Since Jiufen is my most anticipated place I’d love to visit in Taiwan, I did not want to spend unnecessary time during commuting so we could have a lot of energy when roaming around the place. Therefore I booked a tour in Klook. It was practically a transport rather than a tour, because once we got into the area, we were free to go around the place by ourselves and would meet in a designated place at a particular time. You can read more information about booking Jiufen Shuttle Bus in this post.
Shifen is a mountainous area famous for sky lantern. There is a little village near train station with shops lined up along the railway selling lanterns, foods and souvenirs. Tourists can choose the lantern color(s), write their wishes on it and fly the wishing lantern to the sky, all helped by the shops staff. These are the list of colors and their meanings.
Usually the lanterns would fall in the nearest mountains, and the trash would be collected by the local people, usually elderly. They can get paid for each used lanterns they found, that’s how the local government keeps the environment clean.
|Writing and flying out our lantern wishes in Shifen, hope all of them come true|
|Jingan Suspension Bridge|
Behind the train station, there is Jingan Suspension Bridge which used for transporting coal during coal mining industry’s days in that area in 20th century, but now has been renovated and transformed to a pedestrian bridge. It connects Shifen Old Village with another less crowded one called Nanshan Village.
Another interesting spot in Shifen is the waterfall. From Shifen Old Village, people can walk there for about 15-20 minutes or taking a taxi with flat rate NTD100/way. If you travel with a group of 4 people then this option is the best. Shifen waterfall is called Little Niagara because of its wide horse-shoe shape. From taxi stand, we need to walk another 10 minutes to the first view point to finally see the waterfall. Don’t worry there are some shops selling drinks and foods for refreshment. It also has a walking trail to go deeper inside the forest to gain prettier view of the fall. Even though it is far smaller than Niagara, but Shifen Waterfall is quite beautiful and refreshing with greenery forest around. There is no entrance fee to this waterfall.
There are souvenirs shops in both Shifen Old Village and Shifen Waterfall, but they are more variants and cheaper in Jiufen.
From Shifen Old Village it takes about 40 minutes by bus to Jiufen Old Village. Jiufen was a gold mining area during Japanese occupation in 1893 until just after the World War II. Now Jiufen got no more mining activity but left with rich culture. It is well-known with its old street filling with tea houses and food stalls in the narrow stairs alleys which attract many foreigners.
|Narrow alleys and stairs around Jiufen Old Strrets|
It’s believed that Hayao Miyazaki, the famous director and animator of Ghibli Studio, got the inspiration of Spirited Away movie from this old streets. In that animation movie, there is a bath house which looks the same with A-Mei Tea House in reality. Because of that, many stalls there now are selling Ghibli items which are not official, of course. While strolling around, we accidentally found a tiny cozy cafe shop called Jiufen Impression which was not just selling Ghibli stuff but also drinks, cakes and ice cream where we can seat there chilling out surrounded by Ghibli decoration. All Ghibli fans out there must be freaked out!
|Jiufen Impression Cafe Shop|
That was the modern culture (from Japan) in Jiufen. We can also enjoy its original traditional culture which is drinking tea in one of many tea houses. A-Mei Teahouse is the biggest, and most favorite one, but the drinks are more expensive and the place can be very crowded that we have to wait to be seated. Not far from A-Mei Teahouse, there is also an oldest theater in Taiwan called Shengping Theatre. With free entrance fee, we can enter and watch the showing Chinese old movies.
If you have more time, you can explore another attractions in Jiufen about few bus stops away from the old streets: Gold Museum (Jinguashi) and Golden Waterfall. Some tourist even combine Shifen and Jiufen with Yehlu Geopark and Keelung Night Market. Check the available Jiufen tours here in Klook.
The total duration of this tour was around 7 hours starting from and getting back to Taipei. It was not enough. If I have a chance to go to Taipei again, I will make sure to stay one night either in Ruifang or Pingxi district.