Today we took a day trip from Taipei to Jiufen. A place said to be the inspiration for the opening scene of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, one of my all-time favorite films. In the scene, a young girl and her parents unwittingly stumble into an empty, lantern-lined street, full of food stands. Despite the fact that nobody is around, the food stands are piled high with a variety of steaming hot delicacies. The girl’s parents start to gorge themselves on the food and, as night falls, the red lanterns are lit and the parents are transformed into pigs!
Jiufen is well known for its red lantern lined streets, countless food stalls selling everything imaginable, and hordes of hungry tourists eager to gorge themselves. Beyond the food street, Jiufen is set in a scenic green hillside that steeply drops off into the sea. As a former mining town turned tourist destination, Jiufen has a magical quality to it that can make one feel spirited away…
Our day in Jiufen
We arrived around lunchtime and spent the afternoon exploring Jiufen Old Street and its maze of lantern lined alleys full of food.
We played it pretty safe food-wise, grazing on dumplings, noodles, bubble tea, and ice cream. Taiwan is famous for its “stinky tofu”, which you can smell from a mile away, but we have not yet had the guts to try it.
After eating, we decided to work off the calories with a hike to the top of the nearby Keelung Mountain. As we approached the top, the weather started to turn, but we managed to get up and down before the rain started.
We got back down just as the sun was setting, and returned to Jiufen Old Street to take in the nighttime ambiance (and more food of course).
We returned to Taipei that night on the train. Overall, it was a lovely day-trip with a little bit of everything: food, hiking, scenery, culture, and fun!