Jiufen (Taiwan)

Usually when we visit Taiwan, we stay in the main city of Taipei. On this last trip though, we took some time to visit other parts of Taiwan, including the city of Jiufen.

Jiufen is a popular tourist attraction that also serves as the backdrop for the movie Spirited Away. It’s a small town in northern Taiwan, that used to be a gold mining town. “Jiu” means “nine” in chinese, and it is said that there were originally only nine families living in the town, hence the name. When gold was discovered, the small little village became very popular and filled with families.

The village is located in the mountain, and the drive there was quite precarious. While my mom and brothers slept through most of it, my sister and I were too nervous to fall asleep as our driver guided us up the narrow paths. Once there, we saw many tourist buses. After I got out and saw this breathtaking view though, I immediately understood why so many people come up here.

Jiufen Old Street is the most popular tourist attraction for the village. It’s a road that runs through most of the village and is full of shops. Because it’s such a big tourist attraction, every vendor offers samples and tried to draw customers to their store. It was sort of like Costco multiplied by a hundred.

One of the foods Jiufen is most known for is taro balls, which is one of my favorite foods. They are chewy balls, similar to mochi, though it is made of potato flour and taro. It’s usually offered with other types of flavors like green tea and yams, creating an array of pretty colored balls. It’s usually served as a topping for shaved ice, in red bean soup, or sometimes in hot beverages.

I sampled quite a few stores with the taro balls and was able to bring some back from my trip. They are actually offered in the US now too. I’ve seen them inside the frozen section of Ranch 99, but they don’t taste as good as the ones I sampled in Jiufen.


I had fun seeing all the different vendors along the Old Street. There was so much food and trinkets. Here’s some of the highlights:

This store specialized in pineapple cakes, which are very popular in Taiwan. Apparently this store carries the one that the Taiwan President buys for gifts to guests. I was just in love with the cute character.

I was especially intrigued by these lollipops that managed to etch the faces of popular characters into each one like Hello Kitty.

A random stray kitten:

The views were beautiful from this village and I enjoyed all the energy from the tourists. I wish I had time and room to sample and explore every store. It was definitely worth a trip to spend a few hours in this village. You can read more about Jiufen here and here.

   

6 Responses to “Jiufen (Taiwan)”

  1. Snippets of Thyme (Sarah) — February 28, 2012 at 5:28 am

    The island looks beautiful. I’ve never heard of Taro balls. We drink ‘bubble tea’ love that. Also, at the local yogurt place, there are these little mochi-like balls that can be put on top of the sweet frozen yogurt. How fun it would be to try all of these different foods!!

    • Kirbie replied: — February 28th, 2012 @ 9:46 am

      The taro balls are very similar in texture. Chewy balls, except made of taro root. They come out a very pretty purple. Some bubble tea places will serve it with hot drinks, though I’ve only come across 1 or 2 places that do that. Some bubble tea places that offer food will also have it on the menu with red bean soup.

  2. Dennis — February 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Love these little streets. The lollipop looks real cool! Love simple the amber color. I’m craving one now, haha.

    • Kirbie replied: — February 29th, 2012 @ 9:01 am

      You know it’s odd. i was admiring these lollipops the entire time we were there but I didn’t even buy one! I don’t know why.

  3. Carol — February 28, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    I love pineapple cakes! I’ve never had taro balls before, at least I don’t think I have. Sounds like something I’d like though.

    • Kirbie replied: — February 29th, 2012 @ 9:06 am

      Taro balls aren’t as popular here. I’ve only seen them served at some of the tea/snack shops in LA and one place in the Bay Area. I’ve seen the packages frozen ones at Ranch 99. It’s mixed with yam ones, so orange and purple. You might try looking for them there if you want to try them.

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