If you’ve every watched the movie “Spirited Away”, then trekking through Jiu Fen Old Street will probably feel like you’re inside the movie. According to the stories, Spirited Away’s setting was based on this old Taiwanese gold mining village.
The town was developed around the fact that miners found gold flakes in the mountains, When word got out, there was a gold-rush, naturally; and this sped up the development of an isolated mountain village into a town. Jiufen has a somewhat dark history, there was once a POW camp based there, that housed captured Singaporean and British soldiers. The decline of the town came about around the end of World War II, as the mines were shut down and the town was forgotten.
Our little road trip came about because of a reunion that we had: one of of our friends came back to Taiwan to get married, and so the entire university gang flew in to celebrate her wedding. Seeing that we had some days left to explore, we chose Jiufen because only one of us had ever visited, but we had all heard how beautiful the place is.
First of all, we chose to go there on a day in the middle of July: which means that it was baking hot out! Add in the fact that most of the walking is either up up up stairs constantly, or you have the option of walking on the winding road, around blinding corners while cars zoom up and down the hill. We all agreed the stairs were our safest bet.
The food in Jiufen is (of course) quite Taiwanese. The most notable ones would be the taro balls, shaved ice and fruit, aiyu ice drink and the Taiwanese style restaurants where you order many dishes to share with your table. There were loads of hand made ceramic wares, like tea sets and other knick knacks, tons of postcards (which they help you to post) and very cute souvenirs. Unfortunately, the gold museum was closed, but to be honest, it didn’t seem very interesting from the outside, so we weren’t too pickled at missing out that bit.
The best part of our Jiufen trip, apart from spending time together, was definitely the view! There was a couple small islets that were visible from the mid-point and top of the hill. Since it was a clear day, we got to take several photos to commemorate our first time exploring Jiufen. Ten out of ten would recommend!