Taiwan: Jiufen

Views of the water from Jiufen.

Located about an hour away from Taipei, Jiufen is a famous destination for travelers in Taiwan. Originally a small town with just nine families, Jiufen derives its name from “nine portions,” reflecting the number of portions needed with each shipment of goods. The town grew and prospered with the discovery of gold nearby in the 1800s, which is reflected today in many of the souvenirs available.

Sometimes known as the “Santorini of Taiwan.”

Jiufen views.

Awesome architecture.

Market streets.

Frozen passion-fruit flavoured sugar pop.

Frozen mint chocolate chip mochi ice-cream!

Cool tiles.

Tunnel through the city.

Crumbling lanterns in a tunnel.

Sounds like fun.

Creepy masks.

Today, Jiufen is famous for its resemblance to the town in Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away. Buildings on top of buildings, balconies, tea houses, and endless lanterns really do look like the animated city come to life. Mei teahouse in particular looks just like the bath house from the movie, although we chose to enjoy some tea at the Sky Castle Tea House overlooking the water.

Lanterns everywhere!

Spirited Away vibes.

Inside a tea house.

Tea house design.

Sky Castle Tea House, where we enjoyed a view over the water.

Tea cheesecake. Delicious!

Our tea.

Tea House kitty.

Another interesting feature was the cats! As we started strolling the intricate streets of Jiufen, I noticed a number of cat-themed souvenirs. Even the lampposts are cat-shaped. It quickly became evident why, as there are more cats roaming the streets than anywhere else I’ve ever seen.

Kitty lamp post.

More kitty lamp posts.

Kitty on a bike.

Kitty in the streets.

Like Taipei, Jiufen is characterized by a colourful mix of city and nature. The crooked streets twist and turn around buildings, trees and tunnels, and the pavement and cobblestones disappear at times under moss and leaves. Often, we found ourselves wandering through what we suspected were residents’ yards, though it was difficult to tell if it was public or private property.

I love the way the houses disappear under moss and vines.

Garden Gate.

Sky Castle teahouse at the top of a grassy hill.

Tunnel in the middle of town.

Street art.

Garden hideaway.

Nature taking over.

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