Jiu Fen is a scenic village located in the outskirts of Taipei. It used to be a properous town as gold prospectors came to Jiu Fen in hope of striking it rich. Gradually as the gold eventually depletes, the town soon deteriorated, and it was later restored to a tourist destination.
Francis commented that most visitors on free and easy tours to Taiwan tend to miss visiting Jiu Fen, because of its relatively inconvenient distance from Taipei (takes a couple hours by bus). At the same time, he extolled the benefits of going on tour packages vs free and easy, i.e., we save money since tour companies get group discounts on accomodation and they plan our travel route in the most convenient way so that we don't waste too much time travelling between destinations. Yup, yup I totally get his point. However guided tours still can't beat the flexibility of free and easy tours.
Prior to reaching Jiu Fen, Francis was already raving about the yummy snacks (e.g. fried pork pieces and 'guo dong'/fruit jellies) that a local specialty store sells, and gave his thumbs up to this store ("EM1!!"). Please see this post if you don't know what I am talking about. :) And so, this was the first store he brought us once we reached Jiu Fen. You won't believe the crowd that was swarming this store - and according to Francis, this wasn't the most crowded he's seen!
Anyway, he told us to grab baskets and grab 5 or more items to get 1 free for certain categories of snacks, and to also grab more packets of their famous and "limited edition" dried longans, because they were so easily sold out. Like the typical Singaporeans we all are, most of the tour group did as was told. Lol.
Remember the stall name, it's called Ah Xin's Store
Since we were supposed to have lunch on our own, Francis made a couple of recommendations. Among them was this stall, highly recommended due to their "QQ" (i.e. spongy textured) fishballs and drunken chicken. We tried them out, they certainly lived up to expectations! The chicken was flavoured with wine, and had an unforgettable but satisfying aftertaste. The fish balls, sotong balls and meat balls were also spongy and very tasty! Forgot to take photos of the dishes though.
Be sure to commit this stall's name to memory! A must-visit if you were to visit Jiu Fen.
After a thoroughly satisfying lunch, we proceeded to explore the rest of the old village. The village reminded me of the other quaint villages in central Japan, in terms of the architecture and the general atmosphere. This wasn't all that surprising, since Taiwan was occupied by the Japanese for over 50 years during World War II. Evidently the Japanese influence continued to linger on.
Exploring the depths of Jiu Fen village
We were literally following the Taiwanese 'way of life' (i.e. of having several meals a day), because not long after, we spotted an interesting looking snack stall and couldn't resist buying this.
Noticed the white balls? They are ice cream scooped on parsley, generously sprinked with chopped nuts and wrapped in "poh piah" skin. Needless to say, it was truly delicious. We noticed this stall guy looking as though he was sharpening his knife off this huge brown "block". When I took a closer look, I realised it was actually a huge slab of brown sugar peanut!
Having had delicious dessert, we burnt off the calories by trudging further up the slopes. A wonderful view greeted us.
View from Jiu Fen (the village is on a hill)
A cute and random store