Journal #4: Jiufen Old Street aka The Spirited Away Town

Past large groups of people bunched together in tight alleyways and beyond even the most intoxicating smells of savoury foods wafting from every market stall – there lives a deeper spirit within the old lantern laden village…

After a well needed 14 hour sleep, I finally feel my body fighting back against the jet lag. But I needed to get out of the city. I needed to go to a place where I could fully recharge and recalibrate the senses. I already knew the perfect spot, Jiufen Old Street. In the deep mountains on the North East Coast of Taiwan lies an old town that was popularized during the Japanese-era gold rush.

What was once a run down mining town, now is a hotspot for Taiwanese tea, street snacks and antique shopping.

The bottom half of the gold rush miners carved mural.

Jiufen is actually what initially put Taiwan on my radar. I once came across an article that said Jiufen was Hayao Miyazaki’s inspiration for the Studio Ghibli movie Spirited Away.

Being in Jiufen threw me back to this exact scene from the movie.
It’s obvious he took plenty of details from the village to inspire the art of the film.
I would have been this guy in the movie, for sure!
You see? I couldn’t resist all the market stalls offerings!

I can now fully understand the inspiring factor behind it. I made sure to head over as early as possible to beat the crowds. Arriving at 9am, I was excited to see the streets completely empty. But that also meant most of the shops and stalls had yet to open. Regardless, my well-needed solitude began.

There were so many shopping options on the street! I was absorbed by all of the eccentric handmade crafts.
Each shop had it’s own flare and unique personality.
Can’t resist a freshly brewed iced Oolong tea.

There was so much to do and so much to see. Every alley provided it’s own secrets to uncover; whether it was an antique pottery shop or a quaint teahouse, there was no shortage of charm. I originally anticipated sticking around for only a few hours but that quickly turned into 10 hours. I simply lost track of time and the outside world.

Getting my name engraved on a handmaid bamboo and squirrel hair paint brush.
Walls on walls on walls on walls of pottery! Taiwan loves its pottery.

As the day wore on, the crowds got much larger and I decided my 10 hour solitude had come to an end. I grabbed my stuff, took one final moment and left on the highest note possible. Jiufen is definitely not the hidden secret it was when Miyazaki found it and now sees thousands of tourists daily – but go early enough to hear the birds chirping at sunrise and I can swear to you, until this very day it still keeps its intoxicating wonder.

One of the most poetic places I’ve been to.
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