Feb 1, 2017

Taiwan Travelogue: Exploring the Charm of Jiufen (8 Nov 2015)

Everything will be all good after a good night sleep. By 6.25am, my biological clock automatically woke me up to this beautiful morning view of Jiufen. It was chilly on an autumn morning but it did not deter me from admiring this view at the balcony for minutes.

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Morning View of Jiufen @ Jiufen Yuan Yee Homestay 緣憶民宿
Come to think of it, it was lucky for us to get a taxi driver from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport that could accept credit card payment for the bill came up to be TWD2,000. Luckier still, our taxi driver was kind enough to contact Jiufen Yuan Yee Homestay 緣憶民宿 to inform them that we were on the way so we could check in for the night around 10pm. Of course, it required the kind assistance of the manager of Jiufen Yuan Yee Homestay 緣憶民宿 too.

Our double-bed room in Jiufen Yuan Yee Homestay 緣憶民宿 was spacious and well equipped with wardrobe, TV, dressing table and attached bathroom filled with all toiletries we needed. For RM200/night, it was worth the money. The only area which I failed to consider was the steep slopes/staircases leading to and from Jiufen Yuan Yee Homestay 緣憶民宿. That being said, I believe most homestays in Jiufen would have the same topography complications that proved to be less desirable for elder travellers.

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Sandwich @ Jiufen Yuan Yee Homestay 緣憶民宿
Did I mention that complimentary breakfast was provided to all guests? To be honest, I wasn't expecting much. To my surprise, our breakfast was properly buttered toast with sauteed chopped onions, sunnyside up, a piece of meat patty, and cucumbers. It was so delicious that I wanted to have another!

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Golden Waterfall 黃金瀑布 @ Jinguashi
Our first destination of the day was none other than Golden Waterfall 黃金瀑布, which is located within 4-5km distance. Since we did not have a driver to chauffeur us around, we took a bus (TWD15 each) from Jiufen Old Street, which we waited for half an hour or so. Not only the bus was way off its scheduled arrival time, the bus driver was impatient and reluctant to assist travellers like us with clarifications. Something worthy to note is the road in Jiufen is very winding and dangerous.

Golden Waterfall is located near the Gold Ecological Park (黃金博物園區) in Jinguashi. The waterfall derives its name from its golden hued riverbed, which is rich in heavy mineral elements deposits as a result of gold mining activities in older days. The contrasting green surrounding the golden hued riverbed made it a splendid scenery to behold.

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Greenery around Golden Waterfall @ Jinguashi
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Golden River @ Jinguashi
From the Golden Waterfall, the golden water flowed into the river, before it ended in Ying Yang Sea. It is said the Ying Yang Sea derives its name from the contrasting yellow water against the blue ocean, which is liken to the concept of dual forces, Ying Yang. Due to infrequent bus schedule, we decided not to go to Ying Yang Sea. However, if you do not mind a steep hike up the hill, you would be rewarded with a bird eye view of the nearby Ying Yang Sea.

If you plan to visit Jinguashi, I would strongly suggest a tour guide or driver to bring you around. There was just too many attractions around that we couldn't go due to steep hill or inconvenient commuting.

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Food Truck @ Golden Waterfall
Opposite the Golden Waterfall, we spotted this food truck, selling grilled squid, oyster, lamb skewer etc. They had a good selection to satisfy most appetite. Out of curiosity, we ordered the ever famous Taiwan delicacy, Big Sausage Wrap Small Sausage 大腸包小腸, and grilled squid.

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Sausages and Octopus @ Food Truck
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Big Sausage Wrap Small Sausage 大腸包小腸 @ Food Truck
What you see here is the Big Sausage "separated with" Small Sausage. In all intents and purposes, the small sausage should sit on top of a bed of pickles and big sausage made of densely packed glutinous rice. To some, it might look obscene but damn, it was insanely good that my mom proudly declared it was the best of Taiwanese cuisine.

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Grilled Squid @ Food Truck
This Grilled squid was no less impressive. For a non squid lover like myself, it was neither too chewy nor soggy. Sufficiently charred and sauced, this grilled squid was a delight for most seafood lovers.

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Ice Cream @ Food Truck
To end our brunch with sweet note, I ordered an ice cream from the same food truck. Icy and coarse, it was not the right texture I was hoping for. Flavour was somewhat lacking too.

Total damage for 2 pax = TWD190

After our tummies were filled, we grabbed a bus ride back to Jiufen Old Street. Again, the bus we were expecting was late. We ended up waiting for half an hour before the right bus came along.

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Exploring Jiufen Old Street 
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Exploring @ Jiufen Old Street
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Exploring @ Jiufen Old Street
Jiufen Old Street is the most prosperous shopping district in Jiufen. Souvenirs, decorations, biscuits, ginger tea, almond powder etc, they had it all at Jiufen Old Street. One would simply be spoilt for choice! For the hungry ones, food and snacks was one thing you would not find lacking in every corner of Jiufen Old Street.

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Zhang Ji's Jiufen Traditional Fish Ball 張記九份傳統魚丸 @ Jiufen Old Street
One of the famous eats in Jiufen was this Zhang Ji's Jiufen Traditional Fish Ball 張記九份傳統魚丸 at Lot 23. It is said that tourists come here for their Mixed Balls Soup (TWD45), comprising of cuttlefish 花枝, Fuzhou and traditional fish balls.

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Our Order @ Zhang Ji's Jiufen Traditional Fish Ball 張記九份傳統魚丸
Being touristy, I ordered tofu with century egg (TWD35), mixed ball soup (TWD45), and braised pork rice (TWD30) (clockwise) to share with my mom.

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Braised Pork Rice @ Zhang Ji's Jiufen Traditional Fish Ball 張記九份傳統魚丸
To be honest, there was nothing to shout about their braised pork rice. Of plain rice and seriously oily pork lard in braised sauce, it lacked the contrasting texture which would be complemented by minced pork. The proportion of pork lard and rice was imbalance, so you would most likely end up with tasteless white rice.

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Tofu with Century Egg @ Zhang Ji's Jiufen Traditional Fish Ball 張記九份傳統魚丸
Their tofu with century egg was not impressive. Of chilled tofu with oyster sauce and bonita flakes, and century egg, the only thing I enjoyed most was the gooey century eggs. The rest was not worth noting.

Total damage for 2 pax = TWD110

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Wu Di ‘Flower Lady’ Taiwanese Sausage 無敵香腸 @ Jiufen Old Street
Another famous eats in Jiufen was this famous Big Sausage Wrap Small Sausage stall called Wu Di ‘Flower Lady’ Taiwanese Sausage 無敵香腸 at Lot 85. Despite its fame for Big Sausage Wrap Small Sausage, I found the complexity of flavour pale in comparison to the one we had at Golden Waterfall.

Total damage for 2 pax = TWD135

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Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan 賴阿婆芋圓 @ Jiufen Old Street
For dessert, taro balls is something that you should not miss in Jiufen. One could either come to Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan 賴阿婆芋圓 at Lot 143 or go to Ah Gan Yi Yu Yuan 阿柑姨芋圆 for their fill of taro balls.

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Mixed Taro Balls @ Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan 賴阿婆芋圓
We had ours at Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan 賴阿婆芋圓. Their mixed taro balls (TWD45), consisted of taro balls, sweet potato balls and green tea balls in a mildly sweetened concoction, was delightful pieces of chewy goodness. My personal favourite was sweet potato balls for its subtle sweetness.

Total damage = TWD45

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Ah Ying's Red Meat Ball 阿英紅糟肉圓 @ Jiufen Old Street
After some taro balls, we came across Ah Ying's Red Meat Ball 阿英紅糟肉圓. The piping hot pink glob of whatever-it-was looked super scrumptious, so my mom decided to give it a try. The chewy pink translucent skin encased chopped mixture of meat with what-I-guessed-to-be pickles and herbs. Its flavour profile was unusual but mild. All in all, I found it to be an acquired taste.

Total damage = TWD45

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A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll 九份阿珠雪在燒 @ Jiufen Old Street
A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll 九份阿珠雪在燒 was another dessert that you should not miss in Jiufen. The lady in the cap was A-Zhu, busy preparing roll after roll of desserts for her line of customers.

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Deconstructed Peanut Ice Cream Roll @ A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll 九份阿珠雪在燒 
Somewhere between savoury and sweet, I found it oddly interesting. What you see here was two scoops of ice cream (yam flavour if I remember correctly), sitting on a bed of crushed peanuts and parsley. Yes, parsley was definitely the odd part.

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Rolled Peanut Ice Cream Roll @ A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll 九份阿珠雪在燒 
In its constructed form, the roll was a neat presentation. Their ice cream was inclined towards icy texture, giving a little crunch along with the crushed peanuts.

Total damage = TWD40

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Bittergourd Juice @ Jiufen Old Street
For thirsty travellers, one could use a cup of bittergourd juice (TWD70). Used only the small wrinkly bittergourd, it promised bitterness that few could endure (okay, I was just kidding!). It was surprisingly pleasant to the tongue but yes, it was still bitter.

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Herbal Egg @ Jiufen Old Street
If you must eat, do stay away from herbal eggs (TWD10 each). It was bland and tasteless compared to those in Malaysia. So, do your body a favor by saving the calories intake.

Food aside, it would be best to spend the calories consumed by walking around Jiufen Old Street to enjoy the breezy evening and to enjoy the splendid night view. Beyond the winding path and steep steps, this mountainous gold mining town does have its charm that keeps people coming back.


IN SUMMARY,

My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • Jiufen Yuan Yee Homestay 緣憶民宿 - 2/5
    • Food Truck near Golden Waterfall 黃金瀑布 - 1/5
    • Zhang Ji's Jiufen Traditional Fish Ball 張記九份傳統魚丸 - 2/5
    • Wu Di ‘Flower Lady’ Taiwanese Sausage 無敵香腸 - 3/5
    • Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan 賴阿婆芋圓 - 2/5
    • Ah Ying's Red Meat Ball 阿英紅糟肉圓 - 3/5
    • A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll 九份阿珠雪在燒 - 3/5
  • Price
    • Jiufen Yuan Yee Homestay 緣憶民宿 - 5/5
    • Food Truck near Golden Waterfall 黃金瀑布 - 5/5
    • Zhang Ji's Jiufen Traditional Fish Ball 張記九份傳統魚丸 - 2/5
    • Wu Di ‘Flower Lady’ Taiwanese Sausage 無敵香腸 - 2/5
    • Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan 賴阿婆芋圓 - 3/5
    • Ah Ying's Red Meat Ball 阿英紅糟肉圓 - 3/5
    • A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll 九份阿珠雪在燒 - 4/5
  • Food
    • Jiufen Yuan Yee Homestay 緣憶民宿 - 5/5
    • Food Truck near Golden Waterfall 黃金瀑布 - 5/5
    • Zhang Ji's Jiufen Traditional Fish Ball 張記九份傳統魚丸 - 2/5
    • Wu Di ‘Flower Lady’ Taiwanese Sausage 無敵香腸 - 2/5
    • Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan 賴阿婆芋圓 - 4/5
    • Ah Ying's Red Meat Ball 阿英紅糟肉圓 - 3/5
    • A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll 九份阿珠雪在燒 - 4/5
  • Verdict
    • Jiufen Yuan Yee Homestay 緣憶民宿 - Surprisingly good despite being a hostel providing free breakfast
    • Food Truck near Golden Waterfall 黃金瀑布 - An unpolished gem, try it when you are there!
    • Zhang Ji's Jiufen Traditional Fish Ball 張記九份傳統魚丸 - Overrated
    • Wu Di ‘Flower Lady’ Taiwanese Sausage 無敵香腸 - Overrated, try the Big Sausage Wrap Small Sausage from the food truck near Golden Waterfall 黃金瀑布 instead
    • Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan 賴阿婆芋圓 - A delightful dessert indeed
    • Ah Ying's Red Meat Ball 阿英紅糟肉圓 - Definitely for acquired taste only
    • A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll 九份阿珠雪在燒 - Odd assemble of dessert that actually tasted good!

My personal hotel/attractions verdicts for:
  • Jiufen Yuan Yee Homestay 緣憶民宿 - Spacious and comfortable, it was a nice place to stay, though it was quite a distance from Jiufen Old Street (which also means more stairs and hill climbing)
  • Golden Waterfall 黃金瀑布 - Scenic place to be but nothing could be done besides phototaking and enjoying some local delicacies from the food truck nearby.
  • Jiufen Old Street - One could imagine how this prosperous mountainous mining town would be with its cobblestone walkway and old fashioned shop lots. Spend some time exploring the web of streets, you would definitely find something interesting along the way.

DINING INFO:

Zhang Ji's Jiufen Traditional Fish Ball 張記九份傳統魚丸
No. 25, Jishan St, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
Operation Hours: N/A
Tel: +886 2 2496 8469
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Wu Di ‘Flower Lady’ Taiwanese Sausage 無敵香腸
No. 85, Jishan St, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
Operation Hours: N/A
Tel: N/A
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan 賴阿婆芋圓
No. 143, Jishan St, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
Operation Hours: 8am - 8pm
Tel: +886 2 2497 5245
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Ah Ying's Red Meat Ball 阿英紅糟肉圓
No. 114, Jishan St, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
Operation Hours: 9am - 8pm
Tel: +886 2 2496 9945
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll 九份阿珠雪在燒
No. 45, Jishan St, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
Operation Hours: 9am - 7pm
Tel: +886 2 2497 5258
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

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