Day 3 of our Taiwan Escapade marks the 1st day of our 5-day backpacking tour around 3 cities!
The first stop – Jiufen 九份! And this was our plan for Day 3.
During the planning stage of the holiday, my travel buddy suggested for us to carry a backpack around for these 5 days as it will be a hassle to lug our big luggage around on the long travelling journeys through the 3 cities. So, where will our luggage be stored at?
If you’re staying in a hotel, you can consider leaving your luggage with the hotel for a few days. However, that is only possible if the hotel provides such service and also if you are returning back to the same hotel.
How about those people who are staying in apartments, like us? We researched and found out that there is a Baggage Centre (台北行李托运中心) outside of the Taipei Main Station.
Below is the directions to get to the baggage centre. Information and photos are from a blog that we found :) Thanks to her pictures, we managed to find the centre rather easily :)
Upon reaching the Taipei Main Station MRT, you need to walk through the underpass to the Taipei Railway Station and look for the East 3 Exit (东三出口).
Cross the road at traffic light near the taxi stand and keep walking down the road passed the carpark (停车场).
Turn left into the lane and the Baggage Center is there on your right.
Operating Hours: 8am to 8pm daily – 365 Days
Rates: NTD17/- each day
Above operating hours and rates info were found at this blog. And it has been mentioned in more than 1 blog that the rates are NTD17/- for the First 10 days, and NTD34 for every additional day, onwards from the 11th day. But the info is wrong. They only help to store luggages for a maximum of 3 days. Read on to find out more…
That morning, we woke up later than planned, so we decided to skip breakfast and head straight to the Taipei Main Station Baggage Centre.
Excitedly, we navigated our way to the above mentioned baggage centre, in high hopes that we had found a super cheap service. Following the above directions and photos, it made it quite easy for us to find the centre, although we had to ask for directions once.
When we found the centre, there were around 3 – 4 other tourists retrieving their left baggage. Finally, it was our turn to check with them. Lo and behold, they were shocked to hear that we wanted to leave our luggages with them for 6 days (7 – 12 Oct). The staff checked with his boss and his boss plainly waved his hand at us and said, “No, we can’t take in your luggages!”
We were utterly speechless. Where else can we find a place to store our luggage!? Don’t tell me we have to lug it all around the 3 cities we’re going to?
The staff told us that their space is small and they can’t take in luggages in their centre for more than 3 days. Honestly, I do not know why the information were stated wrongly in the blogs as it’s more than 1 blog that mentioned it, or perhaps they used to store luggages for more than 3 days till they decided to do away with it. So, the staff kindly (but in a not-so-kind attitude) pointed out to us that there are lockers available in the underpass of the railway stations and we can try our luck there.
With such a ‘surprise’ and such a hot weather, we dragged our luggages and our sad selves back to the railway station. After asking around for directions and following the well indicated signages, we managed to find the lockers.
There are 2 kinds of lockers (electronic and keys) in the basement of the station and they are not all located at the same place. The electronic lockers are more common and as for the keys lockers, you may need to walk or ask around. For both kinds of lockers, they have 3 sizes of lockers – for small bags/backpacks, medium sized luggages and large luggages.
The first one that we found was the electronic kind. One would just need to put in the coins and key in your password (I think) and no keys will be issued. We were elated when we found them. As these lockers are equally popular, we quickly grabbed the empty large lockers and started putting our luggages in.
Locker fee is as follows (as of July 2013):
NTD20/first 3 hours – small bags
NTD30/first 3 hours – medium sized bags
NTD70/first 3 hours – large sized bags
Locker fee information and one of the above images are extracted from here.
And to our horror again, we can only leave our luggages for a maximum of 3 (three) days only! It’s the same as the baggage centre! :(
Calling the company hotline indicated on the lockers, they suggested for us to look for the keys lockers which is cheaper, and that locker allows us to store our luggage for more than 3 days. She told us to look for her colleague at their small service counter and she can help us.
Imagine our relief when we found the lady at the counter!
But to our 3rd horror, all the big lockers were taken up! What luck!!!
Thankfully, she said that as we had called her company (and I bet she saw the shock and sadness on our faces), she kindly offered to keep our luggages for us in her counter, till 2 lockers were freed up and she would quickly help us to put in our luggage for storage. Thereafter, she would safekeep the locker keys for us and we would just need to ring her up when we want to retrieve our luggages. And she said, this time was the only time she would make an exception and help us. Each locker cost NT$200, so in total, it was NT$1200 for each of us. That burst our budget, but we didn’t had other choices :(
Still, thank God for kind Taiwanese ladies!!!
So, when all the drama was over and we’d finally settled our luggage storage issue, it was already 11am. Famished, we decided to grab some food before continuing on our journey to Jiufen 九份.
Until the 1950’s, Jiufen 九份 was a prosperous gold mining town. The town went into sharp decline when mining was discontinued. The quaint streets, tea houses and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean saved it from becoming yet another anonymous mining ghost town. Jiufen is now a popular tourist destination!
We found 2 ways to get to Jiufen 九份.
By Train: From Taipei, take the train north to Ruifang Station. After exiting the station, cross the street to the bus stop next to the Wellcome Supermarket and board the Keelung Transit bus towards Jiufen. The bus trip takes roughly 15 minutes, and the fare is NT$21 during the week, NT$15 during weekends/holiday.
By Bus (via MRT): From ZhongxiaoFuxing (忠孝復興) station, on the Brown and Blue lines, leave from Exit 1 and take bus route 1062 (Keelung Bus) to Jiufen. The ride is about 1 hour and the fare is NT$90. Be sure to sit on the left side of the bus to enjoy scenic views of Northern Taiwan. (However, the bus stop has since changed to another bus stop further down from the one mentioned. You can still leave from Exit 1, and there are directions indicated on the bus stop to lead you to the right one.)
Guess what? We ended up on a cab, sharing with 2 other couples. I can’t remember how much it cost us, but we got there in about 45 minutes.
There are not many hotels/motels/inns in Jiufen 九份. We booked a room in an inn to stay for the night. It’s called Chiu Chunt Dint Inn 九重町. It is actually located right in the middle of the Old Street, making it very accessible to the places we want to go to.
Likewise, check-in was only at 3pm so we left our backpacks with the receiptionist and went exploring Jiufen 九份.
We went back to the inn at about 3pm as our room should be ready by then. Entering the room, we were disappointed with our choice as it was very small. Once you open the door, you will see the bed fitted in from wall to wall. There isn’t walking space, much less a space to put luggages, if any. Thankfully, we came with backpacks and it was only a night’s stay so we made do with it. Perhaps, the room will be bigger if we had chosen to pay more.
Crowded with people, the old street is like a web with only 1 lane to walk but it branches out to a few other lanes. The stalls are mainly food and drinks and souvenirs. Below are some of the food that we’d tried and none of it had failed us, they all tasted fabulous!! YUMS! I’m missing the foooood! :(
And the next, yummy stall no. 5 sells the raved about Popiah-Peanut-Ice Cream Roll!!! Okay, frankly speaking, I don’t know what’s its actual name, but see the pictures and look out for it when you’re there! ;)
It is absoutely delicious! You gotta try this when you’re there. The food stalls I’ve mentioned are in the first part of the Old Street. When you enter, keep walking straight and you’ll be able to find them.
We found another stall selling the Popiah-Peanut-Ice Cream Roll but it didn’t taste as nice as the first one we tried (illustrated above). The ice cream in the first one we tried wasn’t too sweet, so it balances out the sweetness of the peanuts. But the second one we tried was totally tooooo sweet. So, buy from the young lady, haha.
In our opinion, the first bite into the meat ball wasn’t very nice, but the taste gets better and better as you eat it. The meat ball skin is similar to that of the soon kueh that we can find in Singapore. The meat inside it is big and chunky and the vegetables (cucumber and I think there is bamboo shoots) adds on a crunchy feel to the meaty ball. Worth a try!
And that was our last food stall, ’cause we were too full to try other food, though we shared all the food that we bought.
Needing a drink, my travel buddy brought me to a cafe that she has been to before – SIID CHA 吾穀食茶館. It’s a little quaint tea house near the top of Jiufen 九份. From the roof terrace of this tea house, you’ll be able to enjoy the vast view of Jiufen 九份.
We love the breathtaking scenery here at Jiufen 九份, with its bustling busy old street filled with fabulous food! And at the end of the corner, you can find a peaceful tea house or cafe to sip a drink and rest your feet. What wonderful way to spend a day! I will love to come back here again some day.
By 5pm, we decided to go over to Shifen 十份 to light up the sky lanterns 天灯.
Sky lanterns 天灯 are released into the sky with our wishes written on it. It’s believed that when the wishes are released to the sky/heaven, your wishes will come true. There are 2 places to light up sky lanterns – Shi Fen Old Street 十份老街 and Pingxi 平溪.
We went along with the cab uncle’s suggestions and took his cab to Shi Fen Old Street 十份老街. It took about 30mins to get there and the roads were really wind-y. I’m someone who gets hit with motion sickness very easily so throughout most of the journey, my eyes were closed :/
About Shi Fen Old Street 十份老街
Although Shifen Old Street is now a popular tourist stop, the old street still keeps its nostalgic, relaxing ambience, where one may sometimes find residents sit in front of their houses, chatting and socializing. Shifen Old Street is not only a great place for photographs, sky lanterns and to see the unique scene of trains running right through the old street, but also a nice place to sample local snacks that will satiate your taste buds.
More information about Shi Fen Old Street 十份老街 can be found here.
By the time we arrived at Shi Fen Old Street 十份老街, the sky was already dark. So, we went to purchase the big lantern and started to write our wishes on it. The shops were aligned in a straight manner, with a train track in the middle of it.
Halfway thru the writing of the wishes on the lantern, we heard a loud honk and the staff of the sky lanterns shop started asking us to move in and away from the train tracks! I didn’t read up on the town before we headed there, so I thought that it was a track that isn’t in use.
The next thing I saw was 2 angry headlights shining at us, haha.
That’s all for our trip to Jiufen 九份 and Shifen 十份 :)
Look out for Day 4!
Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown,