With three different countries and cities under our belts, we arrived at the last day of Golden Week but had one more push planned for our last day. In the morning we headed downtown and caught a bus from Taipei to Jiufen. This old mining town in the mountains and by the sea was made famous in recent years by Miyazaki’s Spirited Away which draws its dramatic buildings, lanterns, and hillsides from this city.
The ride to Jiufen itself was incredible. As we drew nearer, we wound up mountain roads and saw temples and houses cut into the mountainside. And once we were off the bus, we were assailed by food and colors. Shortly after arriving, we got amazing peanut roll ice cream that we carried through busy streets full of tourists and people offering free samples of tea and snacks. Shops sold all kinds of souvenirs from kitschy I Heart Taiwan products to Studio Ghibli souvenirs to tea.
Our walk through town took us past storefronts and cats which slept on motor cycles. We sampled some different Taiwanese dishes and drank more bubble tea, including “panda” tea which has both big and small tapioca pearls, and this actually becomes a choking hazard as you don’t know what size to expect.
We didn’t have anything particular to see in Jiufen, so the pleasure of visiting is in getting lost in its tiny alleys, finding different temples and shops, and eating all sorts of food. It was cloudy and gray, but it made the town more atmospheric. It’s most popular with tourists in the evening when the lanterns all light up, but we opted to visited by day when it would be a little less hectic, and I think it was a good decision.
Back in the city, we met up with Lynn who’d arrived from Singapore. That night we grabbed some great Taiwanese fried chicken before heading to Elephant Mountain to enjoy the night view of Taipei. The climb was steeper than we’d expected, but the view from the top was superb. At one point, though, the couple standing next to us started making out. We started sharing stories about awkward middle and high school dances and then left to grab incredible mango ice before the shop closed for the night.