For our full trip itinerary, please click here.
Read about our post on JingTong, PingXi & ShiFen here
This will be a combine post on our two separate visits to Jiufen. If you wish to know where to stay, what to eat, what to buy and what to do in Jiufen, please read on. You can also compare hotel prices on Expedia and choose the accommodationthat better fits your budget.
Jiufen is one of my very favorite places. I love walking along the winding streets with food vendors and craft stores on the side. I love chilling out at those old tea houses from the 30s and enjoyed a stunning view of Pacific Ocean. I love spending a night at one of those beautiful B&Bs and I got to mingle with the locals and listen to their stories.
How does the name of Jiufen came about? It was said that the village has only nine families during the Qing Dynasty. Everytime shipments arrived from town, ‘nine portions’ were distributed to the villagers. Hence, the village was named after “Jiufen”, or rather nine portions in Chinese.
Jiufen was an isolated village until gold was discovered in the area. The Gold Rush brought its influx of people and a demand for housing. During WWII, a prisoner-of-war camp called “kinkaseki” was set up in the village and the POWs were forced to slave in the dark depths of a nearby copper mine and were subjected to the most inhuman treatment imaginable (read the full story here). In time – the gold and ore ran out and the mine was shut off eventually. Jiufen’s luster began to fade with the decline of gold mining activities too.
In 1989 a Taiwanese film called The City of Sadness was shot in Jiufen and since it was a big hit in the cinema, many have flocked to Jiufen to experience that nostalgic feeling. Its downtown was used as a model in the anime movie Spirited Away too. Jiufen has since evolved into one of the most popular tourist hub in Taiwan now. It is advisable not to come during weekends and Taiwan’s public holidays to enjoy the serenity of the town.
From Taipei, take the train north to Ruifang Station. From Ruifang take the Keelung Transit bus from the bus stops in front of the train station to Jiufen. Be sure to line up across the road to go to Jiufen and Jinguashi. The bus trip is roughly 15 minutes. Not all buses are equipped to show the correct driving direction or have bilingual signs.
Pros: safe, punctual, faster
Cons: cost more than taking a bus, troublesome as you need to transfer to a bus
From Taipei, take the Jiufen bus from the Adventist Hospital bus stop on Bade Road, east of the intersection with Fuxing Road. Alternatively, take the same bus from Songshan station or Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station Exit # 1 Cost : 90 NT$ (make sure to have the exact change), a little more than 1 hour.
Pros: cheaper, easier and direct
Cons: be prepared for a thrill ride (the bus drivers are really good in drifting along the winding road), takes longer
It is very easy to get around Jiufen. The town is covered by two main pedestrian streets – Jishan Street 基山街 and Shuchi (Shuqi) Street 豎崎路. Most famous eateries and souvenirs shop are located on either side of the streets.
It is also advisable to spend a night at one of those quaint little inns in Jiufen to complete the experience.
We stayed at Windsor B&B溫莎堡日光涵館 on our last visit and just wanted you to know what a great place it is! The B&B owner, Mr Hsu has been understanding, generous, and caring during our stay at Windsor B&B. The room was tastefully decorated and the view from our private balcony on the ground floor was absolutely lovely.
Mr. Hsu and wife were so keen on taking us out for dinner that we find it hard to turn down such a gracious invitation. We drove for a little over 15 minutes down the winding road to a nearby harbor for the freshest seafood one can get.
1. Squid ala Sashimi 2. Celery Soup with Fish Paste 3. Fried Tang Hoon 4. Squid Sausages
I love the texture of the fresh squid and as you chew into it, the rich and creamy flavor bursts with gusto in your mouth. The squid sausages were the highlight of the meal! Made with squid paste and squid ink, it was delicious on its own.
1. Steamed Squid with Rice Wine 2. Deep Fried Mackerel 3. Stir Fried Lala with Basil Leaves 4. Free Bite Size Ice Creams
During our second visit to Jiufen, we decided to stay with Mr. Hsu again but at a different B&B this time. Out of the FIVE B&Bs that he is manning, we chose 溫莎堡涵館 (NT2300, RM255).The room seems smaller, but we didn’t feeloverwhelmed. Its more like a cozy cottage room with wood beamed floor and walls instead.
A delicious and well-assorted breakfast is provided personally by Mrs Hsu every morning. Guests from all their five B&Bs will gather at this coffee shop (owned by Mr. Hsu too!) to start the day with breakfast. We love the milk tea with rose, a special blend of fine ceylon tea with the rose petals. So creamy and fragrant!
The sandwich does look ravishing too! Drizzle generously with Mrs Hsu’s home made dressing, it was delicious!
After breakfast, Mr. Hsu drove us up the mountain and showed us around. Saw the lil “teapot”? Approximately 580 meters high, Teapot Mountain is shaped like a handleless teapot, giving it the name “Handleless Teapot Mountain.”
Hippopotamus Stone. We were told that gold and other dense materials fell to the bottom from the hippopotamus stone and it flowed along the streams. This is how gold was first discovered in Jiufen and Jinguashi that brought in the gold rush in Taiwan.
Most of Hu Lao Shi’s master piece were using only beverage cans. Amazing isn’t it? Hu Lao Shi’s ability to create masterpieces out of scraps began as an accident and it led him to be a famous mosaic artist. He just held his first solo exhibition in Taiwan just recently.
1. Hu Lao Shi is demonstrating
2. Trying my hands at doing this. It is not easy at all, but once you get the hang of breaking, cutting and nipping bits to fit you will be confident about your main piece.
3. KampungBoy bought a sketching work from Hu Lao Shi.
4. Hu Lao Shi giving KampungBoy a warm hug. Awwwwwwwwww
Jiu-Fen is definitely the place to go for traditional Taiwanese snacks. In fact, some of the famous traditional snacks such as Red Wine Meat Ball with Glutinous Rice Ski and Taro Balls originated from Jiufen.
1. 阿柑姨芋圓 Ah Gan Yee Taro Balls. This is one of the popular dessert shop in Jiu Fen and there is a perpetual queue at the store front. You can eat the yam ball soup while enjoying a great view of Jiufen here.
2. 阿蘭草仔粿 Ah Lan Hakka Glutinous Rice Cake. Another extremely popular store in Jiufen, so be prepared to queue up. The skin has a soft chewy texture while the filling of pickled vegetables and dried shrimps is so aromatic!
3. 九份紅糟肉圓 Red Wine Meat Ball with Glutinous Rice Skin. Glutinous rice again? We were full from trying these three famous snacks alone. The meat ball got its pinkish tint from the rice red wine, something like the FooChow red wine that we have here in Malaysia. A tasty snack that comes with a pleasant herbal taste.
4. Peanut Roll with Ice Cream. A special combination of grounded peanut, malt sugar, ice cream and celery leaves. It tasted quite good with celery leaves actually, but remember to ask them to exclude it if you are not a fan.
5. 魚丸伯 Fish Ball Uncle. We thought that fish balls in KL have better flavor and bounce.
What to Buy?
One is always spoiled by choice when it comes to shopping in Jiufen. We have bought a lot of cute ornaments, traditional snacks such as pineapple tarts and “tai yang bing”, but in our humble opinions, these two are the greatest buy!
1. Yuan Hand Made Soap 阿原肥皂. Using only pure and natural herbs, their soaps can provide remedies to various skin problems. We bought the Wild Patchouli Soap (for acne/pimples) and Liquorice Hair Soap (to fight seborrhea and dandruf). The retail price is slightly cheaper than those that I saw at Just Life organic shop.
2. Dark Sugar Block with Honey, Winter Melon or Ginger. I love the ginger version the most, it works really well to curb my menstrual pain. Just dissolve one small cube of it into hot water and you get a warm and soothing ginger drink.
Phew, such a long post on Jiufen! Do drop us an email at [email protected] if you have any questions.