Having heard many positive reviews about Jiufen (九份) before my holidays, it was thus a no-brainer that Jiufen must be included in my itinerary, & so we did. 🙂 We set out for Jiufen on the second last day of our trip.
It is said that long ago, there were only 9 families in Jiufen, a small town located within the hills of Northeast Taiwan. Before the roads on land were built, all materials were transported via ships. Thus they formed a habit to buy 9 pieces of the same object at any one time. That was how the place got its name. Jiufen used to be a prosperous mining centre until gold mining activities declined after WWII. The town only revived after its nostalgic scenery was captured in a popular Taiwan film – A City of Sadness (悲情城市) in 1989 & has since become a hot tourist spot.
To go to Jiufen, we took a train to Ruifang 瑞芳 from Taipei Railway Station (about 1 hour duration). I couldn’t remember the exact ticket cost as we paid for it using our Easycard (悠游卡 which works like Singapore’s EZLink Card), think it was in the NTD50 range (one-way). However paying with this option meant we could only ride on trains that are free-seating like the MRT as it wasn’t an express service, but with a few stops along the journey. Fortunately it wasn’t too crowded & we managed to get seats on the train. ^^
Arriving at Ruifang Train Station made me feel like I had travelled back into time, very nice.;) There were many scenic photographs being displayed in the underground exit of the station leading to Jiufen/ Jinguashi (金瓜石).
Initially we had wanted to take a 15 min bus ride to Jiufen, but for convenience as well as the hope to cover more attractions for the day, we decided to hire a driver to drive us to Jiufen & vicinity. Outside the station is a taxi stand where many taxi drivers gather & wait for customers like us to show interest in engaging their service. The good thing was they weren’t pushy, & a price list was displayed on the notice board at the taxi stand.
Soon, we arrived at Jiufen Old Street (九份老街) after a short drive up the winding road of the mountain (no, it didn’t make me dizzy like the Alishan winding roads haha). We were given 2 hours to tour here & the driver asked us to pay NTD500 as deposit before we alighted.
Jiufen Old Street is an exciting place to be in, where one can find stalls selling all kinds of traditional local food delights, as well as souvenir shops selling unique handicrafts. There are also several traditional teahouses & lodging (民宿) overlooking the sea. We had no time to chill out at a traditional teahouse but I did try 3 different types of local delights.
1. JIufen Traditional Fishballs (九份传统鱼丸店)
Actually I wanted to eat at the Chang’s Traditional Fishballs (九份张记传统鱼丸, 新北市瑞芳區基山街25號), not very sure if the one we went to is the correct one. 😛 This stall is very near to the entrance. Anyhow we ordered the mixed fishball soup (混合魚丸湯) – NTD40 (about S$1.70), special dried noodles (特制干面) – NTD35 (about S$1.50), & preserved egg with tofu (皮蛋豆腐) – NTD35.
There were 3 types of fishballs for the soup, 1 was fishball stuffed with meat (福州鱼丸), another traditional fish ball, & the last was sotong ball (花枝丸). They tasted pretty normal, so I prefer the one in Tamsui for its QQ texture. The special dried noodles & preserved egg with tofu were delicious though, especially the dried noodles, very flavourful.
2. Grandma Lai’s Taro Balls (賴阿婆芋圓) – 九份基山街143号
This really is a must-try if you are at Jiufen! The taro balls are amazingly QQ / chewy, tasty yet not overly sweet & refreshing. Each bowl of dessert (you can choose to have it hot or cold) costs NTD50 (about S$2.10). I read from the signboard that they used to sell only uncooked taro balls, but as the dessert became more popular, they began to serve ready-to-eat taro ball dessert together with new flavours such as green tea, sesame & sweet potato.
The eatery is so popular that it occupies 2 units in Jiufen, & there is a constant stream of customers buying the dessert. Even then, the staff weren’t arrogant & still smiled warmly when you walk pass asking if you would like to try some dessert. I was very glad that I ate a bowl by myself instead of sharing, because it is too good to just eat half a bowl! Lol!
3. 阿兰芋头巧草仔粿 – 九份基山街143号
Sorry but I don’t know how to translate this eatery into English, except that it is called “Ah Lan” 😛 Take a look at what I bought from this eatery…
I didn’t read about this eatery before the trip, so when I saw many people waiting up at Ah Lan, instead of other eateries selling similar snacks, I was curious & decided to queue to try the little snack which cost only NTD10 (about S$0.40) per flavour. They sell various flavours including the signature taro, salted green bean, sweet red bean, dried radish etc.
I bought 1 taro & 1 salted green bean cake. The taro cake was pretty good, especially if you are a taro lover, as it was generously filled with the real thing. But I thought the Singapore taro cake version was more fragrant as we mix mushroom together with the taro. As for the salted green bean cake, it wasn’t to my liking, I thought the taste was weird. Nonetheless, both had 1 thing in common – very greasy! I could feel my lips getting so oily after finishing the snacks.
Of course we didn’t just eat & eat, but also browsed & bought unique gifts at the many souvenir shops as well as captured pictures of the nostalgic alleys & stairways.
Before we left Jiufen, we did not forget that we had to buy some Sun Cakes (太阳饼) from the famous bakery Li Yi Cake Shop (李仪饼店, 新北市瑞芳区汽车路18号), opposite the convenience store 7-11 from the old street entrance.
1 box contains 10 pieces of Butter Sun Cakes which costs NTD300 (about S$12.75). The bakery also sells other types of cakes such as yam cake, lao po bing etc. If you love butter, this Sun Cake will suit your palate as the butter flavour is very distinct & fragrant, but it is quite sweet.
Time flies when one is enjoying oneself! It was almost 2 hours & our driver arrived to pick us up at the entrance to head to our next destination – Shifen (十份), which I will detail in the next post. 🙂