After 3 days in the city, we decided to do something more special, and that is to head to Jiu Fen for a day.
Jiu Fen is slightly on the outskirts of Taipei, so we had to take a train to Taipei Main Station, and purchase a ticket to Rui Fang Station. It was a happy coincidence that the train leaving for Rui Fang was just arriving when we had purchased the tickets. The only problem was that they were Standing Tickets. So it was nearly impossible for us to get a seat there. After that, we took Bus 788 to reach Jiu Fen. It is mostly a place with a lot of street stalls, like an old town.
However, the streets were packed with people. There were shoals and shoals of locals with their families, rushing onward to buy things there. It was the weekend crowd, and we underestimated it. It was so crowded that the people didn’t even allow you to move backwards. They kept inching you onward, and the only solution was to escape into a shop and wait there. It was rather stuffy and hot after a while, so we kept escaping into different stalls to look at the things. We came across a shop that sold hand towels in the shape of a Qi Pao. That was cute. So we purchased some for our grandmothers at home.
People come here for the authentic and strange food and purchases. We found a few interesting things here and there. I saw this set of adorable fruit picks that were displayed proudly at the Entrance of the shop, and small Lantern keychains for the famous lantern releasing festival at Ping Xi. There are many things to buy, so step into as many shops as possible. Kitchen Cutlery, Pencil Cases, Magnets and many other items are sold as souvenirs.
There was a shop selling a traditional blowing instrument… It came in many forms. from guitars to violins to animals. They managed to make it into something worth keeping, and attractive to the eyes. It reminds me of a recorder, where they blow the air into the instrument and press respective holes to get a specific sound. It is harder than it looks I have heard. But it is a nice souvenir to keep even if you don’t try playing it yourself. 🙂
Besides these, the food is a good souvenir as well. We bought Prawn Crackers, Peanut with Wasabi, and some of them bought Mushroom Crisps. It’s chips made out of mushroom, yum. Also, we bought some grilled mushrooms along the way, which were thick, roasted and added with sauce. In this frenzy, a quick bite to go is a recommended option. It saves you time and away from the crowds at the side stalls and cafes. We also came across the sweet malt candy that they liked to sell as a traditional snack. It looks golden brown and almost like maple syrup. Maybe you could buy a stick to try.
We walked onward, and saw a really good view of Jiu Fen from an observation point. It was a panoramic view of the hills, and the sea up ahead. Greenery was all around us, and it felt magical and rural. It isn’t like the City Scape at all. Though the crowds of people made the experience less authentic, the scenic view made up for all the noise and jostling around. Take a while to appreciate the hills, the azure blue sky, fresh air and more. It is therapeutic.
We stumbled upon a Free Rest Stop cafe near the viewing area, and they allow you to sit there, and enjoy some chill oiut time for free. They lay out a few merchandise like caps, pencil cases and Japanese themed stuff, so if you want to support them, make a purchase there. A smart way to invite purchases really.
For those tea lovers, there is a tea shop selling antique looking pots, and they allow you to sample their tea. It is probably a traditional brew, and it costs more than the average souvenir. But if you love and appreciate tea, spending some tim here, sampling their tea and looking at the works is a good option as well.
It was near the late afternoon, we then tried to look for the place where they released the Lanterns… To our shock, a shop owner told us that the event didn’t take place at Jiu Fen, but at Ping Xi Station instead. We had to return to Rui Fang Railway, and buy another train ticket to Ping Xi. We then realised, that this other train that brought us to Ping Xi, is also the train to take you to Shi Fen, the scenic waterfall. So don’t be fooled, take another train from Rui Fang upon reaching. There is no Bus to Shi Fen and Ping Xi Railway. We slowly descended down the hill, and took the bus back to Rui Fang station for our next stage of the adventure. So don’t forget to pop by this rural and authentic place. Turn up during the weekdays to avoid the crowds, and for a more fun experience!