If you take the 1062 bus out of Taipei and are lulled to sleep by the the winding, hour-long ride, you’ll wake up in the charming mining town of Jiufen.
Located on the northeastern shoulder of Taiwan, Jiufen was a mining town whose gold rush began in the 1890s and declined after World War II. After a 1989 movie, City of Sadness, was filmed in Jiufen, interest in the town was renewed, and it’s since been a popular tourist attraction. Rumors that its architecture was the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away make Jiufen particularly appealing to Japanese tourists.
Famous for its narrow, winding streets lined with shops, its wide array of tea houses and food stalls and its vast views of both Taiwan and the ocean, Jiufen was a great day trip out of Taipei, even if it was a little more touristy and less historical than I’d hoped.
It was extremely overcast, even foggy, the entire day. We hoped the skies would clear for us to get the iconic shot of the A Mei Tea House (above) with all the paper lanterns lit up at dusk. But some strange combination of the higher elevation, the ocean gusts and the mountain terrain kept the clouds lingering directly over Jiufen, even as the sun was shining on the bay several miles away. It was pretty disappointing, especially since I’d been looking forward to making that photo.
For the rest of the week in Taipei, whenever it was overcast or drizzly (which was every day), we’d sigh, “It’s probably sunny in Jiufen.”
After wandering the outskirts of Jiufen, we returned to the main stretch, where again the weather disappointed us. Unfazed, my uncle Doug led us down the famous Jiufen stone steps, through a short, narrow tunnel and to Yu Zai Fan Shu Tea Stall (九份芋頭蕃薯), where he educated Jeff and me a bit on Chinese tea culture.
We also had a killer view from our window seat:
After drinking so much high mountain tea that the insides of my mouth turned dry and puckery, we left to roam the streets of Jiufen once more. I’ll have CineStill photos from Jiufen in my next blog post.