We woke up to a drizzling, cloudy day and made our way by train and bus to Jiufen and Jinguashi with our private tour guide, Chienya. My cold was now full-blown and my stomach was in protest, but sometimes you just have to suck it up (quite literally, with my relentless runny nose). A bus weaved its way up a mountain side before depositing us at the entrance to Jiufen, and this is where Simon found us. We hadn’t seen each other for years, and he had driven up to spend the day with us.
Like usual, food was on our mind and Chienya had told us that Jiufen was famous for their fish balls and taro mochi. But first, an amuse bouche. We opted for a sweet snack of two types of ice cream over crushed candied peanuts and chopped cilantro, wrapped in a crepe-like wrap. It was surprisingly good, and I loves me some cilantro so I didn’t mind it with ice cream.
Next, we ducked into a fish ball shop and pigged out on fish balls of different flavors, and a glutinous pork thing that they’re also supposedly famous for. It was good, and if I was feeling better I would’ve had seconds.
There’s not much to do on a rainy day, so off we went in search of a snack and wound our way up to a taro mochi shop. We walked through a corridor full of people making taro mochi and sat down for warm, sweet mochi balls and steamed cubes of sweet potato over shaved ice. I’m not a huge dessert person but it was pretty refreshing.
Finally, we were off to our final food stop, a traditional Taiwanese tea house where a cheerful employee showed us how to prepare and pour tea correctly. Simon did most of that while the three of us sat around like lazy, pampered girls and sipped away.
With warm tea in our bellies, we mustered up enough energy to brave the spitting rain again, and Simon drove us to Jinguashi, which used to be the location of a big gold mine. It was empty of people because of the crappy weather, so we took a quite walk up to the gold museum, where we rubbed a huge block of gold for good luck.
I thought it was a good idea to drag everyone up a steep set of stairs to the site of a former Japanese Shinto shrine. I almost forgot how lazy the Taiwanese are and how much they hate walking. Simon was a trooper and the only one who made it to the top with me.
As our final stops before dinner, we drove down to the golden waterfalls Jinguashi is known for and then to the two-toned ocean that hugs the northern coast of Taiwan. We were hungry again.
For dinner, Simon suggested checking out Bisha Live Seafood Market, where we ohh-ed and ahh-ed at all of the weird-looking sea creatures the fishmongers literally handed to us. We slurped down some freshly-cracked sea urchin with its spines still moving, and Simon picked out a bunch of seafood for us to take to the restaurant next door, where they cook the food any way you want.
Simon is an amazing chef (like his sister Ching-I) and knew exactly how to ask them to prepare the food. I pigged out despite my cold. It was the perfect ending to a good day out thanks to our friends, and the rain just ended up being a mere inconvenience. A special thank you to Chienya and Simon for putting up with my snotty, sick self all day.
For more photos, check out our Flickr album.