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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

exploring the steps of jiufen

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.
Jiufen is famous for a few really random reasons.
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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  1. As much as I love going to a new place, I also love local travel. Before, when I live in the UK, I never saw any of it, I never travelled around or went to different towns and cities. Now I'm in Belgium, I feel so silly that I never saw the UK whilst I was there, how much I've missed... there always the future, but still. So we make the most of Belgium, we head out on the train and stop off in little towns, we take the bus out to places we've not seen and we just see the place we're calling home at the moment.

    But, I wouldn't say no to Asian mountain town either ;)

    1. It is so silly, isn't it? I have no excuse for my unfulfilled Taiwan travel plans. I seem to have months of motivation and months of hibernation. I think I am exiting from hibernation so I hope I will go have some more adventures!

  2. This is so great! I love Taiwan-- my family is from there-- and I've really enjoyed exploring the island through the years growing up. Your photos really capture the feel of Jiufen. So cool that you teach, live and travel in Taiwan!

    1. I seriously love Taiwan. Do you have any recommendations for anything I have to do?

  3. I love local travel. Especially since going on an airplane to travel isn't always the cheapest option, it's always nice to just go somewhere new no matter how close or far it is from your home. And this town looks quite beautiful to visit!

    1. It was so pretty! The transit, including the high speed rail, is so cheap here that local travel is always accessible.

  4. Happy belated birthday! Going on a local adventure seems like the perfect way to celebrate and enjoy more of your adopted home.

    I'm also completely with you with a dislike for stinky tofu. Not a fan at all.

    1. Thanks! My students want me to eat stinky tofu so bad. I think they have a conspiracy going to see if they can trick me into accidentally eating it. I think the odor would give it away!

  5. Hi Jackie! I decided to stop by your blog after you visited mine! I was just perusing around and saw this post! I love your photos of Jiufen! This was one of my favorite places I visited while in Taiwan so it brings back good memories :)