Jiufen used to be an old gold-mining town in the 1950s. It is now a hot tourist destination. It is easily accessible from Taipei Main Station by Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA). Alight at Ruifang stop. You can inquire about the buses to Jiufen from the convenient stall aunty. Most of them are just at the bus stop outside the train station. The most important tourist hotspot is Jiufen Old Streets.
By day, Jiufen Old Streets is almost flooded with tourists, squeezing through narrow streets flanked on both sides by 2-3 stories traditional Chinese shophouses, with their owners plying their wares and food. Many of these shophouses have been converted into guesthouses, teahouses and restaurants. Do note that to fully explore Jiufen Old Streets require one to climb MANY stairs, as such it should be renamed Jiufen Old Stairs.
Don’t bother eating in the restaurants, firstly because the prices are way too expensive; secondly, there is nothing special about the restaurant fare; thirdly, and most importantly, your hunger will be much much more appeased by trying the assortment of street food around. Among the various street food, the most famous is the glutinous rice balls. They come in various flavors, such as green tea, yam and original. For me, I just ordered the mix bowl, and one bowl was never enough. Out of the many stalls that I tried, I prefer the one right at the top (i.e. at the end of Jiufen Old Street). It is also this shop that have the best viewing gallery, allowing captivating views of the winding mountain trails and the sea. Sadly, on this faithful day that I visited, it was raining torrentially.
Another street food that I like is the fishballs! They are chewy, springy, and tasty! Do give the mix bowl a try. The shop that I went to has quite a number of dogs roaming around, staring at you with their HUGE eyes, and begging for fishballs.
Other interesting street food that are worth a try are the peanut roll with ice cream, the bbq mushrooms, and of course, the taiwanese sausage. For souvenirs, you can consider buying thinly barbecued beef slices.
It is rumored that Jiufen is the inspiration behind the Japanese anime, Spirited Away, which is a big hit among Japanese. As such, you will not be surprised that after the mainlanders, the next biggest group of tourists here are the Japanese.
At night, it is just a peaceful and quiet, where one can escape from the city and just enjoy the sea and mountain view. I spent a night here in a homestay – Long Men Ke Zhan (龙门客栈). It is located strategically right at the top of Jiufen Old Street. They provide free pickup service from Ruifang train station. My room is clean, neat and well tidied. There are quite a number of hair plastering the walls of the toilet though. I washed them away with the shower head. You will need to request for towels from the owners. The dining hall offers a bird-eye view of the entire Jiufen Old Street, as well as the sea in the distant. Breakfast is home-made by the landlady, and consist of sweet potato porridge, fried egg, pork floss and vegetable. I must say it is really tasty. She keeps emphasising that most of the ingredients, such as the sweet potato, is grown by her in the backyard.