When in Taiwan, we also went to Jiufen, a famous mountain area in the Ruifang district near Keelung, and also conveniently near Taipei City.
Why is it called 'Jiufen'? Well, originally the remote village housed nine families and whenever they had to buy necessities, they would order 9 portions of everything for convenience. Hence, Jiufen, which also meant 9 portions, became the name of the village.
Of course, it's not an isolated village anymore! Gold was found in the village during the Japanese era and the village developed into a town with more residents.
We are supposed to admire the beautiful Japanese architecture but I realize I have no photos to show. Just search for Jiufen on google images and see for yourself! It was the setting of a very famous anime "Spirited Away" and this also partly revived the old street into a popular tourist destination.
Entrance to the Jiufen Old Street~
Jiufen is a must-visit because there are so many things to see and shop and eat! At first we were told that it's just a street so we expected it to be really just one stretch but it's actually a very long winding street!
Lots of food souvenir shops here so it's a good place to buy everything here, especially since free delivery to hotel is provided with minimum purchase. I went to these two shops near the entrance for pork crackers and ginger tea.
Food food food, and more food.
We tried this peanut shavings ice cream popiah!
First, peanut is freshly grated on a peanut block and placed on the popiah skin. Then, two scoops of ice cream on top and tada! Yummy and unique peanut ice cream popiah! It was quite a sweet and refreshing snack!
Afterwards we tried the mushroom tempura from this random stall down the street and it was okay, but nothing special.
Visiting Jiufen was like a cultural experience and it has its own unique charm and character! I feel that it is a little like our Chinatown, but with more interesting shops and more people.
We wanted to try smelly tofu so we settled at this empty shop to try! The one we tried was the crispy, non-spicy one, but I think the mala one should be nicer.
It wasn't as bad or stinky as we thought it would be. It's just that the sauce was sourish. It wasn't "wow", nor was it "eww". Not sure if this is how the original smelly tofu should taste like though...
Check out the crowd~~~
Time for lunch! We decided to settle at this meatball restaurant which had many celebrity photos plastered all over the wall. Got so many photos, should be famous one right? Haha.
The shop was almost fully occupied when we enter. There are seats on the upper storey too.
Still looking happy before the food came... Haha. Check out the boss' travelling photos that filled up the entire wall. Quite a happening life ya?
There was a wide variety of balls to choose from, like sotong balls, fish balls, fuzhou balls, meat balls, etc etc.We also ordered noodles, braised pork rice and braised tofu. Erm, all I can say is... only the braised pork rice passed.... The fish ball was bland and not bouncy at all. The tofu had some weird taste, like it was drenched in medicated oil instead of lor-chup. The meat balls were okay, but nothing awesome. It's a little hard to believe why the shop was so popular among the celebrities, I guess my taste differ very much from the local Taiwanese? Afterall, the restaurant must have a reason for surviving so many years.
Quite an affordable lunch though! Each bowl of soup starts from only TWD40, which is around SGD1.70. Where to find bowl of soup for only $1.70 in Singapore?
Settled for dessert here afterwards! This shop has a balcony area which overlooks the beautiful mountain scenery.
Our dessert: a generous serving of taro balls on top of grass jelly and ice. I have eaten Blackball's version in Singapore before and I think I prefer Blackball because it's sweeter and more chewy. But we still finished up both bowls completely because it's quite a nice cooling dessert for the hot day! Mai-hiam-buay-pai~! Haha.
Don't mind coming back here again!
No.89, Qiche Rd., Ruifang Dist., New Taipei City 224, Taiwan
How to get there via public transport:
From Taipei, take the train north to Ruifang Station. After exiting the station, board the Keelung Transit bus towards Jiufen. The bus trip takes around 15 minutes.
Read my other Taiwan blog entries!