History and Overview
What makes Jiufen one of Taiwan’s most famous tourist attractions? Once just a sleepy mountain village, Jiufen boomed into a mining town when gold was discovered there in 1893. The mine closed down in 1971, but the Japanese architecture and old street have been preserved, letting visitors take a journey back in time.
If you’re a fan of anime, then the town may even look familiar to you. Jiufen is said to be one of the inspirations for Hayao Miyazaki’s acclaimed film “Spirited Away.”
There’s no direct public transportation from Taipei to Jiufen, so you’ll have to transfer from train to bus. First, take a train from Taipei Main station to Ruifang station. The ride takes about 35 minutes to an hour and costs between $49 and $76 NTD, depending on the train type. Once in Ruifang, take Keelung bus 1062 in the direction of Jiufen and get off after about 15 minutes at Jiufen Old Street stop.
Note to the easily motion sick: take your motion sickness medicine well before you start heading up the mountain. I’ve been to Jiufen three times, and two of them ended with me bent over a plastic bag. The first time I was heading up the mountain by bus, the second time, down the mountain by car. These roads are narrow and windy, so if you’re at all worried about motion sickness, make sure you prepare yourself.
What to do
Once you’ll get off the bus, you’ll see a lot of people milling about near a 7-Eleven. Duck into the tiny alley between the 7-Eleven and the souvenir shop next to it to start your exploring. Once off the main road, it’s easy to see where the attraction of Jiufen comes from. While the old architecture has been preserved, the buildings have all been converted to shops and teahouses, so that you can actually experience the traditional beauty of the structures, rather than just view them. Speaking of views, many of the teahouses offer a breathtaking look at the surrounding mountains.
On to Jinguashi
The nearby town of Jinguashi hosts the Gold Museum of New Taipei, also known as the Gold Ecological Park. To get there, go back to the Jiufen Old Street bus stop. From there, get on either bus 788 or 1062 and take a 15-minute ride to Jinguashi stop. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can walk the mile and a half from Jiufen to Jinguashi. There are plenty of beautiful overlooks and photo ops along the way, and the fresh mountain air will do you good!