Taiwan – Jinguashi (金瓜石)

Gold Mines Around the World

Two days in Jiufen passed in just a blink of an eye. Jiufen, in my opinion, is a town full of character; serene in the morning and bustling in the day. It was a pity that the weather had not been kind to us during our time in Jiufen and the rain continued on our third, which was also the last day, at Jiufen. ;-(

Our itinerary for the day was to visit Jinguashi in the morning before we bid farewell to Jiufen and continued our journey to Sun Moon Lake. Getting to Jinguashi from Jiufen is really easy. I believe most, if not all, buses from Jiufen take you to Jinguashi. Just look out for buses with destination as “Jinguashi” and you should be there in less than ten minutes.

Map of 金瓜石 (Gold Ecological Park)

Signage at Jinguashi

Jinguashi was once a prosperous mining town during the Japanese occupation era (1895-1945) and now that the resources are depleted, a lot of the original structures and tools are preserved only  to serve as a form of education to Taiwan’s rich mining history. During the World War II (1942-1945), Jinguashi was also the campsite for Prisoners-of-War (POWs) where these POWs (mostly as miners) were made to labour under harsh conditions. The numerous Japanese-style buildings in Jinguashi, as well as the Japanese tea-houses in Jiufen, are visible traces of Japanese administration and influence on Taiwan.

As you can see from the map above, the park is actually quite big and similar to Jiufen, Jinguashi sits on top of Mount Keelung (基隆山). Thus, do be prepared to walk and going up the steps can be tiring. Luckily, there are ample benches and eateries in the park itself and should you be tired, there is no lacking in resting places.

There are many interesting places in the park and you should allocate at least half a day if you do intend to explore the area in a leisure pace. For instance, there is a hike up the hills to an old Shinto temple (or rather ruins) and the view at the top is supposed to be spectacular; overlooking Mount Keelung and Teapot Mountain (無耳茶壺山). Regretably due to the bad weather, we didn’t hike up to the top as the track was slippery. Nevertheless, we still managed to visit quite a lot of attractions in two hours. In my opinion, the gold museum and the Benshan Fifth Tunnel (本山五坑) are the most interesting.

Four Joined of Japanese-Style Residence (四連棟)

The first attraction, which is located nearest to the ticketing office, is the “Four Joined of Japanese-Style Residence” (四連棟); the residence for the Japanese owners of the mines then. The self-guided tour at this house starts with a video show of the history of the building and how it was re-constructed, including the air-raid shelters within the building. There are also numerous displays of a typical Japanese homehold. While there are a lot of focus on the intricacies on the construction of the building, I couldn’t really appreciate them. The various displays of Japanese tatami, tea-sets, etc are more educational for the kids, in my opinion.

The compulsory video show

Air Raid Shelter

Rain, rain and more rain …

The highlight of Jinguashi has to be this – the 220kg pure gold brick at the second floor of the Gold Museum (黃金館) ! Not only are you going to see the world largest (I think) gold brick, you will also get the chance to touch it. Based on the gold price of about USD$1,600 per oz at the time of our visit, this gold brick is worth a whopping USD$12Mil ! If you like more, you can also try gold panning on the third floor for a fee (NT$100). Since we had already tried this before, we saved the NT$100. ^_^

The 220kg Gold Brick !

Cold Cold Gold …

More gold …

Intricacies of the design

Just beside the Gold Museum is an abandoned mine tunnel, the Benshan Fifth Tunnel (本山五坑), where you could learn more about the lives and activities of a miner. This activity is not free though. For NT$50 to walk through an actual mine, I think it’s worth it.

At the entrance of the tunnel

There are actually a lot of places in my itinerary that I would love to go in Jinguashi (gold waterfall, yin yang sea, the POW camp, Cyuanji Temple and many more) … Unfortunately, it was almost time for us to catch the High Speed Rail (HSR) to our next destination – Sun Moon Lake (日月潭). I shall leave these for my next trip to Jiufen !

Useful Information – Jinguashi (金瓜石):

Opening Hours:

  • Weekdays: 09:30-17:00, closed on the first Monday of every month.
  • Weekends: 09:30-18:00

Directions:

  • Bus from Jiufen: Take a bus from the bus stop in front of the pavilion, heading away from Ruifang train station. Check that the bus is heading towards “Jinguashi (金瓜石)”. The sign will be prominently displayed at the front of the bus. If in doubt, check with their friendly bus drivers. Bus fare is payable using the EasyCard or cash. I can’t recall the fare amount – I think it’s NT$22.
  • Bus from Taipei: Go to bus stop at Zhongxiao-Fuxing MRT station, exit 1. Look out for a bus from Keelung Bus Company heading heading towards “Jinguashi (金瓜石)”. The sign will be prominently displayed at the front of the bus. If in doubt, check with their friendly bus drivers. Bus fare is payable using the EasyCard or cash. I think the fare is about NT$100.

<< Previous | Our Itinerary | Next >>

Advertisements

Taiwan – Jiufen (九份)

Jiufen is about an hour away (via train and bus) from Taipei Main Station and most people would make it a day trip. However, my plan was to stay at Jiufen for 3 days / 2 nights and use it as a base to explore the nearby places such as Keelung (基隆) and Jinguashi (金瓜石). Since this was an eleven day trip to Taiwan, one of the main challenges of traveling out of Taipei was the handling of the luggage. To avoid the lugging of big bags around the countryside, we actually left the main bulk of the luggage in our hotel in Taipei while we travel light.

Another point to take note is that the streets in Jiufen are narrow, steep, bumpy and full of staircases. In one of our accommodation, we even had to go down a steep ladder (yes, it’s ladder!) as our room was at the “basement”. In other words, avoid four-wheeler luggage to Jiufen, if possible. Now that you have been warned … Read on and you will know what I mean. ^_^

Jiufen probably shot to fame after the award winning movie “A City of Sadness” (悲情城市) (Venice Film Festival) was filmed and many people came to Jiufen to visit its teahouses (as shown in the movie). However, I like Jiufen for its rich Japanese heritage / influence. Having seen quite a few Old Streets and Night Markets in Taiwan, I would safely say Jiufen Old Street is my favourite. I would also strongly encourage you to stay for at least one night in Jiufen’s minsu (民俗) if your schedule permits. It should be an interesting experience for city dwellers, like myself. You can read my review on the minus here.

A group photo at Taipei train station

Based on my research, the easiest way to get to Jiufen from Taipei is probably via a train to Ruifang (瑞芳) station and then followed by bus (either bus #1062 or #1042). In fact, any buses that have destination Jiufen or Jinguashi (金瓜石) will bring you to Jiufen.

Train rides in Taiwan are generally rather smooth and comfortable. The seats are usually allocated based on cabin and seat number, thus do make sure you wait at the platform nearest to your cabin. Another word of caution, look out for your train code from TV screen at the station platform as there won’t be any train assistant/conductor  to call out for the passengers. When your train arrives, let the passengers alight first and then board it immediately.  The train will leave on the dot. 😉

As you can see, there isn’t much storage space for big luggage on the train

The bus stop is also conveniently located just opposite Ruifang station. Once you are out of the station, cross the road and the bus stop is in front of the shops. The bus journey is about 20 minutes up the mountain road and if you have motion sickness, you may want to get ready the necessities such as sour plums. The ride was very comfortable to me though and by the way, you can use the EasyCard for the bus fare.

Air-conditioned bus to Jiufen from Ruifang

Locating the bus stop at Ruifang is easy but knowing where to alight at Jiufen may be a little tricky as the bus stop is just after a bend. The good news is that there are usually a lot of people alighting at this stop and if you are unsure, you can always request the bus driver to notify you when you reach Jiufen. Bus drivers in Taiwan are generally very friendly people and I have not had any unpleasant experience with them (yet). In any case if you miss the Jiufen stop, you will probably end up in Jinguashi, which is about 10 min away. Just take the bus in reverse direction back to Jiufen and you should be alright. Check out the 2 photos below for the bus stops.

Jiufen Bus Stop (From Ruifang)

Jiufen Bus Stop (To Ruifang)

After alighting at the bus stop, the entrance to the famous Jiufen Old Street (基山街) is just further up the slope. Jiufen is a very small town that can be covered easily by foot. Like I mentioned earlier, a day trip is usually good enough but we chose to stay for two nights just to experience the 名宿 (i.e. private home lodging). I could imagine myself waking up early in the morning and to be greeted by the nice warm sun rising above the mountains. In fact, I was so looking forward to it that I even brought my camera tripod along to shoot the sunrise. To my dismay, I was told that I won’t be able to catch any sunrise in Jiufen! So Jiufen on the west side of the hill, eh? Oh my god, what a disappointment!

Jiufen Old Street

In Jiufen, there are 2 main streets that you should not miss. The first one is obviously the Old Street (基山街) which runs along the ridge line. It has many shops selling handicrafts, souvenirs and, of course, food. Here’s a list of must-try in Jiufen.

  1. 九份張記傳統魚丸
  2. 賴阿婆芋圓
  3. 阿柑姨芋圓
  4. 李儀餅店 (Opposite seven-eleven, refer to the bus stop photo above)
  5. Ah Mei Tea House or City of Sadness Teahouse
  6. 黑山豬香腸

賴阿婆芋圓

The famous taro balls

賴阿婆芋圓

Clarissa trying to make her own taro balls

As the queue for 九份張記傳統魚丸 was ridiculously long (perpetually), we kinda gave up the idea. Actually in our second morning, we were early and the crowd had not come in yet. However, we still didn’t try 九份張記傳統魚丸 as we came across another fish ball stall with a lot celebrity photos. We thought it must be good and since there were plenty of seats available, we decided to have our early lunch at that stall. While waiting for the food, we realized that most of the photos were actually the lady boss herself. Ok, to be fair, the food was quite nice and below are some photos of the narcissist’s stall. ◕ิ‿◕ิ

You can find a lot of souvenirs along the Old Street and most of them are handicraft. Some of these items are rather unique such as Ocarina and preserved loquat (枇杷), just to name a few. If you come across something you like, get it to avoid disappointment later. I made this mistake and then realized I could not find them anywhere else in Taiwan. ;-(  Anyway, most of them are quite reasonably priced.

Cute slippers (clogs)

Candies

Postcards

A butcher truck that provides fresh meat to the stall holders

The second street that you shouldn’t miss is Shuqi Street (豎崎路), which runs up and down the slope of the hill. This street is located towards the end of the Old Street and it runs perpendicularly across the Old Street. This is where you can find a lot of teahouses, including those filmed in the movies. These teahouses overlook the hills and provide an idyllic ambience for an afternoon tea. The prices are, however, not cheap.

At the end of the Old Street is a good vantage point where you could have a bird’s eye view of Jiufen on a clear day. There is nothing much beyond this point, by the way.

Wall feature

聖明宮 in Jiufen


<< Previous | Our Itinerary | Next >>

Taiwan – Windsor B&B 温莎堡民宿

View from Windsor

We stayed a total of 3 days / 2 nights in Jiufen Windsor (温莎堡民宿) and due to its popularity, we couldn’t get the room for 2 consecutive nights. As a result, we had to stay in 2 separate rooms for the 2 nights. Luckily the owner was kind and helpful enough to help us with the moving of our luggage from one room to another. So a word of advice, do book earlier to avoid disappointment. We booked two months’ in advance, FYI. 😉

We chose Windsor as it has very good reviews on the Internet and more importantly, we like the setup of the rooms. You can check out their website for the various room designs. For the first night, we had a two-storey house and it was very tastefully done up. Like the name 民宿 implies, it had a very homely feel. The bathroom was very annoying though. Firstly, it had a see-through glass wall. Being the only guy in the family, the usage of the bathroom can get a little inconvenient. Luckily my girls are still young and thus we escaped with some little tricks called “distractions”. Then the bath-tub was also too deep and narrow. This made the bathing of the kids very tiring, especially on the back. Despite the inconvenience, it was generally a very pleasant stay. The place was clean and cosy.

The upper floor

The kids lazing around …

Comics in the room

The bath-tub

The lower floor

Our room for the second day was a very challenging one. It has a dual door concept where the first door opens to 4 rooms; 2 at the ground level and 2 at the lower level. The second door then opens to the individual room. Now, here comes the challenge. The rooms at the lower levels were accessible only via a very steep (almost 70°) staircase and unfortunately our room was one of those at the lower level. I don’t have a photo of the staircase to show its steepness but if you refer to the staircase in the photo above, i.e. in my first room, the staircase is much steeper than the one you see in the photo. Climbing (literally) up/down the stairs was fine and the challenge was really with the luggage …

In my opinion, that room was definitely not suitable for anyone with mobility issues and hence do take note if you intend to book a room with Windsor. They have a lot of rooms to choose from and do let them if you are traveling with people with mobility issues so that they can advise you accordingly.

Our room for the second night

Again, the room was nicely decorated

View from the balcony … See how bad the fog was?

Besides its strategic location (just 2 min walk from the Old Street), another pleasant experience we had with the accommodation was the breakfast. Though they served the same breakfast every day, the food was tasty and the great view overlooking the hills of Jiufen was just icing on the cake.

Our daily breakfast

View from the breakfast area

Map of Jiufen; Courtesy of Windsor

Useful Information – Windsor B&B (温莎堡民宿):

<<  Back to our Itinerary >>