Taiwan: Eat & Shop in JiuFen

Travel Period : 30th Oct – 6th Nov 2012

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Day 6 Morning Itinerary :

  • Taipei Railway Station to Ruifang (瑞芳) –>>
  • Jiufen (九份)

Jiufen

How We Got There :
Took Metro from Shuanglien Metro where we were located to Taipei Metro Station // Short walk across the Main Station to Taipei Railway Station (TRA) (located in same building) // Took train from Taipei TRA station to Ruifang TRA station // At Ruifang TRA Station, walk outside to take a cab to Jiufen.
Alternatively, board the ‘Keelung Bus’ to Jiufen.

[ On The Way to Ruifang ]

Cat: As usual, we headed to Taipei Station which is just two stops away from the Shuanglian Metro Station. Despite the crowd, Dar easily found an empty seat reserved for children, elderly and needy. For the metro transport, people often give up seat for Dar even if there were no more reserved seats. The distance between each station was quite short so he didn’t sit for long.

201011_TaipeiMetro

We reached Taipei Metro Station and walked towards Taipei Railway Station so we could take the TRA train to Ruifang Station (瑞芳).

As we had been here the day before for the Pingxi Line Tour and bought the tickets already, we just need to head towards the platform to wait for its arrival. Due to us buying the tickets early yesterday, we had confirmed seats for the 40-mins journey (meaning we don’t need to stand). We ended up buying two seats only with Dar sitting on Vin’s lap since the seats were arranged in twos and we wanted to be together.

Cat: When we finally reached the station at 9.32am, we stood there for a while to take photos with the train. A lady kindly approached to help us take a family photo too. Alas, Dar didn’t look at her properly. This is the second time we encountered such a gesture which really warmed our hearts. From what I read, Taiwanese women loves to take photos and treat it as a hobby when they visit places of attraction.

Family Picture at Ruifang Railway

We had originally planned to save some money by taking the ‘Keelung Bus’ there, but ended up spending a bit more for the convenience. We also wanted to reach Jiufen earlier to beat the crowd, which would be coming in during noon time, especially on weekends.

We boarded a taxi which was waiting among a couple of them, which had fixed prices based on the destination. On board the taxi, the driver introduced himself and tried to convince us to choose him to be our driver for the day (we had wanted to go to Jingguashi after this). He quoted us a price and thinking that it’s reasonable, we agreed that he could come and bring us to Jingguashi when we were done sightseeing at Jiufen.

There was already quite a crowd when we arrived after a short taxi ride up winding roads to Jiufen.

TaiwanDay6_JiufenTown JiufenScenery

We admired the scenery for a while which consist of a view of the sea since we are high up in a mountainous region. The air was quite cool and refreshing as it was drizzling a little in Ruifang.

Cat: As we started walking around, we were impressed with the vast variety of shops available, especially the food stalls. The ground was cobber stone tiles and shops were old chinese style buildings which I admire. Couldn’t resist going into every shop selling cutesy and unique artsy stuff.

Usually, we would not be easily tempted buying things but the place really convinced us to open our wallets to buy foodstuff, bags, cups, souvenirs etc. We ate plenty while walking and bought several Taiwanese snacks for our family back home. Despite the narrow corridors, we could still walk pretty comfortably since the main crowd was not there yet.

Jiufen Shop

Exploring Jiufen 

We had read about this stall which is a must-try in Jiufen – The ‘Ah Gan Yee’ Yam Ball (阿甘姨芋圆). It was so famous that there was a sign at the foot of the steps leading to it so it was not hard to find. We had to climb a flight of steps to reach it at the top. When we reached the entrance, many people were standing outside it and on some higher steps. We thought, oh no, long queue?! Luckily, on moving closer to the entrance, we discovered they were just people taking a breather and enjoyed standing on the steps.

Way up to Ah Gan Yee Yu Yuan

There were three men standing by the side of the main entrance, taking orders and scooping up the yam balls skilfully. We didn’t know what to order so just asked for their signature dish, which was the mixed version (yam balls and red potatoes in green bean soup).

We then carried the bowls and walked along a corridor deeper inside the shop, and reached the viewing gallery section, where all the guests sat. There wasn’t any empty seats overseeing the view so we just sat by a table in the middle to have a taste of this famous dessert.

Ah Gan Yee Yu Yuan

Cat and I loved it, though not for Dar, who refused to eat more after taking one or two bites. He doesn’t like gooey stuff. The warm soup helped warmed our bodies too since it was very cooling up high at this altitude. We felt it was worth the climb up here to have a taste of this soup.

Ah Gan Yee Yu Yuan

Jiufen Scenery From Ah Gan Yee Yu Yuan

We continued to other shops and bought several stuff which made our hands strained from carrying so much. It was the most shopping we ever done in a place since coming to Taiwan. There was a particular shop which we found – a Taiwanese Silk Shop, while exploring another lane. The area was not a foodstuff area and was less crowded. Cat love the embroidery and hand-made goods. The tissue holders and small bags would make a great gift for our female relatives so we took sometime to select them.

It was 12.15pm and time for lunch. By then, we had strolled for 2 hours. As we had eaten quite a lot of snacks while walking, we decided to find a tea house to settle our ‘lunch’. While planning for this trip, we had decided that ‘eating snacks and sipping some tea while looking at the sea in a tea house.’ is a must-do activity for us in Jiufen.

We came across two tea houses side by side and had a tough time deciding which to enter. In the end, we chose the older-looking one as it had those unique architecture of an old Chinese teahouse. It was less crowded too (we prefer a quieter environment to enjoy the serenity) and there were more snacks available on their menu (full meals also available). It had a second floor where the washroom was located but we chose to sit on the first floor.

It was a wonderful time together as we sat by the fence of the tea house and took our time with the snacks, tea and watching the scenery as we chit-chatted. There was a cool breeze blowing at us and we had to put on our jackets while we waited.

We ordered the highlands tea we love since coming to Taiwan, ‘Jin Xuan Cha 金宣茶 ‘ and two plates of snacks. The ‘Tian Bu La 甜不辣’ caught our eye as we had heard of it before as a Taiwanese snack so we ordered that with carrot cake. Actually, it was just a few pieces of fried fish cake with chilli sauce. It originated from Japan as ‘tenpura’ and was translated in chinese to ‘Tian bu la’.

Jiufen Jin Xuan Tea
Hot Steamy Tea on a Cold Day is so perfect…
Tea House Scenery
Enjoying the scenery of Jiufen while drinking at Tea House

Tian Bu La

Soon, it was time for us to leave Jiufen so that we could have enough time to explore our next destination – Jingguashi. The way back down was vastly different from what we had experienced when we came up earlier, as the full crowds were already in and we had to squeeze through them (especially when they were going in the opposite direction). It took longer than we had expected to get to the main road, where our taxi driver would be waiting at. He was rather impatient and kept calling us to go while we were trying to squeeze through. (We didn’t hire him for the rest of the day in the end, due to his attitude…read more in the next post)

{Next post : A Miner’s Day in Jinguashi }