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Archive for January 2017

After torturing myself with stairs in Jinguashi, I was back again to more stairs at Jiufen’s Old Street. But at least there were lots of food choices, most of which are similar to ones found back home in Manila, particularly Binondo (Chinatown).


And I ate this panutsa-tasting roll. Basically it was like ground peanuts and ice cream wrapped in crepe. It was delicious.


And I’ve been sending photo messages on Facebook Messenger to a friend about what I was eating and he said he also tried some of the stuff I had (and he told me to document my travel to Jiufen so he could pay homage to the Spirited Away inspiration when he comes back to Taiwan. So friend, here is my documentation!). Yes, he also had this panutsa-like roll.

And of course, there has to be kiyamoy and squid/fishballs swimming in oil.

Hibe (we call the minuscule shrimps hibe in Tagalog) and other dried sea creatures. Oh, chicken. I wanted to try the chicken but wasn’t sure how big the serving was so I may end up with too much food. Besides, it was not yet dinner time.

This mushroom stand…I laughed out loud when I saw the shape and size of those things. Suddenly, my hilarious lunch with my colleagues (and ex-colleagues) in Singapore flashed through my mind…


I went back to A Mei Teahouse, which was getting full at that time. Had tea (and all the cute biscuits and whatnot) for TWD 300 (PHP 481)…


…so I can have the luxury of being here…


…and watch the sun go down behind the mountains…


…until it was time for dinner.


It was a simple but beautiful experience. A chance for me to get away from the chaos and stress of all the upsetting things happening back home in Manila (*hint: new president who I shall not name*).

I was having a WTF moment when I ordered and relished my pork dish in one of the small restaurants along Old Street.


Because I went all the way to Jiufen, Taiwan to eat pork asado (TWD 160) that is ubiquitous in Manila. Hahahaha! Yup, it was a WTF moment.

And I went back to A Mei to have that shot of that teahouse. But damn, there were just too many people. Speaking in Japanese. Hahaha! So it seems like it was not only me who was doing a Spirited Away pilgrimage tour.

Before going back to the inn, I took a one last look at Jiufen at night.


I took a long shower to wipe away my exhaustion. To my horror, there was no full-siszed towel to dry myself. So note to travelers: bring your own towels because the one in my room was tiny, which was the size of a hand towel. I wonder how I dried myself. But I managed.  I slept uncomfortably that night because my back problem was killing me again after all that walking. I took my pain reliever (Pregabalin, anyone) which knocks me out dead.

That’s why I woke up late. I left the inn at 10 am. Booked the taxi to take me to Ruifang for TWD 250 (or TWD 200, I can’t remember anymore).

And I was back in Taipei at noon. I will be back, Jiufen, with my sister the next time.


I didn’t really plan to go to the Gold Mine Museum but oh boy, I’m very glad I did or else I would have missed the mountain views. I grew up at the foot of a mountain, which explains my attachment to mountains. I was tempted to do my own version of That Thing Called Tadhana and have my Angelica Panganiban moment, scream at the mountains and valleys, which I planned to do waaaaay before reaching Taoyuan Airport.


I paid TWD 80 for this one, which was cheap. I had access to the Japanese dorms, which was meticulously reconstructed after it was hit by fire (or earthquake, I cannot remember anymore). Jinguashi was a former mining town run by the Japanese, hence, the architecture and food…





This used to be living quarters of the mining company’s mid-level executives and miners.

Charming, no?

I was always greeted (all throughout my trip in Jiufen and Jingaushi) with anyeong haseo. The first to greet me in Korean was the lady tour guide of the Japanese dorms.

I hated peeing in those old-fashioned toilets. I hated them with a passion when I was in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan.


At least they had the Western-style beds (but I rather fancy sleeping in futons).


After a short tour of the dorms, I went to explore the Museum, which was really an outdoor museum full of stairs. More stairs. And stairs.

There were too many stairs! There was a Jinguashi/Cyuanji Temple but that meant climbing more stairs. I just proceeded to a cafe and rest. And took in the view.

The view:





After a quick rest, I walked further to see the miner’s tunnel and I think there is another museum about the mines but I was too tired to enter.

Then I realized I was facing the real-life inspiration for the tunnel in Spirited Away…


Chihiro’s tunnel


And I proceeded to walk again to get a better view of the mountains. But I couldn’t do my That Thing Called Tadhana moment lest the police drag me away and lock me up for being a loony.





I was already too tired to go farther and I had to get back to the main entrance. It was already 3:00 pm. Something in my gut told me I must go back to A Mei Teahouse before sunset.

But before that, I saw this:


Kamaji’s herb grinders!


I walked back and lingered at the outdoor cafes

And back to Old Street in Jiufen.

*to be continued


*Wow, it took me two months before I can write here again about my Taiwan trip. Goes to show how life gets in the way of my blogging. Hahaha!


This teahouse is basically the reason why I went to Jiufen. It was said to have inspired Yubaba’s bath house in Spirited Away.

Before that…

Before booking my accommodation and my plane tickets to Taiwan, I tried studying how I can get to Jiufen. Thanks to fans and travel blogs, I somehow I had a vague idea how to get there.

After my dinner with my colleague at Taipei 101, my stomach started to tighten as panic rose to my throat. What if I got it all wrong?! I was a lone female traveler who could not speak Mandarin in a country where English is not widely spoken. After arriving at the hotel, I asked the receptionist how to get to Ruifang station the next day. Thank you, Diary of Taipei – Main Station. You are so tourist-friendly. Not only they give you a tourist map and the Taipei rail system map, they can also give you the schedules of buses and trains departing from the Main Station.

I didn’t have any idea where Jiufen was. All I knew was it was east of Taipei (since it is already near the Pacific Ocean).

Was a bit late arriving at the Taipei Main Station so I wasn’t able to catch the 9:45 train. Another train was arriving in less than an hour. So I bought a sandwich and bottled milk tea from one of the kiosks there, ate my pathetic breakfast on a bench at the platform and waited. Since this happened three months ago, I cannot exactly remember how much I paid for the train fare. It was probably TWD 45 for a one-hour trip.

I did not take a photo of the platform nor the Ruifang station. Too bad.

Anyway, I booked an overnight stay at  Jiufen Long Men Ke Zhan Bed and Breakfast, as recommended. Good thing I followed the recommendation and did not try to do an Amazing-Race-type of trip to Jiufen because there are so many things to taste, see and feel in Jiufen and Jinguashi. My inn arranged for me to be picked up by some kind of taxi service so I wouldn’t lose my way (love, love love them for doing this).

The roads are narrow and winding. Much to my surprise, this is a left-hand driving nation. I could drive in Taiwan. *grin*


I shared the cab with two guys who were chatting with our driver in Mandarin. They were Malaysians who worked in Singapore and they thought I was Thai. Anyway, they acted as my translator in the next two hours because 1) our innkeeper did not speak English  and 2) they saw the lost look on my face.

I love my inn (despite my bed being hard and I had a backache) because it was affordable and the location was perfect. This is what I saw from the balcony:



So my “housemates” (their room is across from mine) and I searched for somewhere to have late lunch but it took us some time to settle down in some tea house overlooking the village.


This is the Old Street, where the stairs seemed to be never-ending. Reminded me of Banaue. The entire village reminded me of being in Mountain Province, with handicraft stores and the altitude.


My housemates and I parted at the tea house and I got to explore the village on my own.


And the beauty of exploring new places is getting lost and finding your way back. But I hated the part where I got chased by a huge black dog and I screamed my way out of this narrow path.


Found myself back at the Old Street and somehow wound up at the entrance of A Mei Tea House.


This is what I appreciate about traveling solo: I can be aimless and I can decide on a spur-of-the-moment trip to the Gold Mine Museum. I abandoned the idea of staying the entire afternoon along Old Street. But first I had to find my way to the bus station, which was down below, at the end of Old Street. Before finding the bus station, I found this cute store selling cat items. They really love cats here, I don’t know why.


A few steps from this store is the Jiufen Tourist Centre and the Police Station. I inquired about how to get to the Gold Mine Museum from the nice old lady behind the counter who said it was only a 15-minute bus ride from where we were.

I took the bus and since the bus driver and I had communication problems, I mistakenly dropped a TWD 50 coin instead of paying TWD 15 for my fare. Lucky driver.

And the drive was a bit stressful for me because I imagined myself driving a bus in the very narrow and winding road to Jinguashi.


Actually the drive would have been shorter if not for the traffic jam because the road was impossibly narrow. There were several instances when the bus had to stick dangerously close to the cliff sides to let the other bus on the opposite lane pass.

*To be continued




life in business journalism

crazy. exciting. boring to some but hey, you get to understand the world better when you're a business journalist. you learn to be patient with tons of documents, make sense of numbers and charts. all geeky stuff. this is my story, behind the scenes.
January 2017
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