Spirited Away in Jiufen

Published October 20, 2017
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Jiufen was my first destination on my 7-Day Taiwan trip, click here to see the full itinerary!

Three weeks before Christmas, I had yet to decide on where to spend the holidays. I had a few options, like Indonesia, but Taiwan had always been my next target destination at that time. I checked some flights one midnight, and immediately booked them right away. It was not the cheapest for an hour long flight, but hey, it’s only a few weeks away and I got no certainty fares would go lower after that.

We arrived at Taoyuan International Airport at midnight of Christmas Eve. The year before this, I spent my Noche Buena on a sleeper train in Thailand, and this time it was in a plane to Taiwan. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Cebu Pacific even gave us little paper parols to get into the festive mood.

Arriving at midnight wasn’t ideal, but that was the only option at that time. So instead of pre-booking a hotel, and wasting half-a-day’s worth of the payment, we just slept at the airport.

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We didn’t really get much sleep, but the feeling of excitement got us through an exhausting morning. We got on a bus to Taipei Main Station at around 7:00 AM. Then we went on to ride the metro to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, to catch a bus (#1062) to Jiufen. We got to Jiufen Old Street just before lunch. Tourists are starting to arrive but it’s still manageable to walk through the narrow street with our big backpacks. I didn’t expect the old street to be that long and our guesthouse was located at the far end. When we checked in, we weren’t allowed to stay yet (and get a much-needed sleep) so we just left our bags and looked for a nice place to eat.

Food choices in Jiufen vary from quick snacks on a stick, to full rice meals

Food choices in Jiufen vary from quick snacks on a stick, to full rice meals

Ducks and fish balls

Ducks and fish balls

After seeing a bit of Jiufen, we went back to the guesthouse and slept! We got back to the old street at late in the afternoon and kept exploring until we got so sick of the smell of stinky tofu. Jiufen at day is very festive, it brings out good emotions in you and makes you want to explore every bit of it. But Jiufen at night is totally different, it gives you a feeling of nostalgia for an emotion you’ve never felt before. Especially after the stores close down, there’s a buzzing mood of solemness between you and the almost empty streets. It’s a great time to reflect on things you’re lucky to have.

Iconic stairway near A Mei Tea House

Iconic stairway near A Mei Tea House

Spirited Away

It’s widely considered that Jiufen was an inspiration behind ‘Spirited Away’. Although Hayao Miyazaki debunked that theory, you really can’t deny the similarities between the two. Being in Jiufen made me feel like I was in a Studio Ghibli film, it was that magical. And even though Christmas is not widely celebrated in Taiwan, being there on that day just added an extra magic to my experience.

A Mei Tea House

A Mei Tea House

Are you a big Studio Ghibli fan? Let me know in the comments! Book your Taiwan trip now so you can experience this majestic place as well!

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