I’ve been to many places on this island, but returning to the same area never fails to offer a new adventure. I recently returned to the northern town of Jiufen with my cousins and their friends. I had been once before on a day trip with some friends, but this trip was an overnight escapade.
After an hour’s drive to the coast, we arrived at the base of Jilongshan, the tallest peak in the area. While we waited for the whole group to arrive, we took in the sights of the Remains of the 13 Levels. This haunting structure is what’s left of the old copper-smelting refinery. When I first saw it, I thought (hoped?) it was an old prison. It’s pretty creepy-looking.
|Spooky copper refinery leftovers|
We hopped back in the car for a dizzying drive up through the mountain roads (and alleys) to find our hotel. How people orient themselves to these twisting, turning, narrow “streets” is beyond me. But we found our way (thanks to GPS), ate dinner, and settled in to the hotel.
|Old Streets of Jiufen|
|Our cute little hotel|
The next morning, I set my alarm for very-early-o’clock and went out to see the sunrise over the mountains. Unfortunately, the sky was quite overcast, so mostly I just watched the night turn into day, without actually seeing the sun. Ah, oh well. The little town was so quiet and peaceful -- a big change from Taipei.
|Sun coming up over the hills|
I went back to bed for a couple hours, then set off on a solo hike, while most of the rest of the group went shopping on the old streets. I didn’t have a map to speak of, so I pretty much just wandered around for two hours, taking whichever street, alley, or path I thought looked interesting. I quickly came upon a Junior High School at the top of a rise above town. I discovered a trail that led to an old set of entry doors that were bolted shut, but the view from the top was beautiful. And the set of steps leading from the school back down to the town seemed to go on forever. Made the college-days climb up Bascom Hill seem like nothing.
|This shows MAYBE 1/10th of the stairs up to the school.|
I couldn't fit them all in one photo...
I walked on, taking hundreds of pictures and enjoying the quiet solitude and clean air.
|Jilongshan in the background|
|Wandering around town|
|Tunnel leading to Songde Park|
|I stopped here to listen to the monks chanting|
|Almost made it to the top|
With the whole group together again, we visited the Gold Museum and Ecological Park in Jinguashi. I had been there before on my previous trip, but sure enough, I discovered several different things I did not see the first time!
We went to the Crown Prince Chalet, which was built to accommodate the royal Japanese family in the 1920s. From the grounds, we could see Keelung Mountain and Teapot Mountain, as well as a view of the town below, which was once the most crowded residential area in Taiwan.
|View from the grounds of the Crown Prince Chalet|
Next we headed for the Gold Museum. Since I had already taken the tour and touched the mega-sized gold bar, I opted for another “short” hike up to see the Jinguahsi Shinto Shrine. Way up high on the slopes, having climbed maybe 7 million uneven stone steps, I looked out over the Ecological Park from the beautiful temple ruins.
|Jinguashi Shinto Shrine|
This trip was special because I got to travel with my cousin Cody, his wife Emily, and their son Austin. It has been so incredible spending time with family way over here in Taiwan, especially family that I never get to spend time with back in the States. But this trip was also special because it reminded me that no matter how many places I have visited in Taiwan over the last 14 months, there will always be something new and wonderful to discover when I return to Taiwan in the future!