After a rejuvenating hot spring day at Grand View Resort Beitou, our very next day at Taipei city was a day packed full of activities. First on the agenda was a shopping trip to the beautiful and historical town of Jiufen – fondly named because there used to be only nine families living in this town (Jiufen translated means nine portions).
If you are wondering how to get to Jiufen, do read our article on how to get to Ruifang, Jiufen, Pingxi and Shifen.
Our cab ride to Jiufen brings up to the top of the hill.
This view is one of the best at the top of Jiufen.
The shopping at Jiufen Old Street (九份老街) begins from here.
We were among the earliest at the Jiufen Old Street at 10 plus in the morning, so some of the shops are not open yet.
Tip: Go early, even if some of the shops are not open yet. Go anytime later, and you will find the narrow streets packed really badly with tourists that comes in a tour group, and you’ll hardly be able to browse anything without some elbowing.
At Jiufen Old Streets, some shops sell little Feng Shui trinkets and amulets which are cheaper than Singapore and worth a look.
Jiufen is not just a shopping haven, but also a paradise for Taiwanese food and snacks.
There’s plenty of shops selling fresh and handmade Taro balls and other flavored glutinous rice balls. Worth stopping a while to look at the manufacturing process.
Also many little shops and cafes all over the place, so there are plenty of lunch and snacking options.
One thing I’ve learned – should you see anything that you like, do not hesitate to buy it there and then. Other shops down the street usually do not sell the same stuff and there just isn’t enough time to walk back to find a shop.
Made the mistake of thinking that I will have time to come back for these cute souvenirs. In the end, the only souvenir I have are the photos of the things I wanted to buy.
I eventually found the same Olaf plush toy at the Disney store at the Taiwan airport. But the display piece was the last piece and not exactly in pristine condition. Came to the conclusion that I am just not fated to have it.
Mini sky lanterns (天燈), some with lights and music. They are all hand-made, and features different messages. We didn’t get any because we were saving our wallets for the sky lanterns in Pingxi (平溪) and Shifen (十份).
There’s a shop that will custom make sandals for you, but prices are quite steep – around SGD $70 if I remember correctly, and that’s for the cheaper range.
These things cost almost SGD $5, but in Bali, they could be found for a dollar.
Besides the Taro balls, Taiwanese-made Mochis are another must-try. They are almost as good as the Japanese version.
Bought a freshly-made strawberry mochi to try before deciding if I wanted to buy a box. Cost me SGD$1.50. As before, I made the mistake of thinking that I will come back for more – It never happened.
Jiufen is a wonderful place to shop for food souvenirs – there is a great selection of pineapple tarts, mochi, puddings and confectionery.
150NT (SGD$6.50) for such a big box of fresh mochi is not expensive at all.
One new food item that we discovered in Jiufen is their Ginger Tea in black sugar (黑糖薑母茶). Just like the Scallion Pancakes (炸彈葱油餅), they come in various degrees of spiciness. Many smalls shops in Jiufen and even Shifen and Pingxi also sell these, and they are manufactured and packaged fresh at the shop. They may taste slightly different according to each unique recipe of each shop, but they do offer a taste test before you decide.
Ginger tea is excellent for warming up the body, but for those who do not like the smell and taste of ginger, these shops also sell other health teas that are equally excellent.
Meatballs and pancakes are also very popular in Taiwan.
This shop Shi Cheng Tao Di (是誠陶笛) is hard to miss with its crowds of tourists and I suppose is one of the most famous shops in Jiufen.
As its name suggests, it sells porcelain flutes that are designed in such irresistibly cute animal shapes.
Look at that crowd. You would think a Korean star is there, but no, these are all Korean tourists elbowing each other to get a view of a certain live demonstration.
That’s the live demonstration I am talking about – painting of the flute. All of these are painstakingly hand-crafted and painted in the shop.
Followed by a live demo of playing on the flute – he played the chinese pop song tong hua (童話) on his flute and had his korean ‘fans’ go ga-ga over him.
Some of these flutes are sold for as little as NT100 (around SGD$4). They vary in cost based on their sizes and shapes.
My favorite is this family of frog which seem to form a choir when they stand around each other.
Some of these animal families are sold as a set as well.
My shopaholic self really wanted to get this family of frogs – they just look so adorable and happy standing together. It is actually relatively inexpensive at SGD $32 for a whole set, but seriously, what can I do with it other than letting it remain as a ornament. So I bought one frog only – and it still sits on my cabinet as an ornament.
Every flute comes with a free music score and a lanyard in its own cardboard box. I never knew how to decipher the music score, because the instructions were all in chinese!
More shopping in other parts of Jiufen Old Street.
This stall selling toasted peanut crepes with ice-cream is apparently very famous and popular. Try it if you are there!
This is the only stall in Jiufen that I could find that sells tea eggs (茶叶蛋). I am a great fan of tea eggs because of my attraction to strong herbal smells and this extra huge pot of tea eggs was something we will never see in Singapore.
I call this shop the egg shop because they sell nothing but eggs. When you are in Taiwan, another specialty not to be missed are their iron eggs (鐵蛋), or tie dan, which originated from the Tam Shui (淡水) region of Taipei.
This is the only butchery in Jiufen and it is completely mobile because it operates at the back of a lorry! Such innovation! I was somewhat amused to see the butcher hacking away in the middle of the narrow alleyway, but nobody seemed to mind.
At the end of the alleyway of Jiufen Old Street, we came to a spectacular view of the valley below us. This is one of the best views at Jiufen and a rather apt way to end our shopping at Jiufen Lao Jie – starting off with a panoramic view and ending with another panoramic view.
We were rather lost at this point because we didn’t know how to get down to ground level to get a taxi back to Ruifang Train Station. Despite instructions from a kind store owner to look for a ‘Ah Mei Tea House’ and proceed from there, we just could not find that tea house!
Finally back-tracked and found this cobblestone steps that has a life of its own away from the main street. We later found out that this street is called Shuqi Street (豎崎路).
And right there, in the middle of the steep steps is Ah Mei Tea House (阿美茶樓). To get to a taxi stand, continue down the cobble steps until ground level.
Join us next as we bring you to Pingxi, in our one-day tour of the Pingxi Region.
Do check out our article on how to visit Jiufen and Shifen in one day too!
Special 1-day tour around Jiufen, Shifen and Pingxi by KKday, Our Travel Partner
For those of us who wish to explore Jiufen, Shifen and Pingxi in one day but are lazy to navigate their way around, we are pleased to share with you a travel deal from our Travel Partner KKday! 🙂
Click on the link below for more information!