Sunday, June 19, 2016

Jiufen and Jinguashi, Two Old Mining Towns Near Taipei (Taipei Trip Day 5)

Jiufen (九份) is a little town in Ruifang (瑞芳) District. "Jiufen" means "nine portion". During Qing Dynasty, there were only nine families stayed in the village. Whenever the shipment arrived, the representative would request for "nine portion" to be brought back to the village. That's how Jiufen got her name.

Located on mountainous area, Jiufen developed into a mining town due to the gold rush in 1890s, and reached its peak during Japanese occupation. After the gold mining operation stopped in 1971, the town declined. The town again becoming the focus of tourists because of the movie "A City of Sadness" and anime "Spirit Away". We couldn't tell how true it was, but what we knew for sure- Jiufen was a small old town jammed by massive tourists.

Day 5 in Taipei, we departed to Ruifang from Wanhua Train Station. We were lucky to stay in a hotel around Longshan Temple in Taipei, where Wanhua Train Station was just 10 minutes away by foot. It was 8:30 am. Early trip promised comfort, quiet, and most importantly, plenty of seats. The train trip to Ruifang took around 60 minutes. After breakfast at Ruifang, we decided to visit Jinguashi (金瓜石) first. The taxi from Ruifang to Jinguashi took 20 minutes with fixed fare of NTD 270. The traffic was light in the morning.

Jinguashi is another old mining town developed during the gold rush era. We had only one place in our must visit list there- The Gold Mine Museum (黄金博物馆). The entrance to the museum was free, but we had to spend NTD 50 to enter Benshan (本山) mining tunnel 5. The museum opens from 9:30 am till 5 pm, and will be extended to 6 pm on holiday.

Wanhua Station was quiet on early Sunday morning (upper left). There were plenty of seat in the train (upper right). The train system is a bit different from the MRT. We can see there is no screen between the platform and the railway (lower right). We knew Ruifang Station was old by just looking at the buidling style of the station.

Looking out from the main entrance of Ruifang Station, we could see a line of yellow taxis awaiting for the customers (upper left). The taxi was running with fixed fare. In case of travelling by bus, we need to cross the road in front of the station (upper right), turned left and walked straight for a few minutes to reach the bus stop. We took our breakfast at one of the coffee shop nearby the taxi station- Yonghe Soybean Milk (永和豆浆)(lower right). The soybean milk was concentrated, while the tangbao (汤包) or the bun with soup inside was one of the best we had ever tried.

The old (upper left) and the new bus stop of Jinguashi (upper right) is located side by side to each other. The building of the old bus stop is now used as the tourist information center of the museum (lower right). The staff in the tourist information center were friendly and gave us a short briefing on what to see around the area.

Located beside the tourist information center, siliandong (四连栋) was the first building that we visited. It was in fact a terrace of four houses built in Japanese style. It was the old quarter for the high rank officers.

The terrace house was restored according to its original plan. The yard (upper left), underground tunnel (upper right), dining room (lower right), and bedroom were rebuilt according to the Japanese design.

Next to the terrace house is a square. The square is surrounded by the museum administration office, an old gold refining building, and a cafe. There is a staircase that lead to the second level of the museum- the Gold Building and mining tunnel 5.

The statue at the second level of the museum.

There are several gigantic air compressors exhibited around the 2nd level area (upper left), used to provide fresh air to the miners deep under the ground. The 200 kg gold bar exhibited in the Gold Building (upper right). It is the highlight and the main attraction of the museum. We had the opportunity to walk into a mining tunnel (lower right), with some models placed to reflect the working condition inside the tunnel.

For a better experience, visit the Gold Building first before jump into the mining tunnel. The exit of the mining tunnel is a distance away from the entrance, so try not to leave anything behind at the entrance. The museum is unique as the exhibits are scattered across a wide area. The visitors are exposed to natural elements. We would advise to bring an umbrella with you, just in case of raining. We need to walk a lot in the museum area, and the tunnel walk is very slippery, thus non-slippery footwear is the best. Food and drinks can be purchased in the museum area. We spent around 1 hour and 30 minutes in the museum. 

There are more places in Jinguashi such as the Japanese shrine at the third level of the museum, the Golden Waterfall, and the POW Memorial. All these places are not far from the Gold Museum, so you may visit them if you have time to spare. More information about Jinguashi can be found at Formosa Guide.

We were hinted by the taxi driver to return to Jiufen by bus. He told us that all the buses that going towards Ruifang direction would reach Jiufen. The frequency of bus was high, so it was not worth to take taxi from Jinguashi to Jiufen. We waited for less than 1 minute for the bus and 10 minutes we took to reach Jiufen.
Jiufen bus stop is located near to the Jiufen Old Street (upper left). The main road was narrow and it required experienced driver to drive the big bulky bus through the sharp corners (upper right). The entrance of the old street can be easily located by the gathering visitors (lower right). The old street is in fact a few feet wide walking path with stalls and shops on both sides.

This is the entrance of the old street.

We can see from here that the old street is narrow, and can be stuffy and squeezy with many people moving around the area.

We tried some food which were highly recommended by several food bloggers- the meat balls with soup (upper row), and the yam and beans dessert (lower row). Frankly, we tried the meatballs at two different stalls and found nothing special about the meatballs. Yam and beans dessert was special, but taste wise, just average.

We found the ice-cream wrap (upper row) and the red fermented meat wrap (lower row) were special, and tasted good.

The deeper we went into the street, the lesser the visitors we found on the street. 

Nice view over the small town can be seen at a few locations along the old street.

End of the old street marks the beginning of another journey into another part of the town. We could see a few beautiful coffee houses afar.

Jiufen no doubt is a peaceful old town. The terrace of houses built along the sloppy green mountain promises stunning view. We can choose to squeeze around with hundreds of visitors at the old street, or to escape into a quiet and peaceful zone far away from the old street. For us, we found the old street was indeed another version of night market in Taipei- food, drinks, souvenirs, clothes, and massive crowd. There were lack of attraction that we could really see the life of the people during the gold rush era (or maybe we didn't notice their presence). Claimed as a settlement since Qing Dynasty, the relics from Qing Dynasty could not be found as well. Personally, we found Jinguashi was more attractive than Jiufen, and we should have spend more time there.

We went back to Ruifang Train Station by taxi with fixed fare NTD 205. 3:30 pm, we hooped onto the train to Taipei. Our next stop- Zhongzhen Memorial Hall. Stay with us.

More about our experience in Taipei: 


  1. Very beautiful photos. The haze was thick during our visit few years ago. You are very lucky to see the real beauty of these places.

    1. Yes, we are really lucky. It was raining, and the fog was building up, but not thick enough to block our view.