© 2006 Catherine. All rights reserved.

I had such a good day it gave me a headache – Jioufen

Note: I’ve put instructions for how to get to this part of Taiwan on the bottom of this post for any Taipei residents.

This weekend was my first time visiting Jioufen. Jioufen is located on the North-Eastern coast of Taiwan nestled ontop of a very beautiful mountain. I have officially found my favourite place in Taiwan. Well at least until I discover the next one.

Last summer Meg, Deb and I were headed up to Fulong beach. We were approached by a Taiwanese woman in the train station who was curious about us and who wanted to practice her English, I think. This is a pretty typical occurrence, especially when you’re in transit or with a couple of other foreigners. She asked us where we were going… after we talked for awhile she told us about this great place called Jioufen where she was headed. She was nice enough to write down the train stop and bus info in case we ever felt like visiting it in the future.

Riding trains is one of my favourite things in Taiwan. If you can’t get a seat you can “stand” but instead of standing you can actually sit in the doorway of the train cars on the stairs. Some of the doors can be kept open so you can sit there on the edge watching everything go by. Probably not the safest thing in the world to do but it makes me happy. It took us about 40 minutes to get to Ruifeng (also spelt Ruefeng or Rueifeng) which is at the base of the mountain that houses Jioufen.

A very exciting bus ride up the steep, narrow, winding roads up the mountain took us to our destination. To our right a fantastic market filled with all kinds of Taiwanese/Chinese cultural goods at really great prices. After the market a cluster of teahouses on the side of the mountain with the best ocean views in Taiwan (in my opinion).

We decided to stop for some food since we pretty much just rolled out of bed before we headed to Jioufen. We found this fantastic little restaurant a little ways into the market. I believe it was actually called “Jioufen”. I really should’ve taken a picture of the sign. I had one of the best hot meals I’ve had in Taiwan. A bamboo cup filled with fried rice, green veggies, and a soup that has this really yummy vegetables in it and some fish balls (only about 200NT).

After we fueled up I decided I wanted to backtrack to the 7/11 that was close to where we had gotten off the bus so I could use the ATM machine (which didn’t exist). When we got outside the 7/11 we looked up towards the beautiful mountain that was sitting on top of the mountain we were standing on and noticed what appeared to be actual hiking trails. I looked at Meg and asked “Feeling ambitious?”.

I think it was decided before I even asked. The hike was a bit extreme but thankfully it was a bit cool and clouded over. There was a stone stairway the whole way but it was an incredible amount of work getting up the mountain. I’d love to know how high it is. All the work was definitely worth the view of both Jiofen and Ruifeng below as well as the ocean all around us and Peace island in the distance. Not to mention being able to breathe such clean air. It’s something you really gain an appreciation for living in Taipei.

The ocean for me is home and if I go more than 2 months without seeing it I start to go buggy. I grew up seeing it every day of life. Not being near it is weird. The whole ordeal of climbing the mountain, being with such a good friend, the ocean all around, the clean air, the sound of the wind rustling through the thick long grass that covered the mountain…it was so spiritual and cleansing. There’s no other way to explain it. We both literally got teary-eyed between gasps of exhaustion… not that we’re sappy wieners… ok I guess we are… but the ocean and mountains are two strong symbols for me. The ocean is my mother, the mountains are my dad. I can’t see the ocean without thinking about mom, or a mountain without thinking about dad. The mountains to dad and the ocean to mom were their releases, their escapes, their cleansers, their spiritual havens. Mom sitting by the ocean or dad climbing a mountain…it’s when I got to see both of them at their most peaceful and happiest. Being close to either is being close to them.

Going down we were both jelly legged. If I stopped for more than a couple of seconds my legs started shaking uncontrollably. We stopped at the cutest “cafe” ever! The bus cafe. It’s a cafe run out of a bus. The surrounding area is set up like a sweet little zen garden with lawn furniture on it. And of course it had a spectacular view down the mountain and of the ocean and temples below. We stopped for a beer as a reward for our hard work.

After the cafe we headed back in the market. We popped in and out of dozens of stores, stopped for some deep-fried mushrooms, and then at the very end stopped at a quaint little tea house for some flower tea (jasmine for me and chrysanthemum for Meg). One word, gourmet.

After tea we decided to head back home. In the train station we were helped by an incredibly sweet Taiwanese girl named Chanel when trying to buy our tickets back to Taipei. We talked to her the whole way back and made a new friend. After the train ride we exchanged MSN addresses…..then the strangest of things… I got home and received a message from an old Taiwanese internet friend. Before I came to Taiwan I found a few Taiwanese people to talk to over yahoo messenger. A guy named Ben was one of these people. Ben and I talked for a long time but fell out of touch eventually. We never met in real life but he gave me a lot of information about Taiwan and it was just so great to get a feel for how people here were. Anyway, when I got back home he popped online:

Ben: hi

Ben: long time no see

Ben: do u remember me

Ben: ?

me: of course! Hi Ben! How are you?

Ben: fine

Ben: do u go to rueifung

Ben: today?

Me: 😯 ya

Me: did you see me?

Ben: did you meet a Chinese girl?

Me: haha yes

Ben: Do you know her name?

Me: Chanel is her English name. You’re scaring me How do you know?

Ben: she is my older sisiter

That would be a crazy enough thing to happen back home but to happen in a country with a population of 24 million when I’m in the middle of nowhere getting help from a kind random stranger??!?!?!?!?! It blew my mind. It really is a small world.

Anyway, for anyone in Taiwan, or coming to Taiwan. You need to see this place! I saw no other foreigners while I was there. And not that all places in Taiwan should be flooded with foreigners but it’s a shame this place isn’t a little better known. Here are the directions of how to get there:

How to get there

I know there are buses that go to Ruifeng but my guess is they take too long, and because of the traffic, lack of parking, and incredibly narrow roads I wouldn’t recommend driving.

Go to Taipei Main Station to the train station. Buy a ticket to Ruifeng (80NT) or a return ticket (160NT).

Once you arrive in Ruifeng walk straight out across the open area in front of the train station (only one exit) and cross the road to the other side. Wait at the bus stop (directly across the road). Make a mental note of the buildings so when you bus back you know where to get off. It’s easiest to remember the OK store and the open area in front of the train station. A lot of people will get off at this stop.

Grab the first bus that says “Jioufen”. Bus fare is 15NT. Enjoy the steep climb up the mountain on the narrow roads 🙂

You’ll know when to get off the bus because 98% of the people on the bus will get off. You should be close to a 7/11. To the right of the 7/11 is the market and tea houses (located at the end of the market) and to the left are some really cool temples, the mountain we climbed, and “the bus cafe” I talked about above.

To get back catch the bus on the opposite side of the street from the 7/11. Take the bus down the mountain. Look for the OK store or the open area in front of the train station.

I recommend bringing warm clothes just in case. It was hot when we got there but it’s very moist and being so close to the ocean it gets a bit chilly at night, especially at that altitude. On top of the mountain we climbed it was really chilly too and that’s what made us climb back down when we did.

There are also some other attractions like the Gold Ecological Museum and some abandoned mines that I’ve heard are really incredible. Before you leave the train station check the brochure rack for the English brochures.

That’s all for now. I’m looking forward to the fire walking coming up next week at the Baoyan temple. Then next weekend Wulai! I should hopefully have some video and lots of photos of course.

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