Jiufen – what to do near Taipei, the gold rush city
Taiwan is a great place to travel, very underrated and treated only as a transfer point on flights to Australia, New Zealand or Japan. And that’s a mistake! Taiwan is a fantastic place to spend your vacation and free time here, and even if we only fly here with transfers, it is worth reserving a few days to explore Taipei and the surrounding area.
Today I will tell you about Jiufen – a unique place only two hours away by bus from Taipei. A place that should be on the travel map of Taiwan!
Jiufen – historical note
During the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), Jiufen was a tiny town with only nine families. Hence the name Jiu-Fen (Chinese – nine portions). The name comes from the fact that the town inhabited by nine families ordered or bought everything in the amount of nine pieces, because that was the demand.
In 1890, huge gold deposits were discovered in Jiufen, one of the largest in Asia. It is not difficult to guess that the gold rush began here, which reached its peak when Taiwan was a Japanese colony (1895-1945).
The city was densely built up by the Japanese. Narrow streets climb the slopes of the hills and tightly wrap around low-rise buildings. I won’t lie if i say that it is quite easy to get lost, walking along paths 50 centimeters wide, surrounded by residential buildings and commercial premises.
During the Second World War, the city became a Japanese labor camp. After the end of war, gold mining decreased with each passing year, until in 1971 it was completely stopped.
Tourist boom in Jiufen
The first tourists started arriving in Jiufen in 1989 after the film “A City of Sadness” was filmed there. It was mainly domestic tourism.
Source Wikipedia – A city of sadnessCity of Sadness is a 1989 Taiwanese historical drama directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien. It tells the story of a family embroiled in the “White Terror” that was inflicted on the people of Taiwan by the Kuomintang government after their arrival from mainland China in the late 1940s.
However, the real crazyness for Jiufen and the extreme influx of people in foreign visitors began in 2001 with the filming of the anime Spirited Away: in the Land of the Gods. Hay Miyazaki’s full-length film telling the story of a girl who, together with her parents, ended up in a city where people from overeating turned into pigs (of course it was Jiufen), made tourists from around the world come to see this extraordinary place.
The masked ghost from Spirited Away is still one of the symbols of this great mining town.
If you want to book transportation or a guide in Jiufen or anywhere in Taiwan, it’s worth doing so using the website below. By registering via my link you get 100NTD to use for your first booking. Register in KLOOK
What to do in Jiufen
Visit Old Street
The old shopping street, which once housed almost all the retail outlets of the mining town, has become the busiest attraction. At present, it is full of shops with souvenirs, handicrafts, restaurants where you can try local delicacies. There was no one in Jiufen who had not tried Taro Balls – a traditional Taiwanese dessert!
Old Street (Jishan Street) starts at the 7-Eleven store and goes uphill in a bend between the houses. A quick walk will take several dozen minutes, but many people spend at least a few hours here. Why? Because the street is incredibly charming, it makes a great impression when you walk up the hill surrounded by dense buildings, and traditional lanterns sway sleepily above our heads.
Visit a traditional teahouse
At this address you will find two of the most popular teahouses in Jiufen.
And let me explain right away – the teahouse is not only a place where you can drink tea from a teabag! The teahouse is a culturally very important place. Drinking tea in Taiwan is a Chinese tradition that has been cultivated for centuries.
When you order tea in the teahouse, you are paying in a way for the seat, not for the drink itself. You will receive a whole set of dishes. And, lest you get lost, I am in a hurry to explain how to drink tea in a traditional teahouse.
Use the tongs to scoop tea leaves into a small teapot. Adjust the amount to your preferences – more leaves, stronger tea. Put the teapot with the cups in the bowl. The hot water will stand on the floor in a large kettle, heating up on what looks like a vase of flame. Pour water over the entire set in a bowl so that it overflows, the bowl should be half full of water. This is for washing the cups, but also for keeping the heat in the mini kettle. Then, when the tea is brewed, pour it into the cups and enjoy it.
There are several types of teas to choose from, regardless of the tea house, so there is something for everyone. The set also includes a few tasty snacks (mochi, sesame snacks, green bean biscuits and sweet plums). A tea set for two is around NTD 600-1000. We can sit endlessly and enjoy the view, talk or rest.
If you want to visit A-Mei Teahouse, Jiufen’s most popular teahouse, it’s worth booking a table at least one day in advance. If you do it by using my link, you save a lot of money and in addition you have a reserved place and time. –> Click to make the reservation.
Visit Shengping theatre
At a time when Jiufen was a mining town, theater was the only entertainment. Visiting it today, we can see old movie posters, see the Japanese baroque style in which the entire building was made. Immediately after entering, on the left, there is an old shop, mainly with stimulants – beer, tobacco, sake, where miners stocked up for a session. To this day, there are real (although of course – past the expiry date) items that were very popular in the past.
The theater is open on weekdays from 9:30 to 17:30. On weekends 9:30 – 18:00. Admission is free.
Visit Gold Museum in Jinguashi
It’s only 10 minutes by bus from the old town of Jiufen and the museum is truly an amazing attraction! Admission – 80 NTD. Opening hours are 9:30 am – 5:30 pm on weekdays, 9:30 am – 6:00 pm on weekends.
In the museum, you can learn the full history of the mining of the precious metal, visit the house of the Japanese Prince who managed both the museum and the city. You can also see the multi-family Japanese house where the mine managers lived, and inside you can see sculptures depicting everyday life. When we go to the next level, we will see a wonderful panorama, and we will end our tour of the museum in the room with the largest gold bar in Taiwan, weighing more than 200 kg!
See the Shinto Shrine
When you finish visiting the museum, it’s not worth going back to the entrance! It is worth continuing up the stairs and climbing to the old Japanese Shinto temple, which rises majestically on the mountainside.
And from the temple itself we will see Mount Teapot, a kettle-like rock formation with an amazing view of the coast and the city. Anyway, a little more about it later;)
Going higher above the Shinto Temple, it’s hard to miss the Geopark. It is a kind of a canyon, where various types of stones present what, apart from gold, could be mined on site. The point may not be super interesting (no explanations), but it’s very photogenic!
Hike Teapot Mountain
Going back a bit towards the Shinto temple, we find a trail leading to the opposite mountain – Teapot Mountain. If you don’t have time to climb to the top for two hours, you can make it easier and get there by scooter, bike or car, literally 20 minutes from the top, here:
Stairs and a rocky road will lead you to the rock formation, and from the point on the map above, even an inexperienced person will not take more than half an hour to hike up. Reaching the rock you will see the entrance to the cave, inside there is a rope, on which you pull up and squeeze through the crack, you can climb to the top. At the very top, there are three places with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, Shinto temple, gold museum, the coast and the entire Jinguashi.
The ascent and climbing does not require special equipment or even shoes, so it can be done when prepared for a regular city trip.
Visit Chuen Ji Hall
Descending from Teapot Mountain, it’s hard to miss the beautiful DAO temple with the great statue of God Guang Gong. There is a viewpoint on the temple terrace. Inside, in the fountain, you’ll see turtles swimming, which in the DAO religion symbolize prosperity and are responsible for material goods.
See the road of many bends
Going down towards the coast, there will be a great view of the canyon and a very curvy road below. This road has been used in dozens of movies and series shot in Taiwan. There is a secret place to take great photos, so Instagrammers should listen carefully;)
This is exactly where the rope is hidden in the thicket (you can see it by changing to Google Street View)
Pulling up on it, we will get onto the platform, turn left and go all the way to the turn. I know, it sounds a bit like a Tomb Raider game, but it actually looks like that;) There is an amazing view of the curve road from above. You have to be careful when climbing the rope – I cut my legs on some old wires set up here to prevent rocks from falling onto the road.
See Golden Waterfall
The amount of iron ore flowing down the river created the amazing waterfall effect that shimmers as if this liquid gold was falling from the mountains. The best time to take photos are the so-called golden hours – the time after sunrise and in the evening, just before sunset.
See Jiufen Qingyun – the most beautiful temple!
The temple is stunning. If you only have time to see one (of over ten!) Temples in the area, choose this one! It has eight floors, each dedicated to a different God. On the top floor there is a great observation deck from which you can take great photos.
What else to do in Jiufen?
If you were staying longer, Jiufen will have even more attractions! Among other things, it will be:
- visiting old tunnels (you can find lots of them, they are scattered all over the city)
- sightseeing Old Street at night (the effect is amazing when all the lanterns light up the narrow streets)
- Visiting all temples – there are a dozen of them here, and each one is different
- Visiting the DAO cemetery – it’s a relic of the past to build crypts, but in Jiufen on the hill there are several dozen of them
How to get from Taipei to Jiufen?
By using Ximen – Jiufen Shuttle bus. Can be booked here – Shuttle Bus from Ximen, Taipei to Jiufen & Shifen
The cost after clicking on my link is around 450 NTD.
Train to Ruifang and then bus to Jiufen
Taipei trains depart from Banqiao, Wanhua, Songshan and Nangang stations. There is no need to book tickets in advance, trains run every half hour. Depending on whether we choose the faster or a little slower train, the journey will take from 40 to 60 minutes. The ticket price is 64-96 NTD depending on the train.
However, if you would like to book a train ticket online, you will find all the information here https://www.railway.gov.tw/tra-tip-web/tip?lang=EN_US
After getting off at the Ruifang station, we go out, turn left and go to the stop vis-a-vis the police station. From there, for 10-20 NTD we can go to Jiufen by buses number 827, 788, 825, 965. The journey will take 15 minutes.
Direct bus from Fuxing MRT Station
Right outside Taipei’s Fuxing Road Subway Station, you can catch the 1062 bus. It is a direct bus from Taipei to Jiufen, and its last stop is Quan Ji Temple in Jinguashi. The cost of the ticket is 100 NTD, travel time – about an hour and a half (depending on traffic).
You can pay with the Easy Card for both the train and the bus. If you are just coming to Taiwan, order the Easy Card and collect it at the airport Order Easy Card
Is Jiufen a day trip?
Jiufen can be a day trip out of town. Departure in the morning and return in the evening. However, if you want to combine visiting the old street and the gold museum and climbing Teapot Mountain with trying local specialties, visiting temples and savoring traditional tea, then you have to stay here for at least one night.
Personally – I definitely recommend spending more than a day on Jiufen. But if you are running out of time and you cannot stay overnight – you can see a lot in one day!