From Taipei, the old mining towns of Jiufen and Jinguashi are easily accessible and an enjoyable place to visit. They can be both reached as a one day trip from Taipei, but we decided to take it more slowly and sleep in Jiufen. We went by bus to Ruifang and then by bus to Jiufen.
250 tonns of gold waiting for you!
Jiufen was already established in the 17th century during the Qing dynasty, but it was small and undeveloped. It developed when Japanese came into Taiwan and saw that there was a lot of gold to be mined in the area. The gold rush began and with it, the development and populating of the region. In the best times of the gold era, several kilograms of gold were dug out each day. One can still find gold in the area, supposedly more than 250 tons are left in the ground and just waiting for you 😉 However, it does not make sense economically to dig it.
Tea ceremony at Jiufen
Nowadays, Jiufen is a touristy town which has a charming main street with a cute market. The architecture is beautifully preserved. Because of its ties to Japan, Jiufen is also home to some of the best tea houses in the area, and you can get all sorts of fancy teas served in a special tea serving ceremony. We slept in a cute little inn in Jiufen and had a beautiful view from our room over the ocean. We must admit it was quite a nice change, as in Taipei, mostly our rooms had no windows and were always dark and depressing.
When planning your visit, take into account that after 9 p.m. everything in Jiufen is closed! And we mean everything apart from one small market where we could buy some sweets and water. In the night the main street looks quite depressing, as all doors are secured with metal roll-up doors. One can hardly imagine that during the day the town is flooded with tourist groups.
A mining town, frozen in time
Next day we took a bus to Jinguashi which dropped us right in front of the New Taipei City Gold Museum also known as The Gold Ecological Park. The museum is set up as a frozen-in-time mining town from the Japanese gold rush time.
The museum was entertaining! You can see the Crown Prince Chalet which is a Japanese style house, built for the Japanese royal family for their visit to Jinguashi (although they never visited). We saw how the school looked like and some of the school books and a lot of old mining equipment. There is also an enormous brick of pure gold, weighing 250 kg!
We also found some gold!!
We attended two additional activities, not covered by the entrance fee. First, we went into an old mining shaft Beishan Fifth Tunnel where you can see real-sized sculptures of the miners during work. You have to wear a helmet and walk in the dark with water dripping from the ceiling. The second thing which we loved and we recommend to do, was the gold panning. Each person got one handful of soil and one small glass flask. Then we started by removing the dirt to get to the gold. We each found quite a lot of gold although not yet enough to quit our jobs and go traveling 🙂
From Jinguashi, we took a bus to Ruifang where we had an excellent hot-pot before returning to Taipei. We certainly recommend this trip!