The next morning saw us rushing to get ready for the party bus for our out of town trip. Nigel took the front seat since he liked being our linguist and comminucated with our driver through a translator app. This is what I loved about traveling with friends- each had something that we liked doing and conributed it to the group. Trish made sure our group shots were covered, I enjoyed researching for accommodations (excited to share our Jiufen BNB!), and Chris toured us around Yehliu Geopark, which was our first stop.
Yehliu is at the northern coast of Taiwan, and the geopark consists of interesting rock formations. The most popular is the Queen’s Head, but we weren’t able to take photos due to the long line, not to mention, the intense heat! Be sure to keep hydrated and pack on the sunscreen when you visit in the summer.
Next up was Shifen Old Street- on a railroad where people cast paper lanterns off into the sky after writing their wishes. I scribbled a number of things off the top of my head, and the first one was for extra-judicial killings in the country to stop and restore peace in the Philippines. It may seem like a “Miss Universe answer” but it’s as real as it gets.
On a lighter note, funny story is that since Chris did this tour the day before, he also set his lantern to the sky, but it got stuck on a tree. That’s just about how far his dreams are gonna go haha!
Then, we were off to my much-awaited destination- Jiufen Old Street. Hundreds of steps led us up the alleyways, lined by red lanterns and stalls of food. This is where the film, Spirited Away begins. Chihiro and her family find themselves in a market brimming with all sorts of food. Her parents slurp and burp away, until they actually turn into pigs. This leaves Chihiro all to herself, as she discovers a bathhouse, servicing different kinds of spirits. I’ve loved this animated film since highschool for its whimsical nature and peculiar characters, but the beauty of rewatching it when you’re older is seeing a deeper context behind the film.
Before exploring the rest of Jiufen, we decided to check in to our beautiful bed and breakfast, Sunny Room. We stayed at their suite for just P5,000/night and I immediately fell in love with the balcony view we had, overlooking the ocean from the mountains. The room itself is spacious, with a small sala, mini bar, and bath tub enclosed by stone walls that give it a cozy feel.
Though we did go around at night to get lost, most of the shops were closed already at 8PM. We ate at the last resto we saw that didn’t smell of stinky tofu, grabbed some beer and booze at 7/11 and retreated home to one of our rooms to play boardgames. Little did I know, it was a diversion tactic for a little surprise corner Josh and Mandy prepared. They created an assembly line of Ferrero Rocher as my cake, and I discovered that Josh was almost held up at the airport for bringing the balloon pump ❤
The next day was another reason to celebrate, since it was Nigel and Mandy’s 2nd year anniversary. We checked out of our bnb at 11AM, but they were nice enough to let us leave our luggage while we explore more of Jiufen.
We took our time munching away at street food. Personal favorites are the sausage with sticky rice as a bun, milk tea, and hand-rolled peanut ice cream. We also revisited Amei Teahouse, which is inspired by Spirited Away, but found the price of P600/head to enter too steep, so we decided to just go through the stone tunnel that led Chihiro to the market.. At the end of the road, was my favorite little shop selling Ocarinas– wind instruments very much similar to a recorder, but what made them more special are the various shapes and colors they come in. Josh bought a yellow submarine, while I got a blue duck and a black and white dalmatian.
I must say that it wasn’t just the ocarinas that reeled us in, but the middle-aged man, happily playing his instrument like he had no other care in the world. He played the My Neighbor Totoro theme song, which we made Blue-y (stuffed toy) dance to, and Colors of the Wind, which made me well up a bit because I could feel his heart in the music. In between songs, he would take breaks by painting on the newly molded instruments.
We asked if he knew how to play A Song of Fire and Ice, and though he didn’t know of it, he was eager to learn after we googled the chords for him. He thanked us for adding a new song on to his repertoire, but I think it should be us, thanking him for the love and light he radiates- for being a humble reminder that we do the same.