One of the most interesting trip during my Taiwan travel this time is to go on a day trip to Jiu Fen Old Street (九份老街). This place is like Taiwan in the olden days (or maybe little Hong Kong), with many interesting shops. And, there is the beautiful ocean view of Keelung outer sea!
I always wonder why is it call Jiu Fen (九份) and not Ba Fen or Qi Fen, so I went to google and according to Wikipedia, it is said that long time ago there were only nine families in Jiufen. Before the roads on land were built, all materials were transported via ships. Thus a habit was formed that nine pieces of same object were purchased at one time for reservation. Hence, the place was called Jiufen.
Due to the frequent rains in Jiufen, the stores on the street built the rain canopy outside, which formed a faint alley, it is also known as “Dark Alley”.
The trip to Jiu Fen Old Street is full of delights. There are shops vending the most famous country snack of Jiufen, such as Glutinous Rice Cake, Taro Glutinous Rice Cake, Hongzao (Oxo Cubes) Meatball, and cold or hot Taro Rice Balls…etc. The street is filled with delicious snacks. Almost every tourist who comes to Jiufen would taste all those above.
Jiufen Taro Rice Ball has become a symbol of Jiufen local snack by accident. Founder of the Taro Rice Ball was making them for the family. Due to good feedbacks, he started to sell them. From there, Jiufen Taro Rice Ball became popular in Taiwan. The taro material comes from Tachia Taichung. In order to maintain the texture of taro, every process needs to be examined carefully. Although now we can eat Jiufen Taro Rice Ball all over in Taiwan, they still do not have the same flavor and texture as those of the local Jiufen.
We visited two super famous ones within the old street. The first one was Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan (赖阿婆芋圆). It occupies 3 full shops in the old street, one is for making and selling the taro balls while the other two shops are for diners to eat. We ordered the combo yu yuan (综合芋圆) which has a mixture of sweet potato balls and taro balls in red bean, green bean and sweet potato soup. Each bowl costs 40NT.
As we walked further, we came across this braised stall which has super long queue. We joined in and bought some braised food for snacks. They are pretty cheap with each piece from 30NT. It is somewhat like the kway chap we had in Singapore, except that the lor (sauce) is thicker and more fragrant. And they do not add in any preservatives.
As we climb all the way up, it is a breath taking view of the ocean and sky…
Then, we smell something! Peeping into the backyard of a shop, we saw something steaming. And they are yam! VERY FRAGRANT YAM!
Ah Gan Yi Yu Yuan (阿柑姨芋圆) is another stall that sells taro balls. Although we already had a bowl just now and were quite full, but the fragrance of the yam really made us hungry again. Verdict? GO FOR THIS ONE, SUPER SHIOK! For a bowl of 50NT taro balls, I get double more taro balls than Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan (赖阿婆芋圆). And every taro balls are so so so fragrant as though you are eating the real yam! The previous shop which I visited, the taro balls has more glutinous flour than yam, and I feel like I am just eating sweets.
At a corner of the old street, we spotted this sausage aunty with very unique fashion sense. It is hard for you to miss it. Her sausages aren’t really fantastic but I think her hairdo wins her more customers. And she is very game about it, when I take out my camera, she will automatically pose for me. In case you can’t read the badge on her chest, it says “Phototaking is FREE!”
We ended our trip with a sweet potato puff from Misty!
There are also old school mart and souvenir shops. And some quaint little shops that sell clothes. There is even this interesting mask shop where the owners make mask of famous personalities!
There are also many unique teahouses in Jiufen. These teahouses are best stops during visit to this mountain village. This one that we walked past, even provides fortune telling while you brew your tea!
Love this place, very different from the modern Taipei city. But the place is getting more tourists, so it is better for you to come during weekdays. If you are not in a hurry, you may want to pick a nice inn and stay for the starlight and fishing lights at night.
1. At Taipei Station (台北火車站), buy railway ticket to Rui Fen (瑞芬). The journey is about 20 mins.
2. Upon reaching the station, look for the black sign that heads towards Jiu Fen (往九份). It is quite easy, just follow the crowd.
3. You will then be out of the station. Now look for the 顶好 supermarket just across the road. Board the bus that goes to Jiu Fen.