Jiufen has been on my list of Things To See In Taiwan since we moved here three years ago.
But, for some reason, we have managed to find time to explore New Zealand, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Vietnam before finding the time to explore this mountain village, which is only two hours away from our little apartment in Hsinchu.
Life is funny like that sometimes.
But, last weekend we found the perfect reason to wake early on a Saturday morning and begin the process of making it to Jiufen: celebrating my 29th birthday, of course.
To get to Jiufen, we scooted to the high speed rail, hopped on a train to Taipei, navigated the metro to a bus stop and rode a bus for one hour out of the capital and up into the mountains.
I was giddy because I was on an adventure, and I adore adventures!
May in Taiwan is stinkin' hot and humid.
By the time we arrived in Jiufen, I was ready to take a shower and change my clothes.
But adventure waits for no such things.
So we embraced the heat and humidity by joining the massive horde of people exploring this bizarre, old, mountain side village with a view of the Pacific.
First, it was the setting of two popular films: The City of Sadness and Spirited Away.
It was also a Japanese P.O.W. camp during WWII.
Oh, and there was (and still is some) a lot of gold and mines in these hillsides.
But today people mostly come to get out of the city for a bit and drink tea and stroll and shop the steep steps and narrow alleyways lined with eccentric shop keepers and fun stalls.
Confession: I did not eat any of the food in Jiufen.
I have tried much of Taiwan's street + market food, and I have to say I am not a fan.
The smell of stinky tofu permeated the town and that is just not an appetizing scent.
That said, even though we didn't buy anything, it was fun to poke around the stalls and walk up and down twisting, narrow alleyways.
After living in Taiwan for three years, sometimes it feels like all of the adventure has dissipated.
Going to Jiufen was proof that is not true.
I am so lucky.
I don't have to get on an airplane to go explore a new country.
All I need to do is venture a few hours away from home and I am transported somewhere foreign and new and fun.
Being an expat has its definite perks, one of which being stellar birthday weekend getaways and adventures lurking around every new corner.
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