The streets of Jiufen.

Jiufen, or Chiufen, or Jiuofeng, also known by several other creative spellings, is a small town in New Taipei county.

Famous for its old architecture and gold mining history it’s a “must see” in Taiwan. I finally saw it this past weekend.

It’s  a tourist trap. There’s just no denying it.  I’ve walked the streets of a few major cities at this point overflowing with history, culture and charm so a small town version isn’t awe-inspiring.

That caveat aside, I enjoyed myself . It is a perfect day trip for people wanting to get out of Taipei.

Jiufen is halfway up a mountain somewhere near the sea. When we went it was foggy and drizzly (no surprises there) but the streets were still crowded with tourists.

We wandered down the main streets which were filled with store after store and restaurants selling the usual crap, Taiwanese style.  Then checked out the view of the sea and stole up some random stairs that led to an old abandoned  shrine. Unfortunately, for a time, most of the views were obscured by a thick wall of fog that blew in from the sea over the course of five or ten minutes.  While we were climbing to the shrine we had a chance to see some spectacular views.

I say chance because the fog was so thick at that point all we saw was a wall of white.  The stairs themselves were eerie and worthy of mention and presented the beauty of that little detour.

Jiufen’s famous local food is apparently a type of dumpling. It’s not like your typical dumpling which consist of some meat or veggies wrapped in dough.  Instead these are very solid and made from a paste like substance of whatever it is you are eating.  For example a shrimp dumpling is made from shrimp paste, a pork dumpling from ground up pork mixed with I don’t know what, and boiled.

They were good. We ate these at a local restaurant that my friend had been to before and where the proprietress had clear narcissistic tendencies.  The walls of both floors of the restaurant were completely covered over with pictures of herself.  Occasionally, she allowed some local celebrity to grace her walls, but only when she was in the picture herself.

Who does this, seriously?

Even the people sitting next to us sarcastically remarked at that it was tough to eat under the watch of so many eyes. I told Jimmy, my friend, that she must be an absolutely awful mother in law, because, seriously. Who does that?

After lunch, we wandered around some more and eventually had tea at a tea restaurant. The decor was beautiful and old-fashioned.  We spent a couple of hours there enjoying our tea and toward the end we got lucky with the weather. The fog finally cleared and we were gifted with a gorgeous view of the coast.   Ten minutes after that it was raining hard. Luckily we were sheltered in yet another restaurant eating a famous dessert made from glutinous rice and beans, in a sweet broth.  It was tasty.

On our way back to the bus stop, we stopped at an artist’s store and he painted my name in Chinese.  I have a similar poster that I bought in New Orléans once, but this one is cooler by far.

Despite the rain it was a lovely way to spend the day and I would recommend it, if for no other reason than it’s a cheap and quick ride outside of Taipei to try something a little different.

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