The pastoral life: A peaceful stroll in Jiufen, Taiwan’s quaint countryside town
JIUFEN – often considered the real-life Spirited Away – has a magical quality that immediately reels you in.
Amidst the quaint and bucolic village was once a gold-mining mountain town built by the Japanese in 1893, so you can expect to literally walk down memory lane as you cross the many old streets and alleyways interconnected by cobblestone paths.
While Jiufen’s road system may seem like a maze you could easily get lost in, many of the town’s major attractions are found along the main streets, so it’s easy to navigate them even if it’s your first time.
When you first get to Jiufen, you’re most likely to arrive walk past Shuqi Road (Jiufen Old Street). From here, you can quickly get on to Jishan Street, Qiche Road and Qingbian Road to check out the wide variety of shops, restaurants, and cafés.
While Jiufen Old Street is usually packed with tourists, it’s a great place to start before you explore the other parts of Jiufen.
There are many shops that offer local delicacies and handmade crafts. If you’re looking for a good photo spot, panoramic views of Jiufen’s harbor that extends out to the Pacific Ocean is just across the street.
Jiufen is well-known for buildings built in the 1800s for mining businesses. At close proximity to the Jiufen bus station is the Taiyang Co. Ruifang Mining Operation Office which gives you a glimpse of the town’s mining history during the Japanese era.
From here, the memorial Songde Park on Qinbian Road features monuments dedicated to the founder of Jiufen’s mining culture, as well as sculptures and an early mining tunnel called Wufan Tunnel next to the park.
You may also want to trek down the hill from the main street to check out the historical Shengping Theater, the first of its kind ever built in Taiwan.
Jiufen’s hilly landscapes offer hiking aficionados plenty of hiking trails to choose from. As most of them are easily accessible, half or one-day trips are usually sufficient to cover a single trail.
Keelung Mountain is recommended for hikers who don’t want to traverse too far from the main street – the entrance to the hiking area is just 350 meters away from the Jiufen Old Street.
Keelung, which roughly translates to “chicken cage”, got its name from the shape of the mountain that resembles a cage. It will take about an hour to reach the mountaintop, and a bit longer if you wish to rest your feet at one or all of the three pavilions on the way up.
At an altitude of 588m, this trail offers breathtaking views of the valleys that surround Jiufen and during good weather, you can even catch a sight of Taipei 101 in the distance.
One of the things you shouldn’t miss while in Jiufen is dropping by one of the many teahouses. The Jiufen Teahouse is a great place to start. Opened in 1991, it’s set in a rustic wooden house at the topmost part of Jiufen which offers fantastic views of the town and beyond.
Most of the tea sold here are of the Oolong variety, a popular choice in Taiwan. You can also get handmade teapots and pottery to complement your tea collection.
Standing out among the rest is the 100-year-old A-Mei Tea House in Jiufen, said to have inspired the award-winning Japanese animation film Spirited Away. This teahouse features traditional Japanese and Taiwanese architectural influences.
Where to stay
Many tourists usually opt for a day trip in Jiufen, but most would find that it’s not enough especially if planning to put in a bit of hiking. Consider staying overnight at one of the many guesthouses, boutique hotels or B&Bs at Jiufen.