7th May
written by Hope

Last week, my best friend Kara and her husband Patrick flew from New Jersey to come see us. I can’t tell you how exciting it was not only to see some familiar faces, but to be able to share this amazing travel experience with people that we love. This year-long journey is obviously a huge event in our lives, and sharing it with people who have known you for almost your whole life not only deepens our experience of the trip, but it deepens our friendship as well.

We did a lot of wandering around Taipei, and a three-day trip to Taroko Gorge (more on both of those later), but we also enjoyed a great day-trip to Jiufen. Patrick picked the spot, which was really cool because I don’t think Jeremy and I would have gone there otherwise…and it was a really cool experience! We had also planned on going to nearby Jinguashi, but kinda ran out of time in our languid wanderings. Oh well, next time!

You have to take a bus from the train station in Ruifang to get to Jiufen; it motors you up this a crazy-steep mountainside with beautiful views of the ocean. When we got off the bus in Jiufen, there was a huge commotion at a nearby temple…turns out it was some local god’s birthday and they were having a huge celebration in honor of the event.

celebration at mingsheng temple, jiufen

firecrackers at mingsheng temple, jiufen

The giant dancing heads were amusing, especially when they started doing this N-Sync era hip-hop style choreography (I’m not joking), and we plugged our ears in an effort to stop the firecrackers going off about 10 feet away from us from rupturing our eardrums. But the biggest WTF moment of the day happened when we saw a bunch of guys hitting themselves in the forehead with knives and bleeding all over their own faces. If you want to see a photo of this, click here…I won’t force those of you who are squeamish about blood to look at it.

After the excitement of the temple, we headed for the excitement of Jiufen’s Jishan Old Street, a long, narrow lane filled with snack vendors, knick-knack shops, and tea houses…and the smell of vendors frying up stinky tofu. Kara was totally appalled by the aroma…which is funny, we barely even notice it anymore! I haven’t mentioned stinky tofu on this blog yet, but it is a Taiwanese specialty snack, sold at night markets around the country. The smell is truly odoriffic; I think Kara described as smelling like “vomit after you drank orange juice.” It’s hard to imagine eating it, but one couple was chomping away on a cube of it, with their eyes watering over from the pungency.

jiufen old street
Jeremy and Patty walking down Jiufen’s Old Street.

Eventually, we made our way to the Jiufen teahouse, an absolutely gorgeous little place that fires water over hot coals and teaches you how to pour tea in the traditional Chinese way. They taught us all about warming the cups and pouring the tea from this pot to that vessel before it finally ends up in your cup.

at the jiufen teahouse

at the jiufen teahouse

We ended the marvelous day by heading to Jinshan on the bus and soaking in some hot springs there. We had a hot spring in mind but changed our plans when the man at the bus station suggested we check out Old Jinshan Hot Springs (http://www.warmspring.com.tw/)…once again, the aggressive Taiwanese helpfulness works to our favor!

It was an awesome day made even more fun by the excellent company. Here’s to good friends and travel! Two great tastes that taste great together!

me and k at the jiufen teahouse

1 Comment

  1. Martina

    Love that last pic of you and Kara - as always, love the updates and hearing of your adventures. Big hugs to you both!

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