We went to Taiwan around New Year’s Eve so moving about the country was a bit tricky. In fact, since all the fast trains from Taroko National Park to Taipei were fully booked we had to hop on a slow regional train. Luckily for us, Jiufen, a former mining town is located directly on that route and we wanted to go there. It was perfect, we got to know a new destination and shorten our journey. However, Jiufen Old Street was interesting but not exactly what we expected.
Jiufen Old Street
The main reason we visited Jiufen was to enjoy its famous Old Street. Actually it’s not one but two streets: Jishan and Shuchi. We had seen dozens of photos and the place seemed promising. But once there we felt underwhelmed. First of all, we couldn’t find decent accommodation, and the place we finally chose had a big leak in the middle of the bathroom. Second of all, the Historical Streets were pretty overcrowded and a bit unsanitary. Finally, to us the place pales in comparison to any historical neighborhood in Mainland China.
What is Jufen like
The town was built around a mine that operated till the 1930s. Once the mine closed, the town was abandoned until a couple of decades ago, when it was discovered by tourists. Nowadays, Jiufen looks like a big shopping mall selling all sorts of things, so that was a bummer. We are not big shoppers. Actually, when we travel we only shop for essentials and small easy to carry things.
In all honesty, the place is not as pretty as it looks on the postcards. We looked for the spot where these must have been taken to no avail. Yes, the natural setting is gorgeous but the shops have no character, they look ordinary. Add to that the number of tourists and what you get is an overbuilt overcrowded open air mall.
What to do in Jiufen
Of course if you are into shopping go for it. We decided to sip coffee while enjoying splendid views. All we did was go up and down the aisles looking for nice coffee shops where to people watch. Locals are friendly, and quite funny, making jokes and posing. But the place itself doesn’t have any special appeal, aside from the bizarre factor. So if you are into historical commercial streets head to Lijiang in Yunnan or Fenghuang in Hunan. Taipei offers plenty of nicer daytrips anyway!
Jiufen is reachable by local train from Taipei Main Train Station. The trains arrive at Ruifang Station from where you have to take a local bus. There are several trains a day and the journey takes up to 1,5 hours. If you decide to visit Jiufen, save an extra day to hike around its mountains. The landscape is really nice and you can see the sea from the distance. Not far from Jiufen there is a cool Cat Village worth visiting. Also consider visiting Jinguashi Park.