Jiufen is a small town on the north coast in Taiwan. It is one of the top recommended towns for tourists to visit in Taiwan. So you might wonder why it took us five years to get there.
Well, we finally made it to Juifen. I am glad we did not wait any longer to visit, as it was a wonderful place, and I can’t wait to go back!
There is an interesting story behind the name of the town. Jiufen means “nine portions” in Chinese.
During the first years of the Qing Dynasty, this village here housed nine families, thus the village would request “nine portions” every time shipments arrived from the government.
Another story is that the name refers to the amount of taxes due from the town families.
Jiufen was only an isolated fishing village until 1893, when gold was discovered in the area. The resulting gold rush hastened the village’s development into a town. .
Gold mining activities declined after World War II, and the mine was closed in 1971. Jiufen went into a decline, and for a while the town was mostly forgotten.
The quaint streets, restaurants, and fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean saved it from becoming yet another mining ghost town. Jiufen has become a popular tourist destination, which means that it can get quite crowded on weekends!
This historic street in Juifen is quite narrow, so when there are many tour buses visiting and lots of people, it becomes a one way street. Luckily for us, it was not quite that crowded when we were there!
There were many shops selling delicious things to eat! Juifen is famous for several different types of food. One speciality of the town is bawan, made with pork marinated in a special red sauce. This makes the bawan very colorful, along with delicious! We tried the vegan version of this specialty, which is made the same way only with tofu substituted for the pork.
I also did some shopping. The woman in the photo below was selling owls which she and her mother made out of fabric, twigs, beads, and cord. They were very cute!
There were many shops selling lots of different things! You could probably spend an entire afternoon shopping here if you wanted to!
But I think that we spent more time eating than shopping! Next, we tried another local specialty, made from taro and sweet potato.
These little morsels are very chewy and flavorful, and can be eaten several ways after they are cooked.
We tried them on shaved ice, and in hot, sweet soups made with honey and ginger and silken tofu.. They were so good that I bought some to take home!
I also had one of my favorite ice cream treats in Juifen. This is two small scoops of ice cream on top of shaved peanut brittle, with fresh cilantro sprinkled on it, all rolled up in a thin rice flour tortilla.
The street also provides spectacular views of the harbor and the Pacific Ocean below.
After eating our way along Juifen’s historic streets, we needed to exercise off some of those calories! So we drove up into the coastal mountains nearby to go hiking. We ended up on a hiking trail that went into the gold mining park.
There was beautiful scenery, with many signs along the trail explaining the history of gold mining in the area.
The Japanese, who occupied Taiwan from 1895 to 1945, considered these mines one of the greatest assets on the island. A lot of gold came from these mines; they were the most productive gold mines in Asia, and among the most productive mines in the world. During World War II, a POW camp named Kinkaseki was set up in Juifen, holding Allied soldiers captured in Singapore (including many British) who worked in the nearby gold mines.
They also mined silver and copper here.
There was a small Tutigong temple on the trail near the Gold Mine Park in Juifen. These small Tutigong temples can be found alongside many trails in Taiwan.
I was rather disappointed when we got to the entrance of the closed gold mine. It has been well closed off, and the Taiwan vegetation is already doing a good job of covering all of the exposed rock surfaces. It was very anticlimactic!
After we were done hiking, we drove to see the famous waterfall. The river that forms this waterfall is contaminated with the run off from the gold mine. Its acidic water kills the vegetation and exposes the rock underneath. The rock turns a golden color due to the minerals leached out of the rock by the acidic water. It is actually quite pretty to look at, even if it makes you sad to think about the reason behind its beauty.
On our drive up the coastal road back to Keeling, we stopped at a seaside park. This park contains the largest bat cave in Taiwan.
This bat cave is a nursery that holds thousands of female bats and their babies every year during the summer months of May through August. Since we were here in April, the bats had just started to arrive, so there were only a few bats flying out of the cave.
We had stopped at the park so that Jeff could take a break from driving in the heavy traffic heading from Juifen back to Keeling.
Jeff also wanted to get some photos of the sunset.
Jeff took some very nice sunset photos!
We thought that we would stop and have dinner at a seaside restaurant along the highway between Juifen and Keeling. But there were no restaurants along this stretch of highway! So we drove all the way back home to Neihu, and had dinner at Alleycat’s Pizza!
Harmony was very happy with that dinner menu, as she had not eaten good pizza in a long time!