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Taiwan Travel

Here’s the Easiest Way to Reach Jiufen

If there is the biggest adventure that I had in Taiwan it’s the journey to Jiufen. This old mining town was one of the major reasons I wanted to go to Taiwan. It is said to be the inspiration for the setting of the animated film, Spirited Away, which happens to be one of my all-time favorites. It didn’t matter to me that I had to travel for at least two hours from Taipei just to reach the place, my mind was set to go. Reaching Jiufen was supposed to be easy, but some things happened along the way that made traveling longer than necessary. I’m not sure what I was trying to prove, it’s not like my friends didn’t give me tips on how to go there. For some reason, I decided to follow an online guide instead. What’s supposed to be useful became a thing of inconvenience.




Getting There

I am going to save you the trouble and tell you exactly which method to take out of all recommended to get to Jiufen. But first let’s talk about those methods.

Note that my point of origin is Shilin District.

There are 3 known ways to get to Jiufen.

  1. By Taxi
  2. By Bus
  3. By MRT

Option:1 Shilin > Jiufen

Taking a taxi is the most convenient but the most expensive way to reach Jiufen. If like me you choose to stay in Shilin District, the fare could set you back from TWD 850 (PHP 1,388.10 – USD 27.61) to TWD 920 (PHP 1,502.42 – USD 29.88). If you got the money then by all means take the taxi, Taiwan is largely a safe country. But I read somewhere that some taxi drivers might try to scam tourists by not turning on the meter; not sure if this is true. Just to be safe, ensure that the meter is on when you do take a cab. [Read: Where to Stay in Taipei: Happy Taipei Hostel]

Option: 2 MRT Shilin Station > Taipei Main Station >
Zhongxiao Fuxing > Ruifang > Jiufen

Second option is the first direction that I followed that almost caused me hypothermia. I found the instructions from this site called, GuidetoTaipei and thought it to be the easiest way. I woke up very early and left the hostel a little before 6:00 in the morning. I took the MRT, got off at Taipei Main to switch to the Blue Line where I took another train to Zhongxiao Fuxing. My train fare for this was only TWD 24.00 (PHP 39.06 – USD 0.78).

Upon reaching Zhongxiao Fuxing station, I took Exit 1. I was supposed to wait for Keelung bus with route 1062. Fare rate is only TWD 102 (PHP 166.57 – USD 3.31) according to the site. So I waited for the bus in the cold. It was 14 degrees Celsius, and apparently my layers of clothing were not enough to keep me warm. It was so cold it hurt my face and numbed my hands. Most Taiwanese wear face masks. I thought at first that it’s a healthy measure against bacteria; I soon realized that they were covering their faces to fight the cold. I didn’t have a face mask with me so I had to get creative. I remembered I brought my sleeping eye mask, so I put it around the lower part of my face and voila I got a face mask.

I looked like I was gonna rob a bank though, because hello, face mask + beanie?!

There are many buses driving by the area. I spotted several Keelung buses but according to the instruction, I had to wait for Route 1062 because that’s the one that goes to Ruifang where I could take another bus to reach Jiufen. After like 45 minutes (yes, that long), a Route 1062 bus finally arrived. I excitedly got up from the seat, hailed it, and watched the damn bus pass me by. Did the driver miss me? Nope, I’m pretty sure he saw me waving. Was the bus full? Nope, in fact there were many empty seats.

I started having a bad feeling about it. I had a feeling then that I should have taken another way, but I decided to wait for another bus. And what time did the second bus arrive? After 45 minutes! That’s right, this bus is so elusive, I only saw two in the entire time I was waiting there.

This time I made sure that the bus driver would see me. As soon as I saw it round the corner, I started waving like my life depended on it. Did the bus stop for me? Nope! It went past me again like what the fudge is going on? Was I invisible? Do I look like I cannot pay? Was I waiting in the wrong stop? But I was standing in the freaking bus stop!

I checked the time, in total, I wasted almost 2 hours waiting for nothing in the middle of the cold! That’s when I decided to find another option.

Option 3: MRT Shilin Station > Taipei Main Station > TRA > Ruifang Station > Jiufen   

Disheartened, I went back to MRT and took the train to Taipei Main Station. Inside Taipei Main Station is another train station that goes to the north. This is the train that could take you to Ruifang where you could ride a bus to Jiufen. Thank heavens I found a more helpful website that I took as a guide. I am not going to go in details about TRA and how to get to Ruifang because TravelCoconut pretty much covered it already, complete with pictures. It’s so detailed only a fool would be lost.

Now TRA has a weird setup. In the Philippines, all trains in the MRT and LRT stations go and take the same routes and destinations. In the north train, each train that passes by has a different route. Don’t ask me how it works, I really don’t know. All I know is, you have to wait for the train with your specific destination. In my case, I waited for the one that goes to Ruifang. This train comes every 50 minutes, meaning if you miss riding one, you will have to wait for 50 minutes to take the next train.

Finally the train arrived and I noticed that it looks a bit older than the regular MRT trains. I got in and maybe because it’s a Monday that I was able to find a seat. The train started to slowly empty as we moved along. Soon there were many seats available, one could have just easily lie down and take a nap or something. This is not case if you go on a Saturday or Sunday though because most tourists visit the place on weekends. Guess I was right to move my Jiufen trip from Saturday (as I originally planned) to Monday. 

The ride was pretty long, about 40 or so minutes. As if I didn’t waste enough time, I got confused with the signs that I got off at the wrong station . And do you know what’s funny? It’s only one station away from Ruifang! I wouldn’t have minded if it weren’t for the fact that I needed to wait for 50 minutes for the next train [insert another expletive here].

So I calmed myself down because what else could I do. I decided to help pass time by watching The OA (no it doesn’t mean overacting) on the tablet that I had instead. But I stopped to appreciate the view, this station is old, a far cry from the modern stations in Taipei, but it is enveloped with a quiet vintage charm that I so loved, I have soon forgotten my disappointment.

If you’re on a budget forget option 1, if you don’t want to wait for nothing forget option 2. If you want to make sure you waste no time reaching Jiufen take option 3.


Ruifang

Another best thing from taking option 3 is you will see the beautiful old suburban district of Ruifang. It used to be called Zuihō Town during the Japanese occupation. If you are looking for a little bit of a rural feel, Ruifang is a good place to visit.

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From Ruifang I walked until I found the bus stop where the buses bound for Jiufen can be found. As soon as the bus arrived, I hurried my way to it, making sure that I would take that particular ride. Pretty soon the bus was already full that by the time I stepped in that the only vacant space I could take is the one beside the driver. Easy Card is also accepted in bus but when I tapped mine it didn’t work. The driver then told me to just pay in cash but he spoke in Chinese so I didn’t understand him. One of the passengers was kind enough to translate for me. She said that I only need to pay TWD 15 for the fare (PHP 24.43 – USD 0.49).


Jiufen

It took no more than 20 minutes to reach Jiufen. I was so happy that after all the mishaps, I finally made it! Immediately, I started exploring this old gold mining mountain town. 

Along the narrow alleyways you can find shops of different variety; there are souvenir shops, stores that sell accessories, cafes and tea houses, and lots of food establishments. Indeed, Jiufen is considered as one of the best food destinations in Taiwan due to the many restos and food stalls in the area.

Jiufen was discovered and built by the Japanese in 1893. The town developed into a mining town due to its rich supply of gold. If you are looking for some glimpse of history and culture, Jiufen should be included in your Taiwan itinerary. Here you can still see the Japanese influence in the buildings and architecture. It’s amazing that they are able to preserve them. [Read: Visiting the Land of the Meteor Garden]

The most famous spot in Jiufen is this teahouse building decorated with red Chinese lanterns. I am not a tea person so I decided not to go in. I just took some pictures of the building’s facade.

My original itinerary involved staying overnight in one of the hostels in Jiufen. A friend’s recommendation though changed my mind so I just had a day trip. I sort of regret it though because I would have loved to explore this beautiful town more. I am going to do just that when I return in Taiwan. [Read: Taipei’s Memorial Halls: Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek]

After the sightseeing is the food tripping. I went around and ate food that I wanted to try. My most favorite is the sausage, yes it looks just like any regular sausage but I swear to you that it’s delicious.

And so my short time in Jiufen has come to an end. I wanted to stay longer but I decided to go back to Taipei at around 1:00 in the afternoon because I was set to go back to the Philippines later that night. Despite the drawbacks, the wrong decisions, the waiting in the cold, etc., going to Jiufen is my most favorite part of my Taiwan trip. Even when I wasted so much time and even when I almost suffered from frost bites, I choose to celebrate the fact that I was able to reach the place on my own safely. It is no wonder that it has become an inspiration to an iconic movie, Jiufen is lovely; all my efforts are worth it.

 

 

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17 Comments

  • Reply
    Ella
    October 8, 2017 at 3:50 PM

    Hi, I was reading your blog. Maybe you can help me. It will be our first time to visit in Taiwan and its November. Do you think its very cold at this time, I’ve read their weather on this month but I don’t have idea how cold is it and I’m with my senior mom. Hope you can advise us. =)

    • Reply
      Marjorie Gavan
      October 9, 2017 at 11:18 PM

      Hi Ella, as far as I know December is when it starts to get cold in Taiwan. It’s still warm in November. I recommend to still check the weather few days before your flight to be sure.

  • Reply
    eve
    May 14, 2017 at 3:56 PM

    Hi. I was laughing when I read the part that you hopped off the wrong station. Such an adventure! I’m going to Taiwan this November and my main point of interest is Jiufen because I’m a Hayao Miyazaki fan 🙂 I love Spirited Away and other Ghibli films. I found your blog because I was searching for the most efficient way to reach Jiufen. Thanks for this blog post 🙂

    • Reply
      Marjorie Gavan
      May 18, 2017 at 6:55 PM

      Hi Eve! Yeah, it wasted so much of my time. I hope my guide can help you get in Jiufen in no time 🙂

  • Reply
    Erica
    March 2, 2017 at 4:09 PM

    The bus wait was quite an adventure… glad you were able to make it thru option3. I would also love to try the third option because a sidetrip to Ruifang seems a nice prelude to Jiufen…Will try this in july

  • Reply
    Laura
    March 2, 2017 at 9:39 AM

    I’ve seen Spirited Away, and now that you mention it, it does match the scenery a bit! Such beauty .. Oh, the world is a wonderful place!

  • Reply
    Elisa
    March 1, 2017 at 5:30 PM

    Good to know that in Jiufen there was much more than your favourite animated film setting! Mining towns are usually cool, with a character so probably I would enjoy a trip to Jiufen me too (especially now that I know the right way to go 😉 ) Thanks!

  • Reply
    Indrani
    March 1, 2017 at 3:28 PM

    Your comparisons gave me a fair idea of the various means of getting there. I guess with shortage of time taxis are the best option. I would like to go to Hidden some day.

  • Reply
    neha
    March 1, 2017 at 9:48 AM

    You have done a really good job comparing and evaluating all the means of communication for us. Taxis are always the best but the most expensive option no matter where ever you go. Buses and trains are comparative for me and the pros and cons need to be evaluated before making decision. Thanks for doing that!

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    March 1, 2017 at 8:03 AM

    Jiufen, somehow the name itself conjures up images of intrigue and mystery for me. Probably because it was the setting for Spirited Away. it must have been a thrilling experience traveling to this place. The place looks quite picturesque and beautiful. Would love to retrace your steps to this place some day.

  • Reply
    sophie
    February 28, 2017 at 7:36 PM

    Jiufen is the beauty! It’s there on my list from many years! Finally I have received the best tips to reach there! also I don’t think that it would be that costly so a good getaway with family would be awesome! that’s for the info! Cheers 🙂

  • Reply
    Sheena
    February 28, 2017 at 5:25 PM

    Ahhh the trials & tribulations of travel (in Taiwan:?!)… glad there was a happy ending, I’m sure there were moments where you wanted to quit & head back but happy to hear you preserved & that it was so worth it in the end. Sounds like a fascinating place with lots of things to see & do (did you say food?!), Taiwan is on my list, I’ll try to lock in a couple of days at least in Jiufen, thanks

    • Reply
      Marjorie Gavan
      February 28, 2017 at 6:40 PM

      Hi Sheena,

      Nope, despite all the mishaps, giving up didn’t cross my mind because Jiufen is my dream. I was willing to do anything just to reach that place. 🙂

  • Reply
    Andi
    February 28, 2017 at 12:53 AM

    I didn’t know that this place was used as an inspiration for Spirited Away. I haven’t watched it but it really has nice reviews. The place for me really looks like Japanese, thanks to its discovery as a mining area. I need to watch the movie to get inspired getting here too 🙂

    • Reply
      Marjorie Gavan
      February 28, 2017 at 2:39 PM

      Hi Andi. Yes, they have pretty much maintained the old structures hence the Japanese look and feel of Jiufen.

  • Reply
    Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul
    February 28, 2017 at 12:13 AM

    Jiufen looks so beautiful! This is great info about getting there and it looks like it’s well worth the trip!

  • Reply
    Megan | Red Around The World
    February 25, 2017 at 7:50 PM

    I loved Jiufen! I went like three or four times last year when I was in Taiwan (I was there for a month). I always took the train to Ruifang then a bus. Loved it!

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