Spirited Away in Jiufen

Monday, January 01, 2018
Jiufen is a small mountain town located about 2 hours north of Taipei. Right around 1900 this town exponentially grew from nine families to having houses built so densely that even a 12-bed dorm room would seem spacey. The rapid growth of the town was caused by the discovery of gold in the area. A true gold rush, so to speak.

Lit lanterns in Jiufen, Taiwan
The town was a prosperous gold mining town until the 1950's. Today Jiufen has no gold left, but now functions as a renowned tourist attraction. The former "gold city" has a very special atmosphere to it and during peak holiday seasons in Taiwan the narrow and hilly streets will be stuffed with people.

Gold mining art at the local school in Jiufen, Taiwan
It is possible to catch a local bus from Taipei, but during local holidays or weekends you'll have to wait in line for the bus. Getting back can be tricky as well, as there aren't bus seats enough to fit everyone. Planning your visit on a week day would make things a lot easier. Whenever you choose to go; make sure you stay until sundown to see the orange lanterns light up all around the town.

A red wooden door in Jiufen, Taiwan
I visited Jiufen with my couchsurfing host David as the first thing of 2018.On January 1st the rain was pouring down all day and you couldn't spot an inch of pavement from all the different colored umbrellas. This however, just added to the strange, yet cozy atmosphere.

Stone carving in Jiufen, Taiwan
Due to the heavy tourism in Jiufen there are plenty of small cafés, restaurants and shops. One of the cooler things to bring home is a hand-carved stone with an inscription of your choice. Wear it as a lucky charm or attach it to your backpack. Either way, a different and personal souvenir to keep as a memory.

A view down the streets of Jiufen, Taiwan
Besides being a fantastic place, the tourism in Jiufen has also been boosted since the town laid inspiration to Hayao Miyazaki's 2001 animated movie; Spirited Away. One of the major hit movies to make it out of Asia and unto the international movie screens across the planet.
Jiufen was by far my favorite place in Taiwan and if I ever come back to this island country again, I'll make sure to pay Jiufen a second visit.

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