Jiufen, Northern Taiwan

Article Date: 29-03-2016

Until the 1950's Jiufen was a  prosperous gold mining town, present day Jiufen however has been transformed into a popular get away for tourists and locals alike. It has provided the setting for popular movies such as Hou Hsiao-hsien's film A City of Sadness(which won the Golden Lion award at the 1989 Venice Film Festival) and Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away.

It is a popular location because of the movies, and also because it has amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. There are tea houses a plenty in Jiufen where you can kick it with a cuppa and take in the stunning views of the balcony or through the window.  

The town itself is built onto the side of a hill, and the fact the buildings are all built into the hill, or look like they are built into the hill adds excellent character to the town.  There are two streets running through the small town which provide the main area of interest for the many tourists who descend onto the town every weekend. One street runs left to right parrellel through the town, and the other runs up and down.  The street which runs up and down (Shuqi Street) is a famous photo taking spot amongst all locals who go there and many tourists because of a movie scene. 

The small main street has shops and restuarants with all kinds of food and souvenier items for sale.  It is interesting to see but is often very crowded.  If you hate crowds try to go here during the week if you can, but it is likely that less shops will be open.

Near the top of the up down street running through the town there is a bloke who runs a small exhibition of face sculptures which is very unique and I have never anything like it anywhere else.  Every time I go to Jiufen I check if he has made any more.  

The bloke told me that he claims he can speak to the spirits and they tell him how they died, with this information all stored in his noggin he has decided to replicate their death in some gruesome looking scuplture.  The missus hates it but the fact I go there every time I go to Jiufen he now recognises me and lets me in for free every time.  There is a small charge to get inside but it is very unique and worth seeing as long as you are not squeamish.

As you can see, the sculptures are a bit gruesome dipicting the way the person had died.  According to the bloke who made them and apparently their spirits by what they had told him.  Odd...yes, weird...yes, unique...very.  I think people should check it out, its one of those weird things you won't see anywhere else as far as i'm concerned. 

As well as this, there is also a gold mine musuem close by.  If you stay on the bus instead of getting off in Jiufen it will take you onto the museum.  This is what I normally do, check the museum first then take the bus back to Jiufen in time to see the last hours of daylight and the sun going down.  

Inside the gold museum there is a massive gold slab/block.  Obviously they have it all boxed up, but there is a hole small enough to slip your hand through and touch the gold.  Its odd seeing a big block of gold that huge.  If you go to Jiufen the gold museum is worth seeing as like I said the whole town functioned as a gold mining town, especially during the Japanese occupation period.  This is also why a lot of the buildings around the gold mining museum are Japanese style.

You can get there by Train of bus from Taipei City.  I would recommend taking the train instead of the bus unless you like long journeys because the bus takes forever.  

To take the train you need to take it from Taipei Main Station and then Depart at Ruifang, changing to a local bus to take you up the hill.  The bus stop is right outside the train station in Ruifang and there will be a small huddle of people going the same way, or a mass crowd depending on the day.  There is also a tourist information point in Ruifang station and they were very helpful when I last went there. 

If you want to take the bus, you need to take number 1062 (Keelung Bus Company) and the best place to take this bus from is Zhongxiao Fuxing exit #1.  The cost of the bus is 102NT dollars plus make sure you have the correct change, as bus drivers in Taiwan don't hand out change if you do not have the correct fare. The bus stops name is Liugonchun Park

If you are staying in Taipei and have ran out of things to do in the city this is defintely one of the best day trips you could take, as it is close enough to Taipei you wouldn't need to make extra booking regarding accomodation and personally I don't think you need to spend more than half a day to a full day there anyway. Most of all make sure you enjoy any trip to Jiufen.