A town so charming it inspired Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away.”
40 minutes by car from downtown Taipei, you’ll reach the vintage town of Jiufen. Today, it’s filled with tourists, but during the Qing Dynasty, only nine families lived here. Hence part of its name “Jiufen,” meaning “nine portions” in Mandarin. If you find yourself in Taipei, you’ll definitely want to spend a day in Jiufen. Here are six awesome reasons why:
1. Street food!
Indulging in different street foods in Jiufen’s Old Street is a definite must-do! Vermicelli noodles, fishball soup, exotic fruits, sticky rice pockets, glutinous meatballs, stinky tofu, milk candies, soup dumplings, glutinous balls on top of shaved ice are not to be missed!
2. To get the killer view…
You must hike up quite a few stairs. Once you get higher up, there are tons of restaurants and cafes that come with a gorgeous view. On the way to the top, alleys of vintage houses and old-school charm make the perfect throwback stroll.
3. Say a little prayer
At one point up on the hill, you’ll see a Buddhist temple to say a little prayer.
4. Shengping Theater
One of the main attractions in Jiufen is the Shengping Theater which was constructed to fit 400 people inside. The theater went through several reconstructions. Today, it’s a museum where you can see Taiwanese’s way of entertainment and enjoying downtown during the 1920’s all the way to the 1970’s.
5. Spirited Away
Fun fact, Jiufen is the inspiration for the town and bathhouse in Miyazaki’s film: Spirited Away. Rumor has it that Miyazaki even visited the teahouse here where many poets, authors, and artists would come to work. This is no surprise, since back in 1895, Taiwan was Japan’s first colony, so Japan invested and built a model infrastructure in Taiwan to show the world. Today, you can see and feel much of the Japanese influence in Taiwan’s culture.
6. Souvenir shopping
Shopping for souvenirs in Jiufen is awesome. Because the town flourished during its Gold Rush period in the late 1800’s, you can find many souvenirs that resemble the golden era. Some boutiques exude the throwback vibe with candies and photos from the Chiang Kai-Shek days. If you’re looking for something resembling the vintage time in Taiwan, this is your spot.