6 minutes reading time Taiwan
Get away from the bustle of big city Taipei to Ruifang District. Technically still within New Taipei City, it is only about one hour by public transit or half an hour by car or scooter. Taiwan’s Ruifang District is located northeast of the island throughout a mountainous range overlooking the coast. Make a day of it by arriving at Jiufen Old Street for delicious Taiwanese cuisine, and try your hand at digging for gold at the Gold Mine Museum. Keep up with the gold theme by checking out the famous Golden Waterfall or opt for a hike at Keelung Mountain. On your way, make sure to gaze at the incredible Yin Yang Sea, so named after its two-toned hue.
Jiufen Old Street
You could miss Jiufen’s entryway simply by blinking due to its narrow nature. Look out for the stone stairwell leading into the Old Street, or the red lanterns dangling overhead. Once you’ve entered Jiufen Old Street, take your time browsing the plethora of shops and food. A-Mei Teahouse is a popular spot for tourists, but you will need to book ahead if you want a spot at this sought-after experience. Instead, try out one of many other smaller teahouses, like Sweet Potato Teahouse that lets you enter through a stone tunnel entrance, reminiscent of Jiufen’s mining past. If you have a sweet tooth, you need to try Taro Ball Soup. Made of various sweet potatoes and beans, it is still considered a dessert. Have it served on ice on an especially hot day.
Gold Mine Museum
This interesting attraction is enjoyed by families with small children. Relatively new, this museum teaches you about the gold once discovered in Jiufen during Japan’s occupation of Taiwan in the 1900s. Visit the local mine with safety measures in place for under 100 NT, or go for gold-panning with equipment available onsite. Guided tours are available, but as these spots fill up fast, look to booking online if you’d like to try one of their gold-related experiences. The Gold Mine Museum is open from 9 or 10 am depending on the day, and typically closes at 6 pm.
The Golden Waterfall in Ruifang is a fascinating sight to behold. Water cascades down golden-coloured rocks all along the mountain. While this is the official viewing point, you can witness the incredible gold tones if you choose to walk down the steep hill rather than go by bus or scooter. The Golden Waterfall is easily accessible however as it can be seen by the road and has a considerably large viewing platform available for visitors. Keep in mind that these little rocks are not real gold; rather, the rocks and water take on a golden colour due to the various mineral compounds found within the area. You can’t swim in this waterfall, and you probably wouldn’t want to, but it is certainly worth a stop.
Yin Yang Sea
Yin Yang is the concept of duality, like night and day, masculinity and femininity, and energy and peace. It is said that once cannot exist without the other, and to live within harmony, you must have a balance of both. As you continue downwards from the Golden Waterfall, you will witness an amazing sight, and that is Ruifang’s Yin Yang Sea. The Yin Yang Sea is found in the Gold Ecological Park but is easily seen from viewing points dotted along the main road going down to the water. It isn’t exactly known as to what causes the two swirling blue and yellow, but it is thought to be due from old minerals from Taiwan’s mining times.
Cat Village (Houtong Village)
If you’re a cat lover, you cannot miss the Ruifang’s District Cat Village. Officially called Houtong Village, it too was once a mining town. Now, however, cats of all types roam the village, relying on locals and stoppers-by to give them food and show them some love (on their terms, of course). It started with one kind-hearted soul caring for stray cats, which attracted more cats to the village, and then more people to support their cats in hunting for food and pats. Close to the Keelung River and easily accessible on your day trip through Ruifang, see how many cats you can spot – it is said there are up to 200 cats throughout the tiny village. You can purchase cat food on sight or avoid mark up by pre-purchasing cat food in the city to bring along with you.
Depending on your energy and how much you love a good hike, Keelung Mountain is only a five-to-ten-minute walk away from Jiufen Old Street. This 588 metre-high (nearly 2000 feet) mountain was once an active volcano, but is now dormant, making it available for those who desire a breath-taking view of Ruifang and beyond. Walking up to the Keelung Mountain Peak is easily attainable during your day trip as it only takes about one hour for a round trip to hike the entire trail. Stone steps are placed into the mountain, although they are a bit steep. Three viewing platforms are placed on random levels of Keelung Mountain for you to enjoy the view. If you’re really prepared, consider buying some snacks like dried fruit from a vendor at Jiufen Old Street.
The Remains of the Thirteen Levels
This somewhat eerie but hauntingly beautiful landmark is a common place of interest in the Ruifang District. Seemingly embedded into the mountain range, the Thirteen Levels was a gold and copper smelting facility that extracted the valuable metals from the rocks. Now, it is abandoned and speckled with graffiti, but still awe-inspiring to gaze upon and imagine the factory in all its ancient glory.
Taipei has an impressive public transit system that will take you directly to Ruifang District. Starting from Taipei Main Station, you can take any northbound train to arrive at Ruifang, and it will only take approximately one hour. This will cost you roughly $50 NT. You can also hop on the bus from the Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station and take the bus heading for Jiufen. Once you’re there, you’ll find much of the district is walkable, but you don’t want to exhaust yourself too quickly. Instead, hop on a bus or shuttle within Jiufen that will take you to all the famous landmarks.