Set against the backdrop of majestic mountains and gorgeous sea, Jiufen and its neighbour Jinguashi are two villages in Taiwan that warrant a spot on tourists’ itineraries.
Both overlook the north-east coast and were once thriving mining areas during the Japanese era. They were prosperous in the 1930s when Jiufen was known as Little Shanghai.
Getting here from Taipei is a breeze. There is frequent bus service (No. 1062) from MRT Zhong-xiao Fuxing Station in downtown Taipei to Jiufen and Jinguashi. The ride takes about an hour.
Alternatively, one can take an east-bound train (heading to Yilan/Hualien) to Ruifang and transfer to a bus bound for the two villages or further on to Fulong.
If spectacular scenery, a compelling history and great accessibility are not reason enough to visit, here’s another one: There is plenty to explore in these settlements.
Here are five amazing experiences to immerse yourself in while you’re here.
After arriving at Jiufen, most tourists head straight to the Old Street, a narrow and winding pedestrian-only alley lined with shops.
Shopping and dining
Let’s begin our journey at Jiufen Old Street. If anything, this is the venue that most tourists head to upon arrival. This narrow and winding pedestrian-only alley is flanked by souvenir shops and eateries. Of course, you’ll have to try Jiufen’s specialty: tapioca and sweet potato ball soup.
Be sure to stop by at the Jiufen A Mei Teahouse, a beautiful and well-preserved wooden structure, to enjoy a steaming cup of tea while soaking in great views. Fans of Japanese anime might recognise the teahouse as the setting that inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s fantasy film Spirited Away that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards in 2003.
Once you’re suitably refreshed, you can visit the nearby Shengping Theater, Taiwan’s first cinema. Built in 1914, the venue used to entertain miners during the mining heyday in Jiufen.
About a 10-minute bus ride away from Jiufen is the village of Jinguashi. It’s much quieter here, but the scenery is even more spectacular than in Jiufen.
The star attraction would be the Gold Ecological Park, which is a showcase of the village’s gold-mining legacy.
The Jiufen A Mei Teahouse is a beautiful and well-preserved wooden structure. Its said to be the inspiration behind the setting of Hayao Miyazaki’s award-winning movie Spirited Away.
Be sure to touch the ingot of 99.9% pure gold that’s on display at the park museum – it weighs a whopping 220.3kg!
Of course, all of that gold would not be possible without the hard labour of the miners.
So once you are done gawking at the magnificent pieces on display, explore the old mining tunnels to get an idea of the conditions that miners had to work in while mining for the precious metal.
Sure, the views you get from Jiufen and Jinguashi are breathtaking. But brace yourself for even more dramatic sights when you’re up in the mountains.
There are two great hiking options: Mt Jilong (north of Jiufen) and Tea Pot Mountain (east of Jinguashi).
Both mountains have an easy-to-follow but steep and shadeless path (don’t forget to apply sun protection and bring plenty of water in the summer).
Once you have reached the vantage points, whip out your camera to immortalise incredible views of the coastal mountains and sea.
Take a dip in the falls
Follow County Highway 34 from Jinguashi north, downhill towards the coast, and you will pass the remarkable Golden Waterfall that is conveniently located just off the road.
The water cascades over a golden-brown streambed and rocks, creating a truly unique scene.
From Jiufen, you can see this spectacular view of the north-east coast.
In case you’re wondering about the science behind the beautiful phenomenon, the colour stems from minerals that were exposed during mining operations further up the mountain and then deposited in the stream.
With its picture-perfect setting, the waterfall is a favourite among photographers.
Sometimes, you might even see newlyweds posing for wedding photography here.
Perfect sunset scenery
Make sure to stick around until dusk when you are in Jiufen. The mountainside-hugging town faces the north-west, meaning that the sun sets to the left if one is looking out over the coast.
With scattered clouds in the sky, the scene can be quite remarkable and dramatic. Prepare to have your breath taken away.
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The Gold Ecological Park is a showcase of an illustrious gold-mining legacy.