4. Taiwan North Coast (Jan 2020)

After saying goodbye to our pleasant stay at our Tainan Airbnb. We hopped in a taxi headed to the local High Speed Rail station to board the next bullet train back to Taipei.

…now back in Taipei we spent our days doing some leisurely shopping and picking up some boxes of Taiwan’s most well-regarded and uncompromising quality Sunny Hills pineapple cakes.

We also enjoyed some more shopping at ESLite shops, wishing we had more time to actually sit down and engage in some of their DIY crafts.

After a day of leisure filled with eating and mostly window-shopping we booked a Day Tour around the outskirts of Taipei once again through KKDay.com. We had really enjoyed the Tainan tour and the friendly guide, this time we decided to book a private tour just for our family.

We booked this tour from KKDay.com to visit Jiufen and several other spots.

The next morning, our Tour Guide and Driver, Mr. Su arrived to pick us up from our hotel lobby. We selected the Route A option (Taipei – Yehliu Ruifang – Shifen – Jinguashi – Jiufen – Return to Taipei) with some minor adjustments.

RuiFang Coast

Our first stop was to the Ruifang Coast area where we passed by fishing boats dangling with glass lights. It was quite the sight. Our guide explained to us that those glass lights are very powerful and they attract squid. In my mind I wondered at how strong they must be to be able to handle the changing weather of the island. That must be some strong glass… or they have lots of replacements handy.

Once we reached the coastal hiking area, we hiked along the coast over strange mushroom-like rock formations. It was a nice hike and interesting to see tidepool sea life along the way. Our guide led us over to the famous elephant rock formation, the Shenao Elephant Formation. It is now closed off for preservation, safe from visitors who like to climb atop it, which is a good thing. We had thought about visiting the Yehliu GeoPark instead, but we an adjustment to go to the less crowded Shenao area to see similar sights and save the rest of the time for the highlight.

The elephant rock formation was a real treat and I am very glad they are taking efforts for it’s protection. Next, we hiked back to our vehicle and proceeded to head towards our next destination, JinGuashi. We drove along the coast and stopped to see the beautiful HuangJin (Golden) Waterfalls.

The reason the it is called golden, along with gold in used in the names of many landmarks/spots in this area is because this area was formerly famous for smelting and mining. Precious metals and minerals flowed along the waterways and was also found in the landscape. We were impressed to see the multi-layered former smelting building, the ShuiNanDong Smelter, as we drove along the road.

Photo from Google. Simply gorgeous… would love to make a trip and stop here someday.

We left the coastal road and winded our way up mountainside and stopped to see the vista at JinMing Pavilion.

From the Pavilion you could see down to the ocean. Our guide pointed out to us that the color difference in the water is caused by the flow of minerals from the mountainside into the ocean, signifying how mineral rich this area is.

JinGuashi Mining Village

Continuing onwards, we headed towards JinGuaShi Village. An old mining village that gives you the feel of JiuFen and ShiFen without the suffocating crowds and a chance for you to see what life was, and still is like (to some degree) during those times.

We hiked through the village of JinGuaShi, enjoying the tranquility and marveling at this little mountain village. Roaming the streets were packs of dogs, some were friendly and some avoided us. As we walked by, I noticed clean laundry waving the in breeze on clotheslines between the structures, tiny cafes tucked into these old buildings with a gorgeous view of the mountainside and stairs that take us higher and higher. I really appreciated our guide taking us here, as it felt like a nice respite from the bustling fast-paced life of Taipei.

We made our way to the Visitors Center to tour the old structures built during the Japanese Occupation and to tour the compound belonging built for a visiting Prince.

JiuFen Mining Town

Next we headed to JiuFen Village which was rumored to be the inspiration for the setting of the Spirited Away film by Miyazaki. Our Guide was right… JiuFen was brimming over with people. As we drove along the road that led to town, we started to see bus after bus, some parked on the side of the road, many ahead of us, along with a long row of cars and taxis. Some of the buses were regular public transportation buses and some were tour buses. It was not easy getting into this village carved into the mountainside, but somehow everyone manages.

In addition to the numerous buses we saw around us, we also saw deep deep lines of people waiting in line to board the public transportation buses, as well as long lines of people waiting to hail a taxi. Of course, this being Taiwan, the people (and tourists) were well-mannered and though the line was long, it was orderly and courteous. But I am glad to have our own private car and Guide for this area.

Our Guide dropped us off in front of a temple and then went to park his car, then having to hike back to find us. He led us to one of the main arteries of JiuFen and wound our way to one of it’s primary streets. It was an amazing place, some place that I would love to return to… on a weekday perhaps and spend a night, to experience its quiet hours of late evening and early morning.

As we made our way amidst the crowd, we spied shops and stalls on either sides, with colorful signs and packed with curious customers.

We stopped to try some of the local signature snacks and enjoyed the view from the patio.

Then when we reached the center, we took a path recommended by our Guide… supposedly the main path in the Spirited Away movie and the path with the Teahouse that overlooks the mountainside. The line out the teahouse was so long that it winded down the staircase to outside onto the stairs of the mountainous street. I would’ve loved to give it a try, but let it be another time… perhaps a weekday. I’ve also read that there are tunnels in JiuFen (makes sense in mining town), just as there are tunnels in the Spirited Away movie… only the JiuFen tunnels will lead you to a teahouse and nothing scarier. This is a place I would love to return to, to really take in the atmosphere and explore further.

We explored some of the shops and a little classic movie, then slowly made our way down the stairs back towards our car. By this time, the kids were getting tired and you could also see the crowds melting away into their buses and taxis. Jiufen was starting to quiet down along with the setting sun.

Our Guide brought us down the mountainside and had us wait, while he went the rest of the way to bring the car over. We boarded the vehicle and enjoyed a beautiful scenic drive back to Taipei…

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