On the schedule today was a visit out of Taipei, a little venture out into the surrounding areas! We decided to visit Jiufen first, after hearing many great things from our friends (namely my friend Sandy, possibly Taiwan’s biggest fan). The simplest way of getting there is the no. 1062 bus from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station Exit #1. Be wary, there’ll be loads of ticket touts around trying to sell their own bus tours or even private cars to Jiufen, but just politely decline and they’ll desist! In fact, the people in Taiwan are pretty polite overall, orderly queues form in the MRT stations and when we asked one of the touts for directions to the actual bus stop they happily complied!
Upon getting there, you’ll find a queue for the toilet and even better, the old street! More of a very long alleyway, this narrow stretch is filled with shops selling souvenirs but most importantly food. We moved from shop to shop basically trying everything out, one thing that particularly stood out to me (and not in a good way) was the Taiwanese Bawan dumpling. We had passed by a couple of stalls with these on display before finally succumbing to curiosity. Bearing a strong resemblance to washed up jellyfishes, we tentatively shared one between ourselves, cutting into its shiny translucent skin. I realise this may not be the most appetising of descriptions, but it wasn’t really to my tastes either! The dumpling dough (?) was a very slimy texture and although the flavours weren’t revolting, the texture of the whole thing was extremely off-putting. Who knows, maybe you’ll like it, but for me it’s definitely a try-it-once type of thing! On a positive note, I don’t understand why I don’t see “Panda Milk Tea” offered on bubble tea menus a lot more! Along with the usual tapioca pearls you also get sago pearls (my favourite), which makes for an even better mix of texture!
One thing that most people reference when talking about Jiufen is Spirited Away. Serving as the inspiration for the film’s town and bathhouse you can definitely pick out aspects of that feel familiar. We visited the famous Grand Tea House, but being on a budget we didn’t go in. It was impressive to view from the outside anyways and I can only imagine how beautiful it would also be in the evenings. There’s also a little tunnel (accessible from the main stairs) that leads you around the back of the tea house too. Admittedly not as striking as the front, but gives you a much needed reprieve from the busy crowds that Jiufen attracts!