One thing we had agreed on as a must before leaving for Taiwan was Jiufen. However it wasn’t anywhere near where our friends lived and with our flight leaving early the following morning we decided to cut our visit of Taichung early, hop on a bus, book a hostel in Taipei and spend our last day in Jiufen.
We had a bit of a nightmare getting there. As I mentioned in the transportation post for us the Taipei train station/bus terminal was highly confusing, but eventually with some help we managed to get on the right train that would take us to Songshan Station where we caught bus 1062.
A short walk away from our bus stop was Guanhai Pavillion which is a beautiful spot to take photos and take in the view of the mountains and Pacific Ocean. If you want to visit any of the temples there are two, you need to go down the stairs near the Visitor Information Center (Which has a decent bathroom) to visit the Xiahai ChengHuan God Temple and further down to visit the Qingyun Temple. We managed to only visit Xiahai ChengHuan God Temple.
Xiahai ChengHuan God Temple
The Xiahai ChengHuan God Temple is located right underneath the bus stop, which in my last photo you can see is up above it. It isn’t really open for visitors, or at least wasn’t while we were there, but it was still open in a way that you could see in and enjoy the detailed pillars. However the peaceful and respectful air that most temples have is quite at odds with the fact the temple is also where all the taxi drivers choose to loiter. If you need a taxi head to the temple and you’ll find a lot of them just parked out front and the drivers smoking and chatting around the front.
The old street is just up the road from the bus drop off, just follow the road (carefully, you’ll be sharing the road with cars and there isn’t a sidewalk) Within Old Street there are a couple of things to do. You can shop or buy snacks.
We got shrimp balls which were a bit like hush puppies covered in ketchup that I liked and peanut ice cream rolls that were perfect to share. We had difficulty finding any substantial non-dessert or snack like food that we were interested in, so pack a lunch or stop by one of the convenience stores for a sandwich.
There are tons of streets for you to wander around and you’ll have the feeling you stepped into “Spirited Away”.
There were two highlights for us in the Old Street.
Shengping Theater 昇平劇院
Shengping Theater is a great spot to visit if you need to rest or if you happen to love film and history. You can take a seat and enjoy a free showing of an old black and white film or wander around (quietly) and look at the old concessions and ticket booth. They even have the original projector on display.
A Mei Teahouse 阿妹茶楼
The teahouse in Jiufen is stunning. If you want tea or to just rest it’s a great spot to go. The teahouse is huge with plenty of seating inside or upstairs on the balcony which hosts beautiful views in good weather.
Tea is sold in sets, and someone will come to show you how to follow the traditional tea ceremony.
We promptly forgot what to do when left on our own after our waitress left. Be careful with the big tea-pot, it can be heavy and hot. The container with the leaves in it is to be pushed through the lip into the smaller tea pot using what looks like a thin spoon, then hot water is added from the big tea pot. Do not drink the first round of tea, strain it and dump it out, add more hot water, don’t let it set too long or else you may burn the tea. The leaves can be used for several cups of tea before removing them with the wooden tongs into the big empty bowl. There is more to it, like pouring hot water over everything but they do show you what to do. Good luck remembering all the steps.
We had a lot of fun at the A Mei Teahouse, especially since it was a cold and rainy day. We ended up sitting, drink cup after cup of tea for hours before finally motivating ourselves to leave. We were also given souvenir postcards of the tea house.
After some more wandering we caught the bus home, this bus stop being above the first bus stop. We had a lot of fun in Jiufen and we didn’t do even close to all you can do while there. There’s a gold museum, more temples, you can go hiking through the mountains and you can send off your own lantern at night. It’s also a lot of fun for fans of “Spirited Away” to walk around in an old mining town that inspired the scenery of the film or for anyone who saw “City of Sadness” which was filmed there.
It’s definitely a day trip, so give yourself time to fit everything in and be careful with the tourist maps up that are in English, they aren’t the most accurate maps and led to us getting lost and turned around a lot.