“Where do you want to go when you come to Taipei?” My friend Gary asked me, via Wechat.
“Everywhere,” I replied, typical, curious me.
“What did you see when you were in Taipei last October? I’ll take you somewhere different this time,” he promised.
Gary was at Chongqing University with me three decades before when we went to the same classes, studied the same textbooks and had the same teachers for four years! He is also someone who keeps his promises.
The day after I arrived in Taipei in the beginning of March and had a weekend to spare, he came to collect me from the hotel.
“We’re going to Jiufen today, and all you have to do is to enjoy yourself,” He said to me with confidence and conviction.
For me, seeing Gary made me happy (Since graduation in the early 1980s, I had only seen him twice, once during the Classmates Reunion in 2008.
Check out the above for an early post, just before the Earthquake that killed tens of thousands in our native Sichuan, another time, some eight years later across the Taiwan Straight. So it did not really matter what we did or where we went, spending time with people who want my company is what I prize above all.
Off we set in his car and after a winding climb uphill, we found a place to park and wandered our way down to the little town known for its natural beauty and once being a film setting for the famed Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness.
Literally Jiufen means ‘nine portions’. Apparently when it was a village during the Qing Dynasty, this mountainous, isolated village housed nine families. When a shipment arrived, the villagers would request ‘nine portions’ every time, hence the name of the village, which developed into a town, following discoveries of gold in the area. Jiufen is a place rich in history, especially as a result of the Japanese colonisation and once served as a POW camp during WWII.
When Gary and arrived that morning, the sun was beating down, with views as far as the eye could reach. Beyond the green rolling hills, we could see the deep blue on the horizon, past the shining gold and orange roof tops of buddhist temples. It was a view to die for, and no wonder the town was pulsating with heaving crowds from far and wide. The crowd included many Japanese curious to visit their former colony of Formosa.
While catching up with all of each others news and about others we once knew, Gary took many pictures, as we pushed our way through the narrow streets, lined with numerous little shops, offering local delicacies to tourist and the “essential” gee gaws.
“We’ll sample whatever you wish for as we walk along, so just say the word, and we’ll stop,” My guide, driver, photographer rolled into a fine host, said to me.
Stop, we did, several times, tasting the local tea eggs, sweet dumplings, beef noodles and whatever took my fancy. Soon I was stuffed with satisfying snacks and delightful treats. I even stopped to buy a few fancy Chinese silk purses for friends back in the UK.
We did not stop to visit the famous museum about the Gold Rush and Japanese occupation, instead we carried along the road to head to the coast. I wanted to take advantage of the fine weather and consume the ocean views.
We did more than that. As we rolled down to the coast, we passed by a waterfall. Not people to pass up a photo opportunity, we jumped out of the car and joined the other tourists for a photo shoot. As you can see from the pictures above and below, my visit to Jiufen was well worth a visit.
I hope that you enjoyed tagging along with me and my friend. Thank you, Gary, for your continued friendship and hospitality!