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Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun


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Taiwan – SHIFEN十分放天灯: Sending Wishes to the Sky

Shifen Sky Lantern

Sending the Queens’ shopping list to the sky :)

Shifen Sky Lanterns

The two most popular attractions in the quiet town of Shifen would be the Shifen Waterfalls (nicknamed “Taiwan’s Niagara Falls”) and Shifen Old Street where visitors go to release sky lanterns. While you can release sky lanterns all day long, we planned Shifen as the last stop of the day after Jiufen (about 30mins away by car) with since it would be nicer to release the lanterns at night.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Releasing sky lanterns (放天灯) is a significant ritual in Taiwan and the most notable places to do that would be Pingxi and Shifen. It’s a fun experience for most visitors to Taiwan (and the locals too); there’s just something very alluring about being able to write your wishes on a lantern which would carry your prayers to the sky (祈福) – think of it as a direct courier service to heaven.
Releasing sky lanterns is so popular that thousands of people gather for the annual Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival every 15th day of the Lunar New Year.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Shifen Old Street
Shifen got its name as there used to be 10 families living in the town (ten portions). Shifen Old Street is the most famous stop along Pingxi Branch Rail Line. The 13km rail line was originally built in 1918 to transport coal and was re-purposed as a tourism route in 1992. All the shops sell either sky lanterns or souvenirs.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Seal your love with a declaration to the sky

Shifen Sky Lanterns

And off the lanterns go, higher!

Shife Sky Lanterns

And the train goes past…whoaaaa *hair flies up* (luckily not the skirt)
Notice how close the shops along Shifen Old Street are to the train line. It’s also pretty interesting – and dangerous – that visitors actually stand on the tracks to release the sky lanterns, and have to shun when a train comes along. Talk about an adrenalin rush. But worry not – the shopkeepers are all very familiar with the train timings and will ask you to get off the tracks before the trains pass through.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Colour-coding wishes
The sky lanterns range from NT$100 to NT$150 depending on the number of colours chosen. Apparently each color represents a wish (e.g red=health and peace, yellow = money luck) so the more wishes you have, the more you pay.
You can also choose to add a string of firecrackers at the bottom of your lantern at an extra cost, perhaps this will gain the attention of the heavens and grant your wish faster? Since I was just in for the fun of it, I went with just one basic colour at NT$100.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Budding Picassos
I was amused that we were given calligraphy brushes to doodle on the lanterns. The last time I held one was in elementary school when I took Chinese painting lessons. And looks like XT had other ideas with the brush. I’m not the canvas!

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Having so much fun

Shifen Sky Lanterns

The Queen’s Lantern
Ta-da! I’m sure you weren’t expecting a ‘normal’ wishing lantern from me, riggght? *wink*

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Setting off our sky lantern

Sky Lantern in Shifen

Fly strong & high…
It was kinda surreal to watch it rise. Curious, I asked the shopkeeper what happens to the sky lanterns. Apparently they stay in the air for 8-10minutes, float to the mountain behind and then fall back to the ground after the candle finishes burning. The shop pays workers to pick up the fallen lanterns afterwards to dump away. Oops. Sorry to burst the bubble…still it’s a very fun thing to do. You should try it! I had a lot of fun.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Bring home a wish
I bought a few of these home as souvenirs and gifts for friends. They look great hanging by the window.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

It was a poetic end to a long but absolutely fun day exploring Yehliu, Jiufen, Jinguashi and Shifen. No trip to Taiwan would be complete without seeing all these locations at least once.

Travel in a Day by car: Yehliu 野柳 > Jiufen 九份 > Jinguashi 金瓜石 > Shifen 十分

More on Taiwan:
Taiwan – Blooming Delights and Cultural Richness in Daxi 大溪
Taiwan – Nature’s Wonders at Yehliu Geopark 野柳地質公園
Taiwan – Jiufen’s 九份 Golden Nostalgia
Taiwan – Urban Respite at Beitou Hot Springs 北投溫泉
Taiwan – Tamsui 淡水:Of Romantic Sunsets & Tantalizing Snacks
Taiwan – Jingguashi 金瓜石:Goldmine of Yesteryear
Taiwan – SHIFEN十分放天灯: Sending Wishes to the Sky
Taiwan – Sun Moon Lake 日月潭: Picturesque Nature

Explore Taiwan with Spunktitud3!


Getting to Shifen

By Bus:
MRT Muzha Station (捷運木柵站) -> No. 15 Taipei Bus (台北客運15路公車) -> Shifen (十分)

By Train:
1. Take the train to Ruifang Station (瑞芳站) at the Taipei Railway Station (TRA). It’s where Taipei Main Station is – follow the underground signs to get to TRA. Train schedule: http://twtraffic.tra.gov.tw/twrail/English/e_index.aspx
2. Alight at Ruifang Station and buy tickets for the Pingxi Line (平溪支線). Take the train to Shifen Railway Station (十分火車站). Rides are unlimited on the Pingxi Line.

Taking a Taxi from Ruifang Station
You can save some time by taking the train to Ruifang Station, and taking a taxi there. The prices are regulated by the authorities and clearly indicated, so the taxi drivers cannot overcharge. Save even more by sharing a taxi with other travelers going the same way.
Single destinations: Jiufen (九份): NT180; Jinguashi (金瓜石); NT240, Shifenliao (十分): NT480; Shuangxi (双溪): NT600
Packaged destinations:
– Package A (NT$1,000)
Ruifang Railway Station (瑞芳火车站), Nanya Rocks(南雅奇石), Yin Yang Sea (阴阳海), Thirteen Level Refining (十三层遗址), Gold Waterfall (黃金瀑布), Jiufen Old Street (九份老街)
– Package B (NT$2,300)
Ruifang Railway Station (瑞芳火车站), Jiufen Old Street (九份老街), Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布), Shifen Old Street (十分老街), Taipei (台北)
– Package C (NT$2,000)
Ruifang Railway Station (瑞芳火车站), Jiufen Old Street (九份老街), Yehliu Geopark (野柳风景区)
– Package D (NT$2,800)
Ruifang Railway Station (瑞芳火车站), Nanya Rocks(南雅奇石), Yin Yang Sea (阴阳海), Thirteen Level Refining (十三层遗址), Gold Waterfall (黃金瀑布), Jiufen Old Street (九份老街), Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布), Shifen Old Street (十分老街), Taipei (台北)
*Prices for reference only. Check the prices when you are there.

Driver
If you are looking to hire a driver, you can consider Mr Liu 刘先生. He’s a burly uncle who used to be a truck driver, and very honest. He charged us a very reasonable per day rate, brought us to all the places where the locals went, and none of those touristy crap. And we felt safe with him. You can give him a try if you wish. Mr Liu’s Mobile: (0)988-121-529.

Another contact you can try is Lucky Zhao +886 913 185 157, slightly pricier but good service and speaks well.


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Taiwan – Jingguashi 金瓜石:Goldmine of Yesteryear

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Getting into the gold rush at Jingguashi – 5 decades too late
Travel in a Day by car: Yehliu 野柳 > Jiufen 九份 > Jinguashi 金瓜石 > Shifen 十分

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Snuggled amongst the slopes of a valley between Keelung and the Teapot Mountains along the scenic northeast coastline, the small towns of Jiufen and Jinguashi were both booming centres of gold and copper mining during their heyday of the Japanese era. Jinguashi later became notorious during WWII (1942-1945) as the site of the prisoner-of-war camp Kinkaseki.

Both degenerated into ghost towns after the minerals were depleted, and Jiufen found new life as a tourist destination after being a set location for the award-winning movie “A City of Sadness”, attracting throngs of visitors interested to learn more about Taiwan’s golden past. Jinguashi only recently hit the travellers’ radar after long-term efforts to restore the old mining town into its 1930s glory, culminating in the opening of the Gold Ecological Park in October 2004.

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Golden Waterfall/ Shuinandong黃金瀑布
Located off the Jinguashi-Shuinandong Highway near the Gold Ecological Park, the water from the Golden Waterfall has a yellow hue from the copper and iron deposits it picks up seeping through Jinguashi’s old mines. The insoluble minerals then produce riverbed rocks that are yellowish-brown in color, creating this unique sight. As the water is heavily laden with metals, it is toxic so please do not dip your hands in. One thing for sure – you will not turn into Ironman.

 Jingguashi 金瓜石

A must-go destination at Jingguashi – Gold Ecological Park 黃金博物園區
The first ecology museum park in Taiwan, the Gold Ecological Park was opened in 2004 to preserve the gold-mining heritage and natural surroundings of the area and serve as a venue for environmental education.

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Places of interests in the park include the Museum of Gold, Benshan Fifth Tunnel, Gold Refining Building, Environmental Building, etc. You should try gold panning and the Benshan Fifth Tunnel if you have time.

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Stepping into all things gold. Versace would be so proud.
The Museum of Gold is housed in the former offices of the Taiwan Metal Mining Corp. The first floor exhibitions include gold discovery journey, Benshan tunnels (1-9), ore seam display and old mining equipment, mining transport systems and cultural artifact display.

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Waxworks depicting how gold was mined in the past. The working conditions were pretty harsh, I must say.

Jingguashi 金瓜石

The second floor of the Museum of Gold showcases the use of gold and its characteristics

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Much gold jewelry is used in Chinese wedding as good blessings. Yellow was the color of Imperial China and it also represents freedom from worldly cares and is thus esteemed in Buddhism where monks’ garments and many elements of a Buddhist temple are yellow in colour.

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Gold is also very flexible in its uses, such as artworks as seen from this pair of mating grasshoppers

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Feeling rich – literally
The highlight of any visit would be the 220.3kg solid 999 pure gold ingot that made the Guinness World Record in 2004.

Jingguashi 金瓜石

There is a real-time counter on the worth of this block of high-grade gold, and it is about NT$328.9M (which is equivalent to S$14million)! What’s also equally mind-boggling is – you would probably need to dig 40,000,000 tons of rock in order to gain 220 kilograms of gold. That’s A LOT of digging!

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Benshan Fifth Tunnel
Get a first-hand experience of tunnel working conditions in the past walking through a part of the original mining tunnel now fitted with waxworks and recordings of miners’ conversations to depict everyday life in the mine. Come in proper shoes (no sandals, no slippers, no heels) though as the tunnel can be slippery.

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Mining equipment

Jingguashi 金瓜石

I was tempted to jump into one of these and go for a theme park ride before we left :p

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Ruins of Shisancheng (13-level)/ Shuinandong Smelter 十三層遺址
Located above Liandong Bay on the Coastal Highway, this abandoned copper-smelting refinery previsouly owned by Taiwan Metals Mining Corp. was built during the Japanese occupation period to process mineral sand and blister copper into 999/00 pure gold from 1933 to 1987. Its heavy, industrial atmosphere has been used as a background for music videos.Another sight to look out for would be the three large flues – the longest in the world – criss-crossing the hill. These were used to direct toxic fumes away from the refinery to the hills above where there were no residents. They were abandoned when Taiwan Metals Mining Corp. closed down. Large quantities of accumulated secondary minerals have made it unsafe to enter.

Jingguashi 金瓜石

Check out the world’s largest statue of Guan Gong (God of War) on top of the Quanji Temple.
The copper statue weighs 25 tonnes – that’s about 11 elephants on your roof!

Jingguashi 金瓜石

What future holds for Jingguashi?
The revived small mining town seems to be settling well into its new role as a tourist destination together with another nearby old mining town Jiufen. I think the challenge for this destination, would be how to encourage repeat visitorship since I think you can see most of the sights in one visit. That said, it’s still worth a visit. Afterall, it’s an integral part of Taiwanese history and culture that deserves to be properly preserved.

More on Taiwan:
Taiwan: Blooming Delights and Cultural Richness in Daxi 大溪
Taiwan – Nature’s Wonders at Yehliu Geopark 野柳地質公園
Taiwan – Jiufen’s 九份 Golden Nostalgia
Taiwan – Urban Respite at Beitou Hot Springs 北投溫泉
Taiwan – Tamsui 淡水:Of Romantic Sunsets & Tantalizing Snacks
Taiwan – SHIFEN十分放天灯: Sending Wishes to the Sky
Taiwan – Sun Moon Lake 日月潭: Picturesque Nature

Explore Taiwan with Spunktitud3!


Places of interest in Jingguashi
Gold Ecological Park, Golden Waterfall, Yin Yang Sea, Ruins of Shisancheng, Teapot Mountain, Keelung Mountain, Jinguashi Shinto Shrine, Quanji Temple, Changren Tunnel No. 3 flue pipes, POW Memorial

Getting to Jingguashi
By Train:
Take the train heading towards Yilan/Hualian and alight at Ruifang station. Take the Keelung bus directly opposite the station to Jinguashi (ticket price NT22).
Web Site:http://www.railway.gov.tw/

By Bus:
Taipei -> Jinguashi: Take the train to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station and take the Keelung bus bound for Jinguashi to Jinguashi (ticket price NT95).
Keelung -> Jinguashi: Take the Keelung bus from Keelong train station (in front of I-Mei Foods Co. Ltd.). This passes through Jiufen and passengers should alight at Jinguashi station.
Web Site: http://www.klbus.com.tw

Gold Ecological Park 黃金博物館區
Add: 8 Jinguang Rd., Jinguashi, Ruifang District, New Taipei City (新北市瑞芳區金瓜石金光路8號)
Tel: (02) 2496-2800
Opening times: Mon – Fri: 9:30AM – 5:00PM; Sat & Sun: 9:30AM – 6:00PM. Closed on 1st Mon of the month.
Entrance fee: NT100 / NT70 with Youth Travel Card
Gold Panning Experience NT100, Tunnel Experience NT50
Website: http://www.gep.ntpc.gov.tw/

Driver
If you are looking to hire a driver, you can consider Mr Liu 刘先生. He’s a burly uncle who used to be a truck driver, and very honest. He charged us a very reasonable per day rate, brought us to all the places where the locals went, and none of those touristy crap. And we felt safe with him. You can give him a try if you wish.  Mr Liu’s Mobile: (0)988-121-529

Another contact you can try is Lucky Zhao +886 913 185 157, slightly pricier but good service and speaks well.


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Taiwan – Tamsui 淡水:Of Romantic Sunsets & Tantalizing Snacks

Tamsui Travel

The scenery was so awesome at Tamsui – I was tempted to do a mock commercial here LOL

Travel in a Day: Beitou -> Fisherman’s Wharf -> Danshui Old Street

The laidback coastal town of Tamsui (also known as Danshui) located to the north of Taipei and named after the Tamsui River (meaning ‘fresh water’), serves as a quick getaway from Taipei’s busy city life. Located at the end of the Tamsui Train Line, the former fishing town is famous for two things – viewing gorgeous sunsets along the dock or Fisherman’s Wharf, and signature local snacks at Gongming Street/Tamsui Old Street. We combined our day travel with a hot spring visit to Beitou before heading to Tamsui in the afternoon.

Tamsui Travel

Take in mountainous view of Bali township on the train journey to Tamsui
Bali makes for an enjoyable afternoon in the sun. Rent a bicycle and cycle along waterfront, head to the beaches to spot crabs or feast on freshly-caught peacock clams.

Tamsui Travel

Tamsui at a glance
Most of the main sight-seeing spots are within walking distance. The famous Gongming Street, also known as Tamsui Old Street 淡水老街 is just 5 minutes away.

Tamsui Travel

Historically Tamsui is a significant place in Taipei history, where it was one of the main settlements for the Spanish in the 1600′s and one of the biggest ports in Taiwan in the 19th century. The waterfront promenade is now a pedestrian-friendly street lined with shops selling interesting knick knacks, old-school game stalls and local snacks.

Tamsui Travel

Very interesting shop selling things of yesteryear. No I don’t recognise any of them….*pretend pretend*

Tamsui Travel

Adorable beyond words

Tamsui Travel

Lucky postbox

Tamsui Travel

Streetside snacks and seafood galore
I am steering clear…the face gets rounder by the day, sigh.

Tamsui Travel

Giant sausage!
Even the aunty can’t resist a bite. ;)

Tamsui Travel

Taking a ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf
You can either take Bus Red-26, 836, or 837 (from Tamsui train station) or a ferry (pier behind the train station) to Fisherman’s Wharf for sunset viewing. We chose to take the ferry which cost about 100TWD round-trip. The journey by bus or ferry is about 15 minutes.

Tamsui Travel

Our ferry is here!

Tamsui Travel

SO, this is the famous Lover’s Bridge 情人桥
The 196-metre white-colored cable bridge derived its name from its launch date of 14 February 2003 (she’s 10 this year!). The bridge has quite a reputation as a romantic spot to view breath-taking sunsets. We came on a rainy day, so we saw none. Might as well, since all of us were ladies, no hanky-panky!

Tamsui Travel

Hello doggy, will you be my Valentine?

Tamsui Travel

I must say the bridge is quite fun for photography :)

Tamsui Travel

While having sightseeing and leisure facilities, Fisherman’s Wharf still functions as a harbor for fishing boats.

Tamsui Travel

Keeping the love bytes alive at Lover’s Bridge
We almost died laughing posing for this shot. After that we quickly scooted back to mainland before anyone reported loonies at the bridge.

Tamsui Travel

Off to feed hungry tummies at Gongming Street/Tamsui Old Street 淡水老街
Fun fact: It is called ‘Old Street’ cos’ many old Japanese colonial style buildings from the 1900′s still stand nicely preserved along the street, and one of them now houses Teng Feng Fishball Museum 登奉鱼丸博物馆. Wow, fishball is really big business in Tamsui.

Tamsui Old Street, a short 5 minutes stroll from Tamsui train station, is excellent for its street food and traditional local snacks. It’s also a great place to get some unique souvenirs/snacks home. The must-try snacks here include Ah Gei, iron eggs, fishballs and tower ice cream. Exotic-sounding huh.

Tamsui Travel

Ah-Gei 阿给
A speciality food originating from Tamsui, ah-gei is basically friend tofu stuffed with glass noodles and sealed with meat paste. It is typically served with a plain soy-based or a sweet chili sauce. A-gei is commonly eaten with a bowl of fish ball soup in the winter or cold soy milk in the summer.
The name ah-gei was derived from aburaage (油揚げ), a fried and stewed Japanese tofu packet from which the ah-gei is made. According to Wikipedia, it was created in 1965 by Yang-Zheng Jinwen (楊鄭錦文) who combined various food items sold at her Zhenli street (真理街) food stall to sell as a new food item.

Tamsui Travel

A sight to behold – tower ice cream (TWD25). I’m trying not to let my thoughts run wild. You go, dude :D

Tamsui Travel

Another place I would recommend to check out – are the 24-hour convenience stalls. They are pretty localised, tempting me with all sorts of snacks. I’m gonna get fat if I stay in Taiwan!

Tamsui Travel

Hong Ma Sour Plum Soup 洪妈酸梅汤
I was attracted by the cute momsy character. Turns out – it was the best thing I brought home.

Tamsui Travel

These jars of spicy preserves were DELISH! I am still thinking about them and how I can order online :D They go really well with porridge and Chinese dishes. I’m gonna mail a carton back next time.

Tamsui Travel

And the most famous Tamsui specialty – Ah-Po Iron Eggs 阿婆铁蛋 at 135-1 Zhongzheng Road. This is the original stall – remember Grandma’s face!
Iron eggs were reportedly created by Huang Zhangnian 黃張哖 who sold noodles by the seaside dock about 50 years ago when Tamsui was a fishing town. When Grandma Huang had less business, she had to continually re-cook the braised eggs which were continually blown by the sea breeze. The repeated recooking and drying process eventually resulted in eggs that were dark, chewy and flavorful. The eggs were a big hit with the locals who referred to them as ‘iron eggs’.Ingredients used include chicken/quail eggs, five-spice powder, rock sugar, soy sauce and salt. The eggs go through many cycles of braising and drying until the egg white shrinks and turns chewy.Grandma Huang eventually founded a new business based on her iron egg recipe, selling them under the brand Ah Po Tie Dan. It was also a convenient food for fishermen who were out at sea for long periods of time. See – every cloud has its silver lining ☺

More on Taiwan:
Taiwan: Blooming Delights and Cultural Richness in Daxi 大溪
Taiwan – Nature’s Wonders at Yehliu Geopark 野柳地質公園
Taiwan – Jiufen’s 九份 Golden Nostalgia
Taiwan – Urban Respite at Beitou Hot Springs 北投溫泉
Taiwan – Jingguashi 金瓜石:Goldmine of Yesteryear
Taiwan – SHIFEN十分放天灯: Sending Wishes to the Sky
Taiwan – Sun Moon Lake 日月潭: Picturesque Nature

Explore Taiwan with Spunktitud3!

Getting to Tamsui
Take the train to Tamsui station on the red Tamsui line.

Getting to Fisherman’s Wharf 淡水漁人碼頭/Lover’s Bridge情人桥
Take Bus Red-26, 836, or 837 from Tamsui train station. Alternatively, take a ferry from Tamsui Ferry Pier.

Tamsui Sights (if you are opting for a full day trip)

Historical attractions:
Hongmao Castle/Fort San Domingo (No. 1, Lane 28, Zhongzheng Road), Mackay Hospital, Tamsui Presbyterian Church (No. 8, Majie Street), Huwei Fort (No. 34, Lane 6, Section 1, Zhongzheng Road), Old Oxford School, Residence of Dr. Mackay, Tamsui College

Natural sceneries:
Lover’s Bridge, Mangrove (Hungshulin) Conservation Area, Cape Shihhu, Chunglun Jetty

Temples and churches:
Longshan Temple, Herzhong Temple, Catholic Church, Tamchian Church, Xingchung Temple, Fuyou Temple


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Taiwan – Urban Respite at Beitou Hot Springs 新北投溫泉

Beitou Hot Springs

A good reason to get hot in Beitou – hot springs!

For the weary city dweller – or over-shopped traveller – staying in the midst of Taipei’s crowded business districts, Beitou at the northernmost district of Taipei City is the ideal escape that is perfect for a relaxing day trip. Locals and travellers alike come here for a quick soak in its hot springs, whose sulphurous waters have lured pleasure-soakers for centuries. It is also the closest hot spring resort to Taipei conveniently located by train (just 30mins away).

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Getting to Beitou is a piece of cake
Take the Red Line subway to Beitou station (heading towards Danshui) and change trains at Beitou Station to the Pink Line Xin Beitou Station just one stop away. The journey from Taipei Main Station will take 30 minutes and cost about NT30.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Never leave home without a good travel guide, and an even better travel companion :)

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Beitou Station
Go down one flight of stairs and up another to change platforms to the Pink Line to Xin Beitou.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Look out for the cute decor while waiting for the Xin Beitou train – great photo op!

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

The train to Xin Beitou reminds me of the Disney train – it comes with touchscreens in the form of hot tubs providing information from sight-seeing, food to hot springs. A good way to do some last-minute research ;)

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Directional signs are aplenty at Xin Beitou – you’ll not worry about getting lost.

The name Beitou originates from the Ketagalan aborigine word Kipatauw (“home of witches”) due to the smell of sulphur and the geothermal steam from the hot springs which resembles a witch’s cauldron. Beitou was originally an infamous red light district where men would go for the hot springs and women. The government cleaned up the area in the late 1980s, and today the hot spring town is one Taiwan’s major tourist attractions.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Beitou Public Library 北投圖書館
Apart from its famous hot springs, Beitou is also home to Taiwan’s first “green” library with its use of solar power and natural light. You can spot it on your way to Beitou Hot Spring Museum. It is also the first building in Taiwan to receive the “Green Building” certification.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Lovely lotus pond in the park just behind the library

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Beitou Hot Spring Museum 北投溫泉博物館
Housed in Victorian-style public hot spring bath built during the Japanese colonial era, this museum is a good spot to learn about Beitou’s rich hot spring culture and history. You will need to remove your shoes before entering the building.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Learn all about Beitou’s hot springs
Hot spring sources here originate from Datun Mountains. It is one of the earliest hot spring sources found in Taiwan and the water’s pH value ranges between 1.2 and 1.6 (i.e. very acidic). Sediments in the water crystallize into a rare mineral hokutolite which were unfortunately plundered, and only a few stones remain in the museum.

Architectural Model of Beitou

Architectural model of Beitou Hot Springs
Beitou’s  waters contain radium, which is said to be beneficial for fertility, long-term illnesses, rehabilitation and skin beauty.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

The former baths feel almost Roman in their construction

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Entertainment room where the men gathered to chill out after their hot spring bath. Women were not allowed in this room.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Geothermal Valley 地熱谷
Also known as Hell Valley, the hot spring was named one of Taiwan’s eight great natural beauties in the Japanese colonial era. The mineral composition of the rare green sulfur waters can only be found in two locations in the world, Beitou and Akita, Japan. Being a hydrochloric acid spring that can reach 100°C (212°F), it is unsuitable for body contact unless you are intending to cook yourself. In the past, visitors were able to boil eggs at the valley but not anymore. It reminded me of Jigokudani (also called Hell Valley) in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

A destination stamp to mark my visit!
It’s quite a small place covering an area of 3500 square feet, so 30mins would be sufficient for some eisurely sight-seeing. Besides – you want to save most of your time to soak in the hot springs!

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Everybody can afford to enjoy the hot springs in Beitou
For a totally free experience, you can soak your feet at the public hot spring foot baths along a stream in Quanyuan Park

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Beitou Garden Spa 北投親水公園露天溫泉
Beitou’s outdoor public bath is one of the cheapest options from NT20 to NT40. It has 6 outdoor pools ranging in temperatures from scalding hot to frigging cold. There are 6 entry time slots from 5:30AM to 10:00PM and can get crowded especially in the evenings or during weekends (well, it’s dirt-cheap afterall). Bring a swimsuit or buy one there, no au naturale pls :)

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

If you like a bit more privacy, there are very affordable indoor baths all around with signboards shouting their prices for a hot soak.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Since we were rather shy, we opted for a private soak in one of the hot spring resorts.

Beitou

Off we go!
Most of the hot spring resorts were clustered together along the road

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Which one should we go to? Hmm…

Beitou

You can opt just for a hot spring bath or choose to rest for a few hours or stay the night.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

One interesting thing which I noticed in Taiwan are the electrical boxes – they are all very prettily decorated!

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

We opted for Spring City Resort cos’ it’s one of the few with outdoor baths. There were some really nice ones along the way to the resort, but it was a pity they only had indoor baths. They also provide a shuttle bus to Beitou/Xin Beitou train station, so it saved us some precious time after we were done.

Beitou

The resort has nine outdoor pools with water of varying temperatures. The entry fee is NT800 for adults/NT550 for kids and free for hotel guests. They have indoor hot spring rooms too costing NT600 for adults/NT400 for kids per hour.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Time to play with water!

Beitou

SO good to have a warm soak!
That said, I still prefer the hot springs in Japan where the water feels ‘softer’ and you feel your skin go silkly smooth after a soak.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

The package we took came with a buffet which was okay but nothing to shout about.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Beauty Food
I ate a lot of this fish skin for its collagen.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

This heart-shaped biscuit looks more like a bum to me.

We left Beitou about 4.30pm for Fisherman’s Wharf and Danshui Old Street. If you are not intending to soak in a hot spring, you can plan about 2-3 hours in Beitou and leave more time for eating and shopping at Danshui Old Street. It would be ideal to visit Fisherman’s Wharf during sunset or night time for its scenic sight and then spend the rest of the evening at Danshui Old Street. More on that later! :)

More on Taiwan:
Taiwan: Blooming Delights and Cultural Richness in Daxi 大溪
Taiwan – Nature’s Wonders at Yehliu Geopark 野柳地質公園
Taiwan – Jiufen’s 九份 Golden Nostalgia
Taiwan – Tamsui 淡水:Of Romantic Sunsets & Tantalizing Snacks
Taiwan – Jingguashi 金瓜石:Goldmine of Yesteryear
Taiwan – SHIFEN十分放天灯: Sending Wishes to the Sky
Taiwan – Sun Moon Lake 日月潭: Picturesque Nature

Explore Taiwan with Spunktitud3!


Getting to Beitou
Take the Red Line subway to Beitou station (heading towards Danshui) and change trains at Beitou Station to the Pink Line Xin Beitou Station just one stop away. The journey from Taipei Main Station will take 30 minutes and cost about NT30.

Attractions

Beitou Public Library 北投圖書館
Address: No. 251, Guangming Rd, Beitou District, Taipei City, Taiwan 11246
Tel: +886 2 2897 7682
Opening Hrs: 8:30AM-5:00PM (Tue-Sat); 9:00AM-5:00PM (Sun & Mon)
Free Admission
Website: http://english.taipei.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=1100571&ctNode=30280&mp=100002

Beitou Hot Spring Museum 北投溫泉博物館
Address: No. 2, Zhongshan Rd, Beitou District  Taipei City, Taiwan 112
Tel: +886 2 2893 9981
Opening Hrs: 9:00AM-5:00PM (Tue-Sun); Closed on Mon
Free Admission
Website: http://www.taipeisprings.org.tw/english/scenic/hotspring-museum.htm

Geothermal Valley 地熱谷
Address: Zhongshan Road near the entrance of Wenquan Road中山路靠溫泉路出口, Beitou District, Taipei, Taiwan
Opening Hrs: 9:00AM-5:00PM (Tue-Sun); Closed on Mon
Free Admission
Website: http://english.taipei.gov.tw/ct.asp?xitem=1104691&CtNode=30688&mp=100002

Beitou Garden Spa 北投親水公園露天溫泉
Address: No. 6, Zhongshan Road, Beitou District, Taipei City, Taiwan 112 (台北市北投區中山路6號)
Tel: +886 2 2897 2260
Opening Hrs: 5:30AM-10:00PM daily (6 sessions daily)
1st session: 5:30-7:30AM
2nd session: 8:00AM-10:00AM
3rd session: 10:30PM-1:00PM
4th session: 1:30PM-4:00PM
5th session: 4:30PM-5:00PM
6th session: 5:30PM-10:00PM
Admission: NT$40 for adults, NT$20 for students and seniors
Website

Spring City Resort 春天酒店
Address: No. 18 YouYa Road, Beitou District, Taipei City, Taiwan
Tel: +886 2 2897 2345
Website: www.springresort.com.tw

I find this detailed map from Escape2Taiwan a useful guide of what to see and do in Beitou.


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Taiwan – Jiufen’s 九份 Golden Nostalgia

Taiwan - Jiufen

Located in Ruifang District of New Taipei City, Jiufen (Chiufen) used to be the center of gold mining activity in Taiwan. Today, the mountainous scenic village overlooking Keelung’s outer sea is a must-see attraction for visitors to Taiwan.
Travel in a Day by car: Yehliu 野柳 > Jiufen 九份 > Jinguashi 金瓜石 > Shifen 十分

Taiwan - Jiufen

The name “Jiufen” means nine portions in Mandarin. According to references from Taipei County Government, the name came about during the Ching Dynasty when there were only nine families living in the village. Due to the lack of resources, whenever one of the nine families went grocery shopping or purchased goods from freighters, they would purchase nine portions.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Jiufen became a prosperous gold mining town in 1893 when gold was found in the area, attracting large numbers of gold miners and earning the name “Gold City of Asia”, “Little Shanghai” and “Little Hong Kong”. The gold fever officially ended in 1971, bringing the whole village into sharp decline. Fortunately, its quaint streets, tea houses and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean saved the village from becoming yet another a mining ghost town.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Jiufen is now a popular tourist destination for visitors eager to relive scenes from the past. It has preserved most of its old architecture and maintained the unique atmosphere of a mountain city, attracting several internationally-acclaimed movies to shoot here such as Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness which won the Golden Lion award at the 1989 Venice Film Festival. While Jiufen brims with visitors eager to re-visit its golden past, it still maintains a tranquil atmosphere excellent for sightseeing, and not to mention authentic local snacks which we wolfed down and carted home by the boxes.

Taiwan - Jiufen

There are many unique teahouses located along Shuqi Street. Scenes from “Spirited Away” written and directed by Japanese animation master Miyazaki Hayao were referenced from Jiufen Old Street. It is said that Miyazaki’s source of inspiration particularly came from Ah Mei’s Tea House. Many Japanese tourists thus come to Jiufen in search of the scenes in the animation and a mask that resembles “Yubaba” the bathhouse witch.

Taiwan - Jiufen

As we made our way up to the mountain towards the main streets, we were greeted by little houses with very interesting artwork on its walls.

Taiwan - Jiufen

There were many photo vantage points for visitors. Also do look out for the gold-coloured signages who tell you more about its residents who may be a famous artist or personality.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Even the mailbox was nicely decorated

Taiwan - Jiufen

How much is that kitty on the window?

Taiwan - Jiufen

A very innovative homemade flower pot

Taiwan - Jiufen

We bumped into Robert Yu, a Taiwanese artist who specialises in miniature carvings

Taiwan - Jiufen

Robert has carved intricate designs on many small surfaces, in particular thin pencil leads. I admire his eyesight and patience.

Taiwan - Jiufen

The ladies were held captive at this shop selling aboriginal products along the hillside. The owner Annie was a really friendly lady, and we ended up spending almost an hour at the store – we had not even made it to the main streets yet!

Taiwan - Jiufen

Ah Mei-Mei!
How do I look? I bought the tamer-looking headband on my hand, and looking forward to wearing it to an appropriate event :)

Taiwan - Jiufen

Going aboriginal in Jiufen – where’s the boar??

Taiwan - Jiufen

Aboriginal rice wine with cute packaging
I got the strongest one with 40% alcohol content for Darren, but he hasn’t said anything about its taste. Either it has not been opened, or it was so strong that he forgot everything after drinking. I suspect it was the latter.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Shuqi Street 豎崎路
The main area of interest to visitors are the town’s historic commercial district comprising two pedestrian streets: Jishan Street 基山街 (which runs along the ridge line), and Shuqi Street 豎崎路 (which runs along the slope of the hill).
Rows of teahouses, bed and breakfast houses and art shops line both sides of the stairs along Shuqi Street.
Jiufen Old Street on the other hand, offers abundant local snacks which include sweet taro ball dessert, rice cakes with Chinese herbs, red vinasse Taiwanese meatballs and more.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Walking around Jiufen gave me a very nostalgic feel, as if I went back in time
Stepping into Jiufen’s most bustling Jishan Street, you’ll find a diverse array of handicraft, old-style grocery stores as well as interesting local snacks.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Beautifully painted ocarinas

Taiwan - Jiufen

Even the grasshopper came to shop for essential oils

Taiwan - Jiufen

We saw some very interesting health clogs – this particular pair is supposed to help you stretch your calves, although I wondered how many steps one could actually take in those.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Diet Clogs
I was super tempted to get these

Taiwan - Jiufen

I was super happy to find a Lavender Cottage retail shop here! I love their products.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Colorful bath salts
Buy, buy, buy!

Taiwan - Jiufen

The child in me got me blowing lavender bubbles

Taiwan - Jiufen

And made a new furry friend named Ah Jiu

Taiwan - Jiufen

Carine and I buying mini sky lanterns with written well-wishes as presents

Taiwan - Jiufen

Of all the attention-grabbing marketing tactics I have seen, you win hands down, aunty. Admire your guts!

Taiwan - Jiufen

These codfish snacks came highly recommended, and we carted them back in every flavour by the boxes. Super addictive when you eat it in front of the television.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Crispy barbequed pork
An interesting twist to the traditional barbequed pork, these crispy sheets tasted pretty good. Samples were aplenty, so we were rather well-fed by the time we finished shopping. We bought all the sakura shrimp flavour as that was our favourite. I liked the red wine flavour too.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Wild boar sausage

Taiwan - Jiufen

Burning Snow
This impressive-sounding snack is a crepe comprising of grounded peanuts, malt sugar, ice cream and celery leaves.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Aromatic tea leaf eggs

Taiwan - Jiufen

Handmade fish balls
I wished I had four stomachs so I could eat more

Taiwan - Jiufen

Smelly tofu – my fave!

Taiwan - Jiufen

One of the must-eats in Jiufen would be Grandma Lai’s Yuyuan 賴阿婆芋圆 (No.143, Jishan Street) – the ancestor of all the taro ball stalls which have sprouted up in the area.

Taiwan - Jiufen

In the early days, Grandma Lai made a living out of raising pigs before making chewy taro balls that has become the most famous local snacks of Jiufen, that even the Taiwanese drive from all over for takeaways. The stall’s taro balls use freshly-picked taros that are finely pureed, thus maintaining the natural sweetness of the taro. Have it cold or hot in various sweet soups.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Sink your teeth into this chewy dessert

Taiwan - Jiufen

City Of Sadness Restaurant (悲情城市小上海茶楼)
We had lunch at this restaurant which was featured in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s film A City of Sadness.
35 Shuchi Road, Tel:+886 2 2406-2289

Taiwan - Jiufen

Very retro setting

Taiwan - Jiufen

Betel nut flower cold dish
It tasted like bamboo shoots, with a slightly sticky aftertaste

Taiwan - Jiufen

Fried wild boar meat
This was my first time eating wild boar, and it tasted really tough. Not exactly my palate.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Three cup chicken (三杯鸡)
A popular Taiwanese dish of chicken simmered in sesame oil, soy sauce and Chinese wine that cannot go wrong.

Taiwan - Jiufen

Local wild vegetable called 龙须菜
This was yummy!

Taiwan - Jiufen

Mapo tofu

Taiwan - Jiufen

This was sinfully good – it’s pork lard oil dribbled onto white rice to give it a nice aroma and smooth taste. But I sure won’t be having this too often!

Taiwan - Jiufen

After lunch, it was time to bade farewell to Jiufen and proceed to our next location Jinguashi and Shifen to release sky lanterns!

More on Taiwan:
Taiwan – Blooming Delights and Cultural Richness in Daxi 大溪
Taiwan – Nature’s Wonders at Yehliu Geopark 野柳地質公園
Taiwan – Urban Respite at Beitou Hot Springs 新北投溫泉
Taiwan – Tamsui 淡水:Of Romantic Sunsets & Tantalizing Snacks
Taiwan – Jingguashi 金瓜石:Goldmine of Yesteryear
Taiwan – SHIFEN十分放天灯: Sending Wishes to the Sky
Taiwan – Sun Moon Lake 日月潭: Picturesque Nature

Explore Taiwan with Spunktitud3!

Jiufen Old Street
Address: Jiufenjishan Street, Ruifang Town, Taipei County
Tel: 886 2 29603456

Getting to Jiufen

By Train
1. Take the train bound for Ruifang from Taipei Railway Station (linked to Taipei Main Station on the MRT). The ride takes about 50 minutes.
2. Exit Ruifang Station, walk towards Ruifang Old Street and look for the “Welcome” sign across the street for buses bound for Jiufen. Cost: NT$15 and takes about 15 minutes to reach Jiufen.

By Bus
From Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT, take MRT Exit #1 and head towards SOGO mall on your right. The elevated railway line will be in front of you. Walk a minute and take the first left. After a few meters you will see the 1062 bus stop.
Cost: NT$102 (have the exact change or an easycard.) The journey takes a little more than 1 hour. Sit on the left hand side as there are great views of the valleys as it ascends Jiufen.

Driver
If you are looking to hire a driver, you can consider Mr Liu 刘先生. He’s a burly uncle who used to be a truck driver, and very honest. He charged us a very reasonable per day rate, brought us to all the places where the locals went, and none of those touristy crap. And we felt safe with him. You can give him a try if you wish. Mr Liu’s Mobile: (0)988-121-529.

Another contact you can try is Lucky Zhao +886 913 185 157, slightly pricier but good service and speaks well.