Taiwan is a country that’s never been on my list, to be honest. After completing my South East Asia journey, I’m intending to do East Asia and South Asia. I was wondering, which countries to travel and I picked Taiwan because it’s a small country, not too expensive, also affordable flights. I booked my flight and started doing research about Taiwan. What I found about this country was surprisingly “clicked” on my interest. My first stop in Taiwan was Taipei and Jiufen.
First stop in Taiwan: Taipei City
Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan and it’s the majority travelers’ starting point. The trend of traveling Taiwan is either doing clock-wise; east coast to the west, or the other way round. According to my research, November is considered as the best month to travel Taiwan which is autumn time. Chill temperature, less-rain, and more importantly, no typhoon. The reality was, it kept raining since the first day I arrived in Taipei. There’s only a single sunny day in Taipei.
Since we only had two nights to spend in Taipei and thank god for giving us one bright sunny day in Taipei, it’s time to explore the city. Taipei doesn’t look like a big metropolitan city. The buildings and apartments look a bit dull and old-fashion, I guess that’s the charm even though some modern buildings can be seen in the CBD area.
Within a day, we managed to see the major tourist attractions in the city. Traveling these days is super easy, you just need google maps and it will show you what transportation to use and I can ensure 95% works exactly in Taiwan. The transportation system is well-connected, they have metros, buses, and good railway system as well. Bus fare around Taipei city has a flat rate NTD15 and the metros start from NTD20. So, let’s explore Taipei!
- Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
This huge complex of historical site to honor a great leader, Chiang Kai-Shek, is one of the most-visited landmark in the heart of Taipei city. Spanned for 250,000 square meters, the complex consists of three main buildings; Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Park, National Concert Hall, and National Theater. Inside the memorial hall, a museum about Chiang Kai-Shek and history of the country will give you a better insight. Every hour there’s a changing guard ceremony, very interesting to watch.
- Bopiliao Old Street
We found this old street on our way to Longshan Temple. The wooden-housings look empty but it’s nice to stroll along the alleys. It is said that the buildings here are still retained with its original look after the restoration. In addition to the traditional look, the walls were painted by contemporary artists to make it more fun and that’s what attracts people to come and take a shot with the artsy walls.
- Longshan Temple
In terms of religious belief, the majority of Taiwanese are following Buddhist and Taoist practice. It is very common to see temples around the cities. In Taipei, Longshan temple wins as the most famous one, both for locals and tourists. Everyday the temple is busy with worshipers doing their prayer. The smell of burning incense sticks and the fume fills the air. Colorful flowers were presented on the table, as well as fruits.
- Elephant Mountain
Elephant Mountain or Xiangshan in local language is the spot to watch the whole city view. It can be busy during sunset time and evening, that’s how famous it is. The trail starts not too far from Taipei 101. Climbing the stairs up can be a bit tiring but once you get to the top, you will see the incredible view of the city and the lights. Taipei 101 as the highest building in the city looks glorious in between.
- Shilin and Raohoe Night Market
When you’re in Taiwan, you definitely can’t miss the night market. Each city has a special night market that sells food and beverages, even providing games. We went to two night markets in Taipei, Raohoe and Shilin Night market. Both night markets were busy. The price of the food varies from NTD 50-200. I tried a few things like sausages, stinky tofu, and of course, bubble tea.
Jiufen: A sleepy gold mining town
Our next stop after Taipei was Jiufen. Most of tourists will do a day trip from Taipei to Jiufen. It is not that far, about an hour drive from Taipei. However, if you have time, I highly suggest you to stay overnight in Jiufen. Jiufen is a beautiful small town in a mountainous area. Set back in the Japanese Era, Jiufen reached its prime time as a gold mining town. On top of that, Jiufen is also famous by the winning-award animated movie “Spirited Away“.
It didn’t stop raining since we arrived in Jiufen, it didn’t stop us either to walk around. There is only two main road in Jiufen, the flat road and the hilly road. I doubt two cars can fit in. The rain created a different feel to Jiufen, sometimes the fog would come down and covered some parts of the hill. I meandered through the small alleys with shops selling souvenirs and food. Until 8 p.m. it’s very busy with tourists but after, it’s empty. I enjoyed Jiufen better around this time.
The next day we went to Jinguashi and visited the gold museum. There are still some old Japanese houses that you can enter and have a look. One of the building is Crown Prince Chalet, located in a shaded area and overlooking the sea. The mansion was build in preparation for a visit of the Japanese Crown Prince who later become the emperor.
We kept walking and found ourselves in Qitang Old Street. This area is completely opposite of Jiufen Old Street. I could barely see human beings here. The serenity of this village drew me into my own thoughts, if only I could live here. The village is surrounded by the hill and the housings look like it hasn’t been touched since how it originally built.
I love Jiufen, even when it’s raining. This area reminds me of the old setting from a Chinese movie. The lanterns around A-Mei Tea House looks pretty in the night, the alleys, the hot taro balls soup in the cold weather, the hills and the sea, I love everything about it. I’m happy to come to Jiufen and stay in one of the traditional house. Here are more pictures for you:
Getting to Jiufen from Taipei by public transportation
- Take the train from Taipei Main Station towards Ruifang Station. From Ruifang Station catch bus no. 788 to Jiufen Old Street. Train ticket: NTD 60, Bus fare: NTD 20
- Head to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station and take the exit number 2. Take bus no. 1062 to Jiufen. Bus fare: NTD 100
Traveled in 9-13 November 2017
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