We took the Pingxi train back to Ruifang where we got off to try to figure out how to get to Jiufen. I was excited about visiting Jiufen because it looked beautiful and was also the place that inspired the look and feel of the town in Spirited Away.
There was some confusion as to where to catch the bus so I asked for directions in Ruifang Station. Dan seemed to understand where to go, even though the instructions were all in Mandarin. After following Dan I realized that his interpretation of the instructions wasn’t what I thought they had said. Somehow we found a bus stop and somehow it was the right one. We got on the bus and got seats. The bus we took was the Keelung Transit bus and it was also on the Easy Card system, so we just paid by swiping our cards. Later on the bus filled up so that many people had to stand, so we felt lucky to have seats.
The bus ride was about 15 minutes from Ruifang. When we arrived it was pouring rain again so we decided to walk to the Visitor Centre. When we got there we asked for directions to a local teahouse where we could stop and warm up. They recommended a place called Ah Mei Teahouse, which is apparently a famous teahouse. It’s located on Shuqi Street, which was the inspiration for Spirited Away.
We followed the directions and eventually, feeling wet and tired, ended up in a teahouse. Not Ah Mei Teahouse. Looking at my pictures later I realized we were almost across the street from it. Oh well.
I liked this teahouse. The staff were very nice and we we warmed up with some beauty tea. We also ate some xiaolongbao and started to feel more human. It poured rain the entire time we were in Jiufen. After hanging out in the teahouse for a few hours we decided it was time to explore.
Even though it was pouring rain, Jiufen was still busy with tourists. It probably wasn’t as crowded as it usually is, but it was still pretty crowded. We still stopped and tried to take a few pictures. Despite the rain, it was still a beautiful nostalgic feeling town. I could just imagine it from Jiufen’s gold mining days. The famous Taiwan film A City of Sadness was also shot in Jiufen and is credited with helping to revive Jiufen as a popular tourist destination.
We made our way to Jiufen Old Street and explored the shops and food stalls. Because of the rain I wasn’t in much of a mood to shop or eat. We were drenched and chilled to the bone. We stopped in a cheesy souvenir shop where we looked at t-shirts for couples (Dan refused to indulge me and buy one). I bought an “I love Taiwan” shirt. I couldn’t help myself.
We also found a beautiful Ocarina shop. The owners make Ocarina’s shaped as cute little animals. He was demonstrating one so I bought a frog ocarina. I haven’t learned to play it but it’s definitely beautiful to look at.
Since we were now thoroughly soaked and had explored as much as we could, we decided to head back to Ruifang. We couldn’t figure out where to wait for the bus so instead we flagged down a taxi. The taxis have set price between Jiufen and Ruifang, which was good for us because we didn’t get ripped off. The driver dropped us back at the station and we decided to wander around and look for food.
As we were wandering, I some of the few words that I can read in Chinese. Beef Noodle Soup. The woman asked us if we wanted a large bowl or a small bowl and I asked Dan and he immediately said “ohhhh, a large bowl.” She laughed when I told her. It was some of the best beef noodle soup I’ve ever had. It filled us up, it was tasty and it warmed my core.
After this we walked back to the station where Dan bought some candy. He bought a Haribou Goldbaren because it was a gold bear and he liked the German sounding name. Soon it was time to board the train and we headed back to Taipei and to the warmth of our hotel.
Back in the hotel I watched a hilarious show. There was a challenge were contestants had to put their sweater on a hangar while they were still wearing it and then race around an obstacle course while dragging the clothes rack. Then their teammate would join them and they’d do it again and so on and so forth. The team with the fastest time won.
Much to Dan’s annoyance, I couldn’t get enough of the show. I love Taiwan shows.