Taiwan: Yehliu Geopark, Shifen Old Street, Jiufen Village

On our second day in Taiwan, we explored 3 popular spots in the north: Yehliu Geopark, Shifen Old Street, and Jiufen Village. We also visited the Taipei 101 back in the city.

For our daytime itinerary, I booked a bus tour through KKDay as I was worried about getting lost and not having enough time to explore each stop. I also wanted to save Mama from long walks in between transits. It was a good call; the bus tour was very comfortable and convenient. In between each destination, our tour guide shared some interesting trivia about each place we visted. Rather than a guided walk, we were given a time window to explore each stop independently. We also received complimentary water and some merch. Highly recommended!

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Yehliu Geopark is a seaside attraction of limestone formations that come in all shapes in sizes. Using your imagination you can see here a Queen’s Head, a slipper, mushrooms, and so on. We visited on a Sunday so the crowd was pretty thick (see my fail dreamy photo with fellow tourists behind me). If you’re going here in the morning, be sure to bring a hat (umbrellas won’t work because of the seaside wind) and wear loads of sunblock. Entrance fee: NTD80

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Then we headed to Shifen Old Street to light and release a giant wish lantern! Shifen is famous for its row of shops that line the still-working rail. During the annual lantern festival in the Pingxi area, thousands troop up here to write their wishes on lanterns and release them into the night sky. I was ambivalent about this as I read somewhere that these paper lanterns contribute to pollution / end up as mountainside waste when they disintegrate back into the ground, but to be frank, there was something magical about performing this age-old ritual… even if we were doing it in daytime. Every lantern has a color that corresponds to a specific wish category: wealth, health, love, success, and so on. A single-colored lantern costs NTD 150, a multi-colored one costs NTD 200 (but we only paid NTD 190 because the KKDay tour included a discount!). I must also add that take-home snacks and items are very affordable here, about NTD 100 cheaper than in Taipei.

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Our final stop was in Jiufen Village, an old mining town where old and new mix. Its most famous area is made up of tight, snaking alleyways that contain various restaurants and store where Jiufen’s original mining families spent their wages; in the present, it is a heady, densely constructed shopping mecca (from here I walked away with a couple of scarves and pretty tea cups). But the standout attractions are still the oldest ones: Amei Teahouse, which supposedly inspired the bathhouse in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away; and the Jiufen Teahouse where you could actually learn to make tea.

From Jiufen we arrived back in Taipei at around 5:30. We decided to rest and just enjoy Ximending’s street food and shops again that evening. If there’s one thing I regret not doing in Taiwan it was exploring more night markets and eating more street food. All the more reason to come back!

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