I’d like to start my Kino’s Journey reviews, but I’m currently still going on small and sporadic journeys of my own. Been just over a month since I arrived in Taiwan, minus the 14-day travel quarantine. Life is pretty normal here, but masks are still mandatory on public transit and in many establishments.
The travel quarantine (and 2020 in general) does discourage tourism, so I’ve decided to make this the year I do touristy things, now that I endured the 14 days myself. One of these things was visiting the town of Jiufen.
Jiufen is a mountain town that overlooks the sea, most known for tapioca taro balls and streets lined with red lanterns at night. At some point when I was growing up, it blew up with a crazy amount of tourists. My mom claimed that it was because a historical drama film called A City of Sadness was filmed there, but the bigger reason is that it’s a supposed model for the anime Spirited Away (more on it in the next post).
During a pandemic though, the whole place felt quiet. My friend and I missed the hourly bus headed for there, but were greeted by a prepared taxi driver who gave us a cheap deal after finding two other groups of passengers to share the ride. The taxi driver convinced us that the town was too small to spend a whole day in (he was right), drove us up some nearby mountains, and introduced many “Insta-worthy” spots along the way. He also volunteered to take photos at every destination, and insisted that everything he did along the way was free.
The taxi driver warned us about bus frequencies when he dropped us off (“just take your pictures and go,” he said), but my friend and I decided to go hike a random trail anyway. It didn’t really lead anywhere, and after half a dozen mosquito bites, we ran into a large group of older aunties who managed to locate a bus and convince the driver to let us squeeze in too.
The bus led to a gold museum in the neighbouring Jinguashi, a gold-mining site half a century ago. We bought tickets to the museum, but got distracted by another wayward trail and never reached the museum before it closed.
The signpost said that there was a Shinto shrine nearby. My friend and I decided that they probably built it for the tourists, since most temples in Taiwan are either Buddhist, Taoist, or some amalgamation of the two. But it was quite a hike up that mountain, so we changed our minds.
Apparently, the Gold Shrine (a.k.a. Ōgon Shrine, Jinguashi Shrine) was built by the Japanese in the 1930s, and the shrine was demolished after the end of Japanese rule. We only found a cat there, and spent some time watching it fail to catch a lizard for lunch. There was a slab of stone with a few foreign coins on it. In honour of the cat, I left a Taiwanese dollar and my friend put down a fake coin.
We kept hiking upwards after leaving the shrine, and were surprised to find nobody on the same trail. Passed by a few faded maps and crossed paths with some blue insects and lizards (for some reasons, critters at that altitude tend to be blue?). By the late afternoon, we turned back because the trail was clearly winding somewhere we weren’t planning to go, and my friend was alarmed that we could no longer see the sea.
Had to sing our way down the mountain to keep up the morale, but we eventually found a bus that finally led to the town of Jiufen by the evening.
Considering the pandemic, I wasn’t really sure about posting travel photos on social media, let alone the blog. I’m probably one of very few who are still going places, and this is a post that doesn’t necessarily fit the theme of the blog (haha, what theme?).
But it’s also the first year that I’ve actively been taking photos, and some of them are nice so I felt like sharing them. Plus, if I don’t write things down, I’ll probably forget a good chunk of them!
Wishing everyone safe and well where you are. If you enjoyed this post, please look forward to Pt. 2 soon.