Taiwan Photo Gallery, Part Two: Hot Springs, Highlands and Jiufen

Nothing helps you get used to a foreign country than getting naked with the locals. And I mean that in the cleanest possible way.

On our first full day in Taiwan, we met up with my good friend/classmate/colleague from university, Jessica, along with her male-model pilot-to-be boyfriend Kelvin and their pop-star friend Raymond. Yes, that’s right, I have some ridiculously good-looking Taiwanese friends in high(-ish) places. So naturally the first thing we did was head to Beitou, a famous hot spring resort on the outskirts of Taipei, to take off all our clothes.

I am no stranger to bathing nude in public thanks to Japan, and it’s my opinion that nothing helps you re-adjust to a healthy body image like a trip to the hot springs. Lots of different bodies of all shapes, sizes and ages: all human and all beautiful. It is a little strange, though, to be having your first conversation with a friend you haven’t seen in years sans-clothing. Real friends have nothing to hide?

After the hot springs and an epic lunch, we headed to the nearby Yangmingshan National Park to explore the highlands. It was beautiful, and actually quite chilly compared to the tropical December temperatures of the city below. We even saw a shivering bride and her wedding party posing for photos amid the mud pies left behind by the wild cows that roam the park.

Following that we headed to Shilin Night Market to get some dinner. I had my first – and only – taste of stinky tofu, which honestly doesn’t taste that bad if you can get past the smell. And a lot of other delicious things as well. Then we headed back to our hostel to get some sleep, which we would very much need for gallavanting all over Taipei on days two and three. It was an amazing first day!

On our fourth and final day in Taiwan, we met up with Jessica and Kelvin (sadly, not Raymond) and headed off to Jiufen, a beautifully quaint village in the mountains. The town is famous for, among other things, being the place that inspired the village in the Hayao Miyazaki movie Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し). Probably largely because of this, the town was virtually overrun by Japanese tourists. It was also, ironically, the only time we actually got stared at / heckled by people in Taiwan – by the Japanese tourists! “Look, foreigners!” We simply cannot escape them. At least now we can heckle them back in their own language (“You’re foreigners here, too, you know…” is a close approximation to what Jordan and I muttered). Have I mentioned how much I love Taiwanese people?

Anyways Jiufen, and Jessica, are entirely responsible for my trip to Taiwan, because as a parting gift at the end of my last semester of uni, Jessica gave me a heartfelt message on a postcard of Jiufen, imploring me to come to her home country one day and visit her favourite tea shop. I warned her that I would take her up on it, and shortly after she returned to Taiwan at last, I booked the flight. I cannot describe how cool of an experience it was to stand in the exact spot from the postcard photo with her to pose for a photo of our own, followed by a visit to said tea shop, fulfilling my quest at last. So without further adieu, I present Taiwan, Part Two!

Day 1: The hills above Taipei

In front of the hot springs entrance

In front of the Beitou Hot Springs resort. There are many resorts, actually, but this one was recommended by Jessica’s mom, and it sure was popular. This is the only photo of the hot springs, though, for obvious reasons 😉

Yangmingshan Park pathway through the grass fields

Yangmingshan National Park. It was beautiful, and on a clear day you can apparently see all of Taipei in the distance, but we had a bit of clouds so the view didn’t go to far. Still a really place to escape to from the city, though!

Group photo

Left to right: Jordan, me, Jessica, Kelvin and Raymond.

Jess and Kelvin - can we just agree that these two are adorable?

Jess and Kelvin – A stealth shot so they didn’t have time to “pose.” Can we just agree that these two are adorable?

Shilin Night Market.

Next stop: The Shilin Night Market.

Eating stinky tofu.

Stinky tofu… REALLY stinks. But it actually tastes pretty good if you can avoid inhaling!

Day 4: Chasing a postcard dream in Jiufen

Jiufen walkway

Welcome to Jiufen! This is the main pedestrian walkway area, lined with shops and restaurants.

Masks hanging in Jiufen shopping street

There were all kinds of different goods for sale at Jiufen. One could easily walk away with a whole suitcase full of interesting souvenirs!

Lion puppet

Lots of neat stuff for sale in the shops. I still kind of regret not buying the duck-shaped ocarina I found. Here is a cool lion puppet!

Posing with the crepe-like snack.

Have I mentioned yet that everything in Taiwan is delicious? This is a sort-of crepe with ice cream, mint leaves and crushed peanuts. The lady making them insisted I take a picture with her creation before she rolled it.

Dumpling shop paper lanterns.

We went to “The” place to eat in Jiufen: these lanterns inside the eating area are apparently instantly recognizable to anyone who’s been there.

Making dessert dumplings.

We had a sweet soup with these dessert ball/dumpling-type things. This is them being made.

Sweet potato ball soup

You could get the sweet soup hot or cold – we chose hot – and it includes sweet potato, red bean, and a bunch of other deliciousness.

Jess and Kelvin taking a selfie.

Caught taking a selfie!

Jess and Kel

…there. That’s better!

Teapots and other things.

One of the other things Jiufen is known for is the pottery and handicrafts. This was one popular shop, selling tea-related pottery and goods.

Steamed dumpling soy sauce containers.

These were also very cool. At first glance they look like steamed dumplings, but in fact these are dumpling-shaped, hand-crafted soy sauce containers!

Fish ball soup in Jiufen

Lunch! Because the things before were just snacks, and more food = more awesome! This is fish ball soup, which might sound awful but it was actually surprisingly delicious! I really should stop being surprised when food in Taiwan is delicious…

Dog in condiment shelf.

There were a lot of little dogs running around Taipei, most of them wearing cute little outfits. I guess this guy was embarrassed he forgot to put clothes on, because he was hiding with the condiments.

Ducks in a pile of oranges.

Oh, another thing that shows Taiwan and I were meant to be: ducks, everywhere! Since the arrival of the Giant Rubber Duck, Taiwan has had a serious case of Duck fever. If only Japan would be so accommodating…

…and by “accommodating,” I mean by not killing the Giant Rubber Duck when I’ve driven for hours to see it and breaking my heart.

 

Walking down Shuqi Road.

We’re getting closer to The Spot, now! This is Shuqi Road, a rather famous narrow street that cuts off from the main drag with all the shops. It mostly is home to all the tea houses.

Jiufen cave-like walkway

A little cave-like walkway carved through the stone that cut off from the main road. Filled with people’s names and messages scribbled in white.

Shuqi Road.

Coming down Shuqi Road.

Jiufen Teahouse from the side.

One of Jiufen’s many gorgeous tea houses.

Tea house entrance.

Entrance to the above tea house.

Teahouse from below.

We’re at the bottom of the hill, now, looking up at the teahouses from below.

Shuqi Road squared

Aaaaaaand this is the scene from my postcard!

Jess and Janelle on Shuqi Road.

Nearly four years later, here we are! The bottom of Shuqi Road, almost the exact same view as in the postcard she gave me that started this whole quest. Mission accomplished!

Shilin Market main road.

After returning from Jiufen we parted ways, and Jordan and I headed to Shilin Night Market for a tiny bit more adventuring.

Hot and sour soup with dumplings.

We had one last bubble tea and an epic meal. Hot and sour soup, and a whole lot of dumplings! Keep being awesome, Taiwan!

In closing, they say that Taiwan is Asia’s most under-rated travel destination, and I’m inclined to agree. We saw very few tourists in our time there – they were missing out. The smashing success of our trip was largely thanks to our friends, of course, but the country is very traveller-friendly and has so many things to be experienced. Unlike many of my fellow Japan-dwelling expats who have a love-hate (or, for the Japanophiles, a love-love) relationship with Japan, mine’s always been a big more of a lukewarm like-dislike relationship. But Taiwan, now that is a place I could see myself falling head-over-heels in love with. If you are wondering where to go next, I’d definitely put it at the top of your list!

That’s all for now! Check out Part One of my Taiwan photo gallery if you haven’t already. Cheers!

Have you ever embarked on a quest like mine, to chase a dream from a postcard? Or is there a quest you’re still waiting to fulfill? What would you say is the “most under-rated” travel destination that you’ve been to?

2 thoughts on “Taiwan Photo Gallery, Part Two: Hot Springs, Highlands and Jiufen

Comments are closed.