Algarme: The alleys of Jiufen

TAIWAN. Red lanterns and tea houses are postcard photos of Jiufen. (Claire Marie Algarme)
TAIWAN. Red lanterns and tea houses are postcard photos of Jiufen. (Claire Marie Algarme)

AT THE mountainous area of New Taipei City overlooking the sea is a gold mining town that is now a tourist destination, called Jiufen. Although we went there by taxi, Jiufen can be reached by shuttle bus, as well as through some tour packages that many agencies offer.

Jiufen experienced the peak of the gold rush during the Japanese occupation in the late 19th century. But gold mining went on a decline after World War II, when the mine was closed.

For a time, Jiufen was almost forgotten until a movie was set in this location. As it appeared in various media, tourists found their way towards this place.

When we arrived in Jiufen, we first stopped at the Chenghuang Temple. We made our way on foot through a series of steps until we reached one of the alleys with rows of shops, eateries and tea houses facing each other.

It was a cloudy day with a slight drizzle and umbrellas filled the open spaces. But inside the alleys, throngs of people were snaking through the narrow passageways, going through what seems like a maze.

Some of the goodies sold looked familiar while the rest were new to my senses. The busy streets were filled with customers wanting to have a taste of the things peddled in the stores. Here are some interesting finds I saw in Jiufen.

1. Peanut ice cream roll

The good thing about the crowd is that you get to walk slowly, and it allows you to watch some of the stores prepare the food they sell. One particular shop was shaving peanut blocks on what seemed like a lumpia wrapper. Then they put ice cream on it before they fold the skin into what seemed like a wrap.

2. Grape juice

Another stall that caught our attention while traversing the alleys of Jiufen is the grape juice stand. Fresh grapes were being blended in front of us until they become syrupy. They are placed in large jars and sealed. Those who buy the concentrated syrup can mix it with water to make it into a refreshing juice.

3. Mochi

We entered a store selling mochi, glutinous desserts filled with varying flavors and coated in powder. They are also great take-home presents to loved ones and friends.

4. Taro balls

The taro balls, which are served hot or called in tiny bowls, reminded me of our local snack linugaw. The bowl has chewy taro balls shaped by hand, sweet potato slices, kidney beans, and other ingredients. But the taro balls soup is a bit clearer and more watery.

There many more things to try and taste in Jiufen. Most of all, the view is breathtaking. It has its charm, but you need to bring a lot of patience if you want to go through the narrow pathways in Jiufen.*

All photos are by this author unless otherwise stated. Claire Marie Algarme blogs at Follow her as @firsttimetravel on Twitter and Instagram and like her Facebook page First-time Travels blog.


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