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Taipei (April, 2016) Day 3: Jiufen, & Ximending

August 13, 2016

Jiufen gives off its own calming charm as a tourist destination being ways away from the bustling and busy city center of Taipei. Similar to Tagaytay in the Philippines, Jiufen is situated in a mountain area just within the Ruifang District of the New Taipei City.

What excited me the most about going to Jiufen was that you can find there the famous 100-year old A-Mei Tea House that served as the inspiration for the popular animated film, Spirited Away. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to drop by due to time constraints. 🙁 But, seeing the rest of Jiufen with all its hanging lanterns, and stalls with local goods somewhat made me feel like I was walking around the actual set of Spirited Away. ♥

We dedicated an entire day for Jiufen since we knew that the travel time would take about an hour (one-way) from the Taipei Main Station. We had to make sure that we were able to get enough rest just the night before.

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The main area of attraction would me the market area with narrow alleyways where you can shop for various local goods, arts and crafts, souvenirs, and much more. I’m not gonna lie though; it was extremely crowded when we visited. We literally felt like sardines taking half steps every second or so. It was crazy! 

I don’t know if we visited during peak season, but I highly suggest you do your research on non-peak seasons so you can tour around with more ease and comfort! Make sure to wear comfortable clothes, since you’ll be walking a lot, and you’ll be dealing with tons of crowded areas (if you’re lucky, maybe you won’t).

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We got to try out some snacks and desserts from the side street vendors. We had to be quick on buying though, since it was jam-packed and we didn’t want to be swept away by the crowd! So, it was pretty funny when we’d just literally pay quickly, then hold onto the random snacks we’d buy so we could eat all of them while walking along with the crowd. lol!

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We only went through a couple of alleys, since it was way too crowded for us to get through every single nook and cranny. Upon finding an exit, we spotted this quaint cafe called SIIDCHA.

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The whole interior felt very laid-back and peaceful with its use of raw and natural design elements, like the unpolished concrete, wood accents, etc. It’s also located along the edge of the mountain side, so you can get a good view overlooking the mountain area. It’s a comfortable place to just wind down and relax after all the walking within the market area.

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I think that the products they sell also complement the whole mountain-side viewing experience as well, since they seem to specialize in unique tea blends, apart from selling coffee. So, we decided to take a break here and bought ourselves a few packs of flavored tea, such as their raspberry oatmeal flavor, matcha-infused flavors, and much more. The staff was also very kind to accommodate us with some free tastes of their blends. We instantly fell in love with their blends–we haven’t really tasted anything like them in the Philippines. I highly suggest you check out SIIDCHA if you get the chance to visit Jiufen in the future. ♥

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We headed back out to go downhill back towards the bust stop. I forgot to mention how Jiufen has tons of areas where you need to go uphill with narrow staircases, and then back downhill, so I suggest you start off from the higher area first so you can work your way back downwards.

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On our way back down, we were lucky to be able to spot some cherry blossoms by the mountain side! ♥ It was my sister’s first time to see cherry blossoms too, so bonus points for that!

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We got a bit lost while trying to find our way back to the bus stop. We spotted this map conveniently placed along the sidewalk on our way back down to the bus stop. You’ll most probably see this too on your way back, just in case you end up worrying about getting lost cause of all the winding staircases.

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At the foot of the last few sets of staircases towards the bust stop, we spotted this unusual cat-themed shop with a massive cat decorative piece resting on top of its roof! It reminded me a whole lot of the Ghibli films and just couldn’t resist the urge to take photos of it! ♥

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All sorts of cat merch for all those crazy cat lovers out there! ♥ lol!

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Getting back to the train station, we were supposed to head to Shifen next to try out the whole paper lantern experience, but we had missed our planned out train schedule. The next train was still scheduled to arrive about an hour or so later. We felt a bit down about this, since my sister was really looking forward to the paper lanterns, but we didn’t want to waste any time. We had to make quick adjustments with our schedule, so we decided to revisit Ximending instead, since we didn’t get a proper look around it the first time we went there.

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My sister went back to the apartment to drop off some things, so my mom and I waited at a nearby McDonalds that was just across the bus terminal as well. I was actually very amused with their McFlurry in Taipei, since they also seem to mix in some black sesame into the oreo McFlurry flavor (idk if it’s just me, but it tasted like black sesame to me??). They also had unusual spoons for their ice cream. I couldn’t figure out the purpose of the designs of their spoons–it had a straw-like square-shaped opening for its handle, but you couldn’t exactly drink from it..? Anyway, it was a minimal time for amusement (lol), then we headed for the bus terminal to go to Ximending right after our short break at McDonalds.

We actually didn’t get to shop much at Ximending. We more of spent more time eating street food again (lol!). We, at least, go to see some other side streets we had not visit the other day.

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I kinda freaked out when I saw this One Piece Mugiwara Store, cause I thought these only existed in Japan (apparently, not!)! haha! The inner geek in me screamed and I ended up literally running into the store to check it out. ;u; no shame, no shame.

Anyway, we didn’t do much of anything else afterwards. We were pretty tired, so we headed back to the apartment to call it a night. We were pretty down about not getting to shop much, so we schedule to get up early the next day so we can find time to do some last-minute shopping before heading back to the airport. Will write about it in the next entry, so stay tuned! 😀

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