Saturday, April 7, 2012


Armed with my camera, slathered in sunscreen, and accompanied by my two friends (and personal tour guides!) Alice and Sabrina, I made the journey to Jiufen.  Jiufen is an old mountain mining town with an interesting history.  Once a hot-spot for gold mining in Taiwan, Jiufen is now mostly a tourist attraction, boasting a couple museums, old streets, and beautiful views of the northern shore of Taiwan.
We started our adventure at the Gold Ecological Park.  We wanted to get some knowledge in our brains, so we stopped in at the Gold Building, which is a museum dedicated to the history of metal mining in Taiwan.  Highlight: on the second floor, you can see (and touch!) the world’s largest gold bar!  Yes, that’s right -- who knew?!?

Gold Ecological Park

Alice and Sabrina

OoooooOoooo.... gold.

The gold bar weighs in at 220kg, which means 485lbs to me.  The day we were there, the value of that hunk of metal was $360,288,534NT.  That’s a whopping $12.2 million USD.  Most money I’ve ever had in/on the palm of my hand....
Not wanting to let all that wealth go to our heads, we donned hard hats and trekked into the mines to remind ourselves of all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into yanking that gold from the earth. 

Cutest miners ever?  I think so.

The Benshan Fifth Tunnel is renovated and “safe” for visitors, although I had to sign a loss-of-life waiver before entering.  Still, it was worth the $50NT fee.  The mine shaft was damp and cold, and it was a bit eerie to remember that we were walking under a mountain. 

Benshan Fifth Tunnel

Thread of gold running through the rock

After all that faux-mining, it was time for a refreshing snack.  We stopped in at our first of many eateries for the day and sampled the local douhua.  This tasty treat is soft tofu served cold in a syrup of brown sugar and ginger.  Hao chi.  

Kind of like pudding in syrup

We strolled back towards Jiufen, taking in some magnificent sights along the way.  Then we weaved our way through the old covered streets of Jiufen.  It was easy to imagine what the town might have been like all those years ago, before the tourists and museums, when the miners came here to shop and trade.  



Covered streets

Old streets

One of the main attractions in Jiufen is the street food.  The most well-known eats are the yuyuan, which are taro balls.  We ordered ours with sweet potatoes, peas, and red beans, over ice.  I’m not a fan of red beans in my desserts, but I was able to eat around them for the most part and enjoy the taro! 


Of course, you can’t go through the whole day just eating desserts (although I have tried many times), so we also dined on yuwan -- fish balls -- and buwan, Taiwanese meat balls with bamboo in a chewy dough.  That probably sounds gross, and they don't look that appetizing either, but it was actually quite delicious.  And watching them make the balls was fascinating. 

Time to make the buwan!

Just don't look at it while you eat it.

Mmmm, fish ball soup.

All that eating was exhausting, so we decided to revive ourselves with an ice cream.  I’d seen people walking around Jiufen with what looked like an ice cream burrito, and since that combines two of my absolute favorite things, I had to have it.  The woman started with a thin pancake, sprinkled on some shaved peanut brittle, scooped on the ice cream, and topped it all with cilantro.  WHAT?!?  Cilantro.  Who the F knew that cilantro and ice cream would be such delicious partners?  New favorite food.  

Made with one scoop each of pineapple, taro, and vanilla


Jiufen?  More like SoFun.  Hahahahahaha.  Hey, look at this!

Old streets of Juifen



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