the shops and stalls along the way are filled with all kinds of foods and souvenirs. postcards, calligraphy brushes, leather handbags, ocarinas, dried shrimp, bubble tea, pulled noodles, peanut pancakes, and of course: stinky tofu. we stopped for several snacks, including an insanely delicious brown sugar mochi ball filled with peanut butter [for me] and a strawberry one [for Anna.]
we had entered Jiufen Old Street near the 7-11 between the bus stations. we followed it for more than an hour [due to stopping for photos every 5 feet] until we came to an intersection. there were stairs leading up, stairs leading down, and the road also continued straight to views of the ocean. we had hoped to find a certain spot to shoot photos from, but honestly had no idea where to go.
we went towards the ocean, then back and up the stairs. we wandered around for another hour or so, taking random roads that we hoped would lead us to THE SPOT to get the iconic red-lantern landscape shot. [you've probably seen it on Pinterest - or featured on the Lonely Planet Jiufen page.]
apparently, we should have gone down those stairs at the intersection instead. eventually we made our way back and found the famous teahouse, but couldn't quite figure out where to get that epic shot from. I think it was taken from on top of a building, or on the upper levels of a homestay or restaurant. it was dark and raining by the time we found the area so we couldn't quite determine which one. but there was a lovely little terrace and plenty of lanterns around to photograph.
in fact, I came home with over 200 photos. despite not being able to find the spot, we had a great time wandering [and eating] our way through Jiufen Old Road and the surrounding hillside. you can bet I plan to return with a little more daylight and a sense of direction! [and obviously to climb Mt Jilong, because those views have got to be amazing.]
to get to Jiufen you can take the 1062 bus from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station, which takes a little over an hour. [this was how we traveled.] you can also take a train to Ruifeng and hop a shorter bus ride to town.