Jiufen (九份; Jiǔfèn), historically spelled Chiufen and alternately spelled Jioufen, is a small town in Northern Taiwan. It's a must-visit for any Studio Ghibli fans who will find many of its streets familiar from the movie Spirited Away. A long standing rumour suggested that Jiufen was the inspiration for the film, but its director Hayao Miyazaki has firmly denied this.
Jiufen was a prosperous gold mining town until the digging stopped in the 1950s. It then went into sharp decline. However, its quaint streets, tea houses and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean saved it from becoming yet another anonymous mining ghost town. Jiufen is now a popular escape from the capital for those eager to relive scenes from the past. It has provided the setting for several period movies, including Hou Hsiao-hsien's A City of Sadness, which won the Golden Lion award at the 1989 Venice Film Festival.
By train and bus
From Taipei, take the train north to Ruifang. Buses to Jiufen and Jinguashi leave from a stop a little away from the train station exit: turn left on the busy street in front of the train station, cross to the opposite side of the street and keep walking straight ahead for 200 m until you pass a police station. The bus stop heading to Jiufen and Jinguashi is located a little past it. Then take the Keelung bus 788 (every 20-30 minutes, NT$15, 15-minute ride) or bus 1062 to Jiufen. On their return journey the buses use the same number, and stop in front of the train station square. Another option is to take the 856 bus (also known as the Golden Fulong Shuttle Bus). You may purchase a one-day pass (NT$50) for unlimited rides for that day, or pay per trip (adults at NT$15, students at NT$12, and half-price at NT$8 per section). The 856 bus makes stops at a number of tourist attractions including Jiufen, the Gold Museum, and the Golden Waterfall.
From Taipei, take a train to Keelung, then Keelung bus 788 (every 20-30 minutes, NT$30, 45 minute ride) to Jiufen and Jinguashi. This bus passes through Ruifang. In the weekend bus 788 passes by the National Marine Museum of Science and Technology, the end station for the NMMST-Ruifang-Pingxi tourist train line.
Not all buses show the correct route information or have bilingual signs, or are able to adhere to a strict timetable during peak and off-peak hours. On Saturday and Sunday only public buses and cars can enter Jiufen and Jinguashi. Private tour buses, minibuses, vans must park at designated parking lots, which are served by free shuttle buses.
From Taipei, take the Highway Bus (Coach) 1062 (90 minutes, NT$102) operated by Keelung bus, from Songshan station (MRT Songshan Exit 2). Make sure to have the exact fare or an Easycard. There are great views of the valleys below on the left-hand side of the bus as it ascends from Ruifang to Jiufen. On days when the bus is likely to be crowded, the bus will fill up there and may not accept other passengers from the first stops.
In lieu of queueing in Songshan, also, consider taking the same bus from the first stop in MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing (Exit 2). Meanwhile, there might have maxi cabs soliciting for car-pooling with a premium of NT$200+/person; however, please note these ride-share services are illegal since not have hire permits, and may not have the necessary protection since the insurance would very likely be invalid in such circumstances.
Alternatively, the New Taipei City Bus 965 (65~90 minutes, NT$90) would rather be the choice for those who stay in West Taipei, operated by Taipei Bus Co., also runs an entire premium coach fleet. The route briefly stops at MRT Fuzhong (Exit 1) and NTPC Banqiao Bus Terminal (Platform 2)/ MRT Banqiao (Exit 2) in Banqiao; and Wanhua Railway Station, MRT Ximen (Exit 2, 150m walk) and MRT Beimen (Exit 2) in the old midtown (Chengzhong) for the downtown area, then dashing across the motorway to reach Ruifang, Jiufen and Jinguashi. The route map is also available here.
The town of Jiufen is built into the side of the hills slightly inland from the Pacific Ocean coastline. The main area of interest to visitors are the town's historic commercial district which is covered by two pedestrian streets: Jishan Street (基山街), Qingbian road which runs along the ridge line and Shuqi Street (豎崎路), actually steep steps which run up and down the slope of the hill. The area is small enough to cover on foot.
- 1 Historic Commercial District. shops open 11:00-18:00 generally. It consists of a series of stores and restaurants running along Jishan and Shuqi Streets, which are built into the side of the coastal hills and considered a must-see site for visitors. The area is known for its collection of shops, eateries, and teahouses, allowing visitors to sample local specialties and purchase handicrafts and other knick-knacks. The area also provides spectacular views of the harbors and the Pacific Ocean below. The most popular entrance is near the bus station, next to a 7-Eleven shop and the public toilets.
- 2 Taiyang Co. Ruifang Mining Operation Office (台陽礦業事務所), No. 54, Shuqi Road, ☏ . M-F 08:30-17:00 (closed weekends). This historic building just below Shuqi steps at the bus parking lot. Yen Yun-nian (1882-1923), a Jiufen merchant, got the business authority from Japanese "Itoda Gumi" during the Japanese era. The company was established in 1948 by his brother, quarrying gold since 1914 till 1971. The Bafan Tunnel mine entrance remains inside the office, but not open to visitors.
- 3 Songde Park (頌德公園). A small memorial park in Jiufen's east, located on Qinbian Road. There are monuments to praise the great achievement of Yen Yun-nian who founded Jiufen's mining culture. Creative artistic sculptures can easily be seen in the park. Also the early Mining Tunnel can also be found next to the park.
- 4 Wufan Tunnel (五番坑道), Qingbian Road. Next to the park, this tunnel has been excavated in 1927. The coal transported out from the tunnel was smashed in the mine-smashing area and carried by high altitude transporting pipe. There is a light railway passing through the tunnel, which was run by a Japanese company and then contracted by Jiouda Co. when the Japanese left Taiwan in 1945. In 1971, in order to protect the security of the residents and visitors, all mine tunnels were sealed. There is a small community park for people to rest and enjoy the ocean view.
- 1 Mount Jilong (基隆山). The elevation of mountain is 588 m, which is Jiufen and Jinguashi’s dividing line. On the peak, people can overlook the whole Neihu district, Taipei City, Keelung and northeast coast seascape. Seen from Jinguashi or Fushan Temple, the mountain shape looks like a pregnant woman lying on the land, with her hair spread on the East Sea. Therefore, it is known as Big-Belly Beauty Mountain. There is a mountain trail and the entrance is right across from the parking lot. You can climb the peak in about 40 minutes.
- 2 Xiaojingua Peak (小金瓜露頭). Along Line 102 to Shuangxi Highway to the highest point of Mt.Jilong, you can see the Xiaojingua Peak on the hilltop. It opens the first page of Jiufen gold digging history.
There are numerous things to eat in Jiufen. Fishball soup, yuyuan (taro balls), dumplings served hot or cold with sweet red beans, nuts and mochi are all widely available. The sheer number of restaurants can be a little overwhelming though.
- 1 Grandma Lai's Yuyuan (賴阿婆芋圓), No. 143, Jishan Street, ☏ . 08:00-20:00. the most famous one for its taro balls.
Jiufen boasts numerous teahouses that offer great views over the Pacific Ocean.
- 1 [dead link] Amei Tea House (阿妹茶樓), 20 Shixia Ln, Shuqi Rd, ☏ . Su-Th 08:30-00:00, F 08:30-01:00, Sa 08:30-02:00. Instantly recognizable as the inspiration for the ornate bathhouse in Spirited Away.
- 2 City Of Sadness Restaurant (悲情城市小上海茶樓), 35 Shuchi Road, ☏ . Just on the corner of Shuqi and Qingbian Roads. This restaurant was featured in Hou Hsiao-hsien's film A City of Sadness.
- 3 Jiufen Teahouse (九份茶坊), No. 142, Jishan Street, ☏ . Jiufen Teahouse was once the meeting place for many great Taiwanese writers and artists when it first opened. When you enter from the narrow crowded street, you come into a spacious and calm interior. On the right are steaming iron kettles nestled in a long fiery bank of coals. Bundles of tea and high quality ceramics and tea implements fill the first level. The host will lead you to a quiet table on the lower levels, or you can sit outside on the back terrace in good weather. You can choose your favorite tea and tea snacks from the menu and sit there for as long as you like. Take a break and wander around to look the paintings and other wonderful artwork by local artists. There is also a gallery on the lower level with more beautiful ceramics.
The town does not have any hotels, but there are several small guest houses that are identifiable by characters "住宿" ("lodging"). Most tourists, however, stay in Taipei or Keelung and just visit Jiufen for a day trip.
- Bafankeng Café (八番坑Café民宿), 100 Wushi Ln, ☏ , fax: . Ruifang Township, Taipei County. The proprietor of this guesthouse is very helpful.
- Jinguashi - Former gold mining town, now a mountains-meets-ocean picturesque get-away. See the Gold Museum (NT$80), the Crown Prince's Chalet, and other sights. Or follow numerous hiking trails. Take the Jiufen bus (NT$50) to the end of the line, then take another bus (NT$21) from in front of the pavilion next to the 7-Eleven at the Jishan Street entrance. You can also take bus 856 (adults at NT$15, students at NT$12, and half-price at NT$8 per section) from Jiufen to different attractions in Jinguashi.