By the third day, we have been already getting on each others’ nerves. This was quite expected like clockwork during our trips. Mon wanted to just rest and wait out our trip to Shifen and Jiufen via Klook, which will start by 1:30 pm. I, on the other hand, thought that perhaps we could squeeze an attraction in the morning.
Returning to Jiantian Station, the stop for Shilin Night Market, I insisted in visiting the National Martyr’s Shrine. However, there were no buses servicing the area that time, and it will take another 2-hour roundtrip before reaching the place.
Searching on Google, I looked for the nearest attraction: the Confucius Temple.
I have to admit, though, that it was a miscalculation on my part. We should have just either gone directly to Confucius temple than waste precious time figuring out the way to Martyr’s Shrine, or rested as we wait for the Klook trip.
There’s no entrance fee to the Confucius Temple, and we were given a map to explore the various parts of the grounds. I could have enjoyed Confucius Temple better if we had more time, or if the weather cooperated. By 11:00 am, it was raining lightly, and we still have to walk back to Jiantian Station. Not to mention we also had to eat a decent lunch before we leave for Shifen and Jiufen.
The meeting place for the Klook trip is at GaKuDen bakery near Exit 4 of Ximen Station. After ensuring the place we were supposed to meet the others, we looked for a place to eat lunch. There was a department store a couple of blocks here, and we ended up eating chicken (again) and salad from McDonald’s. We had been fried chicken advocate’s during this trip.
We eventually cooled off, and everything was fine again before lunch. After lunch, we went back to the stretch of GaKuDen bakery to find a place where we could rest and wait for 01:30 pm. Fortunately, almost next to the bakery was this almond milk place! Finally, almond milk three days into our trip! Granted that the drink had starchy pearls in it did not matter much. We just needed our almond milk. They also sell shaved frozen almond milk with mung beans. Perhaps we could try this a day after.
By 01:25 pm, the Klook tour bus already arrived. We showed the email to the tour guide, Tung, who checked our names from her list. Then off we go to Shifen at exactly 01:30 pm! So efficient!
She was really knowledgeable and shared loads of trivia about Taiwan and Taipei. As a former student of international politics, I listened intently to the history of how Taiwan came about. Of course, this is disputable, especially from the mainland Chinese tourist seated in front of her who was obviously biting his tongue on Tung’s version of history. Ahhh, the politics of independence movements.
She also shared a story about a foreigner who jumped off from Taipei 101 more than a decade ago. He was eventually barred from entering Taiwan after that illegal jump. (I later on found out after a quick Google search that it was Austrian Felix Baumgartner. The video of his jump is available on YouTube).
While most of the tourists immediately fell asleep, I waited for Tung to finish her trivia before taking a nap as well.
After an hour and a half, with Tung’s familiar ‘Hello, family!’ waking us all up, our bus arrived at Shifen. Our first stop is to visit the Shifen Waterfall. To go there, we had to cross a bridge, and a couple of flight of (slippery) stairs before arriving at the observation deck.
At the hanging bridge going to Shifen Waterfall
We were given an hour to go around the area, and was instructed to meet at the fruit stand after. The waterfall was not big, but beautiful enough to merit a visit. I spent around 15 minutes just sitting by the ledge near the stairs, because I was already sweaty.
It obviously just rained, but the weather was still too humid. I was fanning myself hard, while taking photos of Mon and the waterfall. From time to time, I heard Filipino tourists who complained of the stairs. LOL
When you don’t feel like sitting near the waterfall, there were also shops and restaurants to while your time. I wanted to try the grilled sausages, so Mon bought two sticks for us.
Everything is timed during the tour, and although Tung is not strict with time, it would have been better if the other guests are more conscious of it. Imagine, we were to go back at 04:15 pm by the fruit stand, but several tourists returned at 04:30 pm. Gurl, ain’t nobody got time to wait for you.
From Shifen Waterfall, the next stop was at Shifen Station, known for tourists who wanted to have sky lanterns flown. I am personally not a fan of these. During the 5-minute travel there, I have seen canopies of trees from a distance strewn with mangled sky lanterns. =( The creek next to Shifen Station also had lots of sky lanterns garbage.
From time to time, a train will pass by, sending the people over to the edge of the railroad. It was comical, actually, because it reminded me so much of the old 90s TV show Home Along Da Riles.
I just wish the garbage problem of Shifen Station be managed better. If they were doing something about it, then it is obviously not enough. I hoped to see less of the littered sky lanterns.
As we did not fly a lantern, we were reduced to taking photos of the other tourists and ourselves. We even sat down the railroad and put the camera on timer mode.
Next, we had to find a coffee shop. At the other end of the railroad where the train enters, there is a shop serving takeaway coffee. We hoped to sit it out, however, and went to the other side of the stretch. Fortunately, there was this coffee shop named Mr. Q, where they have sugarless coffee. We should have brought stevia sachets with us.
While resting, one of the tourists from the bus sat next to us. She was from Singapore, and was also not a fan of the garbage that the sky lanterns are producing. She was in Taiwan to attend an EDM concert, and joined the Klook tour at the last minute.
While Mon excused himself to go to the comfort room, it took him a longer time to return. He was derailed by the two cats inside the cage, and was petting the orange tabby.
The cats were big and obviously loved by the owners. Too bad that they could not roam around, as it was a lost opportunity for a cat cafe. However, the high traffic area might not be conducive for such a venture.
When we were to leave Shifen Station, I was already too excited. I have been looking forward to visiting Jiufen in the evening. There is a different tour offered by Klook, where Jiufen is visited during daytime. I mean, if I where to go to Jiufen, it would be better to visit when the lanterns are on, right?
That meant, however, that we had to forego the accompanying visit to Yehliu Geopark. But in order of priority, I really wanted to see Jiufen in the evening, rather than Yehliu Geopark.
Dusk was obviously fast approaching, and the scene was more idyllic at Jiufen at that time of the day. We can see the sea from the winding road, and the houses with the yellow lights slowly peppering the slopes. So from this snapshot alone, you can tell that it will be climb up.
After stationing at the parking lot and before the big trek, Tung gathered the group to point to this house. It was one of the oldest, if not the oldest house at Jiufen. The old lady sitting in front of house was a resident of the house.
After this, we then had our first climb up. Even from below, you can already see the lanterns alit. They looked beautiful and dream-like despite the daylight. Just imagine how much better they’d look when night finally fell.
One thing to note of: never go to Jiufen during weekends. I think this information is available everywhere, but it is worth stressing that weekends include Friday! I was a bit pedantic on this, thinking that Friday technically is a weekday. Other people, however, thought otherwise. But it was worth the crowd, though, seeing this place in the evening.
There was also a couple having their pre-nup shoot taken, and people were gawking over their shoulders to see what it was about. How awkward it was to be the center of that much attention?
When we go at the end of the flight of stairs, I had a mind the supposed inspiration of the bath house in Spirited Away (although this has been debunked by Hayao Miyazaki himself): A-Mei Tea House. We already got at the very top, where the Qingyun Temple is located. We took a couple of photos, admired the details, and rested. I was also checking out the map to look for the location of A-Mei Tea House.
We went downstairs again, and closely followed the dot on Google Maps. How can we be lost at Jiufen? Surely the tea house is somewhere prominent.
At that point, I gave up and asked Mon if perhaps we could eat dinner first and just enjoy the surroundings. Jiufen is one big, night market on a slope. If you like to eat a lot, or buy trinkets, then Jiufen is the place to be. I am personally not a big shopper, although I enjoyed having a look at the shops.
For dinner, we ended up buying food from this fried food stall. Mon also found a store selling unsweetened tea, because #KetoIsLife. It is literally sidewalk dining, as we found a corner where we comfortably had our fill. It was fun people watching, with throngs of tourists just walking past.
After eating, I thought that maybe we could look for the tea house once again. But surprise, surprise! On our way down, it dawned on me that the couple who were having their pre-nup shoot earlier was at A-Mei Tea House. Silly me, but this if forgivable because it is unrecognizable under the daylight without the lights and walking beside it.
To better appreciate it, one must go to the already-crowded restaurant across from it. Good luck doing that on a weekend and in the evening. A BIG GOOD LUCK! ^o^ I’m still baffled why and how we missed it in the first place.
After elbowing ourselves to get these shots, we then called it a day to go back to the parking lot. Even at 7:30 pm, it was still hard to go downstairs. I had also seen my first cockroach in Taiwan at Jiufen. =D
This place will never be empty, but I cannot blame the people. It really looked much better with the lanterns on as compared to how it looked at daytime.
At the bus ride back to Taipei, Tung was still full of energy with her stories of Taiwan’s history. She even recounted how her grandfather (or was it her great grandfather?) had been detained during one of Taiwan’s darkest chapters. I made a mental note to search on Google on what she had shared.
We even got a glimpse of Taipei 101 at night. It was our second to the last day, and the last one would definitely be a chill one. When we got back to GaKuDen bakery, we thanked Tung profusely. We did really enjoy Shifen and Jiufen better because of her!
After changing clothes at the inn, we ate from Hot-Star Chicken again. We also wanted to try the mushroom because of the long queue. Let us get this over with and sample this one. It tasted, okay. I think the mushroom just soaked up whatever seasoning you put in them. At NTD 150, it was a bit pricey though.
We did not want to do all of our souvenir shopping on our last day. It would be better to do the bulk of our shopping at night when I won’t be too sweaty walking around. After dinner at Ximending Night Market, we headed straight to the nearest Carrefour because they were open 24/7. I was not too sure if the price is the same as from the stores in Ximending Night Market, but I was already too lazy to decide.
Emote shot at Ximending Night Market
I spent around NTD 750 for all the food stuff from Carrefour, which includes an assortment of mochie, tea, and coffee, If I were not on keto, I would have cleared the milk tea shelf. Oh well, at least I won’t have to buy stuff on our last day. I will only have to follow Mon around as he did his last minute shopping.