If you are staying more than a couple of days in Taipei I highly recommend you to spend some time in Jiufen, a nice traditional taiwanese village located two hours away from Taipei.
Although Jiufen was founded during the Quing Dynasty, it became popular when gold was discovered in the area. The gold industry carried this city industry until the 60´s. From the 90´s onwards, this gold mine town became really popular among tourists.
The name Jiufen (Chiufen – EN: nine pieces) comes from an ancient legend. Regarding this legend, nine families used to live in this town. Since going to the market was a huge inconvenient due to the lack of transportation the nine families came to an agreement; whenever one family went to buy groceries at the market, they would have to divide them into nine pieces, each for each family.
Jiufen Old Street
Located within hills, next to the mountains and facing the ocean, Jiufen Old Street is known for its foggy weather and its beautiful views. The street is full of local snack vendors, traditional products and souvenirs stores.
Among the various snack vendors you can find some Jiufen traditional food such as taro balls, fried meat balls and taro cake. In addition, chinese tea houses are really popular among both locals and tourists.
Instead of having lunch on the street surrounded by locals and thousand of tourists – be careful, Jiufen is so trendy that its old street is usually crowded with people in the noon time, especially on the weekends- we decided to stop in a nice cafeteria with natural juices and beautiful views.
Temples in Jiufen
Jiufen is not only a touristic old street. If you are curious enough, I highly recommend you walk up the main road to the top of the hill.
On the way you will find a first temple – which was full of locals praying and some tourists – and at the top of the hill you will find a second one, – to find this temple you may need to get yourself lost among all the tiny Jiufen non-touristic roads. This is quite an adventure! and locals are so nice…! :). Sadly, I don´t know the name of this second temple, however, I still remember the peaceful, good vibes that we could feel up there. In fact, we were alone in the temple, no locals and no tourists. A heaven of peace!
Another interesting – and really well-known – temple is Fushan Temple. This 200 years old temple is dedicated to Tudigong, the God of Earth, and it is an interesting blend of Japanese, Chinese and Western elements.
How to get to Jiufen?
There are two different possibilities to reach Jiufen from Taipei:
Train to Riufang and then bus to Jiufen From Taipei Main Station – Take a train to Riufang – the views during the trip are really interesting. Once you reach Riufang, leave the train station behind you and go straight, cross the main square and turn left. After a 5 minutes walk – you can always stop at a local vendor to buy some tasty tea – you will reach the bus stop. Don´t worry, you won´t get lost! All tourists are walking the same direction 😉 There you will find all the information related to the bus and its schedule.
Direct bus to Jiufen – Apparently there is a direct bus from Taipei to Jiufen. At that time we were recommended to take the train, so we could make other stops if we wanted to.
The bus starts at Zhongxiao Taipei Station and it drives you directly to Jiufen Old Street.
Have you ever been to Jiufen?
This ancient gold-miner town is a once in a lifetime must-see place. Although it is becoming too touristic, this place maintain some ancient charm that makes it special.
I highly recommend you to escape the town bustle to climb the hill, to reach the highest temple of Jiufen and to enjoy a moment of peace staring at the sea. It is a good idea to reconnect with yourself and to recharge some energies while contemplating an amazing view.
Enjoy your time at Jiufen and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.
To start our taiwanese trip we will travel all around the city of Taichung, a taiwanese hidden gem chosen by locals as the best destination in Taiwan. The attractiveness of the city originates in its architectural mix, its lively streets, its mild climate and the kindness of its citizens.
Taichung is the second largest city of Taiwan with 2.7 million inhabitants and it is known to be the house of the famous, tasty bubble tea (still don´t know the taiwanese bubble tea? Just keep reading then 😉 ).
While endeavoring to achieve modernization with the construction of new, modern buildings as well as remember the past, Taichung strive to position as the second most important city of Taiwan (today this honor belongs to Kaoshiung).
What to visit
Let´s make a tour around the city to discover some amazing spots you should take into account when preparing your trip to Taiwan:
Built around 1976 Confucius Temple is a peaceful oasis in the middle of Taichung´s downtown.
This incredible temple follows the construction-style of the Song Dynasty by mixing sobriety and simplicity together with vivid colors and decorated roofs and beams. In the galleries located at the side of the main courtyard the visitor can find various classrooms and a library, where traditional arts are taught.
This temple is usually used by young couples as the perfect landscape for their pre-wedding photo album.
Yizhong Street Night Market
If you want to experience the real, ancient Taiwan lifestyle you CANNOT miss this unique night market.
Located closed to Taichung´s University, this area accommodate thousand of students willing to enjoy its young, trendy culture with many fashion stores and tasteful finger food such as stinky tofu (you can feel its smell since the moment you approach the market), baozi or fried chicken.
Among its specialities you will also find cold tea, watermelon juice and the famous bubble tea.
Haven´t you ever heard about it?
Bubble tea was invented in Taichung in the 80s. Although there are many varieties of this unique drink, the original recipe contains a tea based mixed with milk, tapioca balls (know as bubbles 😉 ) and fruit jelly such as lychee.
A nice walk from the city center will lead you to Paochueh Temple.
Beautiful isn´t it?. Wait to discover its dramatic (laughing) Buddha statue (the largest in Taiwan). I fell in love with it! 🙂
Feng Chia Night Market
Described as a “sensory feast for both eyes and palate”, this is the most touristic and large (around 1 km) market in Tiachung. Always full of people (during the weekend around 30.000 people usually visit it), this market boast about exotic and delicious food such as crepes, stinky tofu, cheese potatoes, low-calorie ice-cream, bread with fried noodles and many more. Furthermore, due to its proximity to Feng Chia University, visitors can also find a wide range of low-cost fashion and tech stores.
Taiwan Balloon Museum is in fact an over-50-years-old balloon factory located in the residential area of Shengang. Here visitors can take an informative journey to discover how does the manufacturing process of balloons work. In addition, the museum offers rubber balloon DIY workshops and guided tours.
An original plan for children and not so children 😉
On September 21, 1999, Taiwan experienced one of its worst natural disasters ever, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake that destroyed the central part of this amazing island. The earthquake museum was built in order to honor the victims of this catastrophe, as well as to raise citizens awareness and show them how to act in case of earthquake.
National Taichung Theater
Ready to walk on the roof of an opera house?
The National Taichung Theater is an opera house and multifunctional space which includes:
Grand Theater: A 2007 seats cozy, red-themed theater
Playhouse: An ocean blue space where musicals and concerts usually take place
Black Box: A black interior space for experimental theater performances
Outdoor theater: Covering 1000 square meters, the theater is surrounded by transplanted trees that creates a beautiful natural space, which, by the way, is linked to the Black Box
Sky Garden: Visiting the Sky Garden is like entering a different world. The space, surrounded by skyscrapers, is a great area for outdoor concerts. This sixth floor venue is accessible via elevator
National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts
Great museum with exhibitions mostly focused on taiwanese art, although all the time there are temporary exhibitions. The building itself is splendid and it has been rebuilt after the 921 earthquake.
Where to sleep
Located just a short 4-minute walk from Feng Chia Night Market, it is a pretty cozy place, nicely decorated and with own private bathroom.
Located in the central district, 1-minute walk from Yizhong Street Night Market is an ideal european style hotel with private bathroom and taiwanese breakfast.
Located near by Taichung Park and surrounded by restaurants, Wowwow House is a taiwanese cozy hotel whose rooms own private bathrooms.
Last year Bilbao celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Guggenheim museum, a building that supposed an urban relaunch in which the industrial past of this city was overlaid with green areas and modern architecture.
Most of art lovers around the world started to look at this city as “the next place to visit”, almost all Spaniards got rid of their prejudices and the most relevant travel experts placed Bilbao (finally) on the map. Thankfully, the old Basque traditions still remain intact. Despite the constant growth in visitors’ number, Basque people still maintain their ancient soul. Eating pintxos and supporting Athletic de Bilbao are still part of their lifestyle.
Bilbao is a great city for people interested in food, architecture, history and even music (Bilbao yearly hosts different music festivals, the most popular one is the BBK Live, maybe you have already heard about it).
Although the vast majority of visitors come to Bilbao attracted by the Guggenheim Museum, most of them go back home having discovered an unique place full of charm. And that is what I would like to show you with this post, a living city opened to embrace visitors and to share their culture with them.
What to visit in Bilbao
A good way to start discovering Bilbao is to visit the core of the city, the place where it all started: “Siete Calles” (Seven Streets), the old town of Bilbao.
Bilbao, as we all know it, started as a seven streets village located in the middle of two mountain ranges which gained importance in Spain due to its port activity. Nowadays, the old town looks much different as before. Its ancient narrow streets are closed to traffic allowing the visitor to get lost among renamed places such as the 14th century Santiago Cathedral, the Unamuno square (which honors the Spanish writer with the same name), Plaza Nueva (the most important square of the old town reconverted, nowadays, into a “place to be” for all pintxo lovers), Mercado de la Ribiera (the ancient Bilbao´s market, nowadays reconverted into a modern one. Check it here: http://www.lariberabilbao.com/en/ ) and Teatro Arriaga (the historical theater of Bilbao)
The neighboring area of Bilbao La Vieja has a similar history and vibe but it has started to attract artists and gallery owners, after years of controversy. This renovated part of the city is becoming popular among young and middle age people who like to try new, modern restaurants.
Leaving the old town and walking along the river side we start our way to the two main museums of the city: the Museo de Bellas Artes (Bilbao Fine Arts Museum) and the Guggenheim.
Although the Guggenheim take most of the credit, Bilbao´s ancient museum always organizes a great program of temporary exhibitions. Both museums complement themselves. On the one hand, the Museo de Bellas Artes, which is part of the city landscape since 1914, has one of the best collections of paintings made by many great Spanish masters like El Greco, Velazquez, Zurbarán or Goya. The Guggenheim museum, on the other hand, has one of the most renowned modern art collections of the world. Its temporary exhibitions as well as the permanent collection are in line with the groundbreaking architecture of the building. Two of the most popular outdoor artworks are the Puppy, a terrier carpeted in bedding plants created by Jeff Koons, and Maman, a tribute to Louise Bourgeois´ mother created in form of a spider.
After this cultural visit I would recommend you to enjoy some refreshment before exploring. A good street to recharge your energy is Pozas, a traditional meeting point for locals.
Following I will show you three different ways to walk from the Guggenheim until Pozas (do not forget the name of this place 😉 )
Leaving the Guggenheim and walking along the river side we start our river path. As you may already know, Bilbao experienced an architectural transformation the last 20 years which meant a radical change not only on its image to the outside world but also on its economy.
Walking along the Nervión (Bilbao´s river) is a good way to understand and to discover this transformation. Next to the Guggenheim we can find two modern university libraries (one belonging to the private and the other one to the public university) located just in front of one of the most ancient buildings of Bilbao: the renowned University of Deusto.
If we continue our way, we will find the highest building of the city: La torre Iberdrola, a modern office building. Straight forward we reach Doña Casilda park (better known as the ducks´ park) from where we can observe the modern Palacio Euskalduna, a theater and conference hall.
Just walk a couple of steps more to reach Plaza Circular (Circular Square) in Gran Vía, the commercial and financial centre of the city, and the new San Mames football stadium.
At this point we should remember that Bilbainos (people of Bilbao) are really pride of their football team. Why? Since more than 100 years ago, heritage and tradition are hugely important to Athletic de Bilbao Club. In a football world ruled by money and globalization, Athletic has a complete reliance on their cantera (youth basque players playing for Athletic Club in youth league). This non-written policy implies that every player who pulls on the famous red and white shirt is drawn from the Basque Country. This special non-written rule is the soul of Athletic Club that attracts fans not only from Bilbao but from all around the world. If you are one of those who think that this policy could create an inferiority between Athletic and other Spanish teams, let me surprise you by telling you that Athletic is one of the three clubs never relegated from “La Liga” (the others are Real Madrid and Barca).
Starting from this point, just a couple of meters away from San Mames, perpendicular to Gran Vía, we arrive to Pozas.
Leaving Puppy behind our backs we will start this path which will lead us to Pozas.
Streets such as Mazarredo, Elcano, Iparraguirre or Alameda Rekalde make up the modern “art district”. Among them it is easy to find art galleries, modern pintxos bars as well as gift and antique stores. At the end of this area we will reach Gran Vía, the financial centre of Bilbao, a 1.5 kilometers street long between Plaza Circular and Plaza del Sagrado Corazón. The halfway point is Plaza Moyua (Moyua square), home to the Carlton Hotel and to the shopping area of the city.
Although Moyua contains historical, dramatic buildings, one of the most interesting monuments of this square are the subway entrances.
Designed by Norman Foster, Bilbao´s subway stations are station-caverns made of stainless steel and glass. Inside, the stations are a large basilica-style gallery with two platforms. Outside, at the street level, the entrances are circular canyons made of glass. The renowned architect changed Bilbao´s landscape with this perfect example of engineering and architecture combination. You can find subway stations almost all around the city. It is well worth visiting them.
To reach our destination we just need to walk through Alameda Recalde until Pozas or to enjoy a ride in the subway 😉
Parque de los patos path
Although its real name is “Parque de Doña Casilda” this beautiful park located in the middle of Bilbao is popular known as ‘”Parque de los patos” (Ducks´ park) due to its lake usually crowded by lovely ducks and swans.
At the entrance of this city´s little green lung, appears the previously mentioned Museo de Bellas Artes, whose outdoor exhibition welcomes the visitors of the park. Walking through Doña Casilda Park we can discover a huge variety of trees and plants until we reach Indautxu, a centric area of Bilbao which offers a wide range of stores and businesses, although it is particularly noted for its many pintxos bars and ancient constructions.
Where to eat: The tradition of Pintxos
Pintxos are skewered and bite-sized foods, traditionally pierced with a cocktail stick to attach them to a piece of bread. They range from traditional pintxos to mini haute cuisine experiments such as grilled foie with a cream of blackberry and warm flavoured cheese. When going to have some pintxos, it is important to know that there is no need to order them, you can directly take them from the bar counter. Do not forget to don´t throw away the toothpick attached to it, you will need them to show the barman how many pintxos you ate, so that he can charge you accordingly.
Locals usually eat one or two pintxos with a glass Txakoli (traditional Basque white wine) or Zurito (a small glass of beer) before moving on to the next bar. Resist to sample every pintxo in a single bar, there is always another bar around the corner with more amazing pintxos waiting for you! 😉
But, where can I find Pintxos in Bilbao?
Let me show you the best streets to enjoy this tasty bite-sized foods.
The famous Pozas Street is back on the post! Yes, if you remember we came walking from the Guggenheim until Pozas to have some refreshment after our cultural visit to the dramatic Frank Gehry´s building.
Here there are traditional bars such as Restaurante Sotera,Zaharra or Restaurante Serantes. From Pozas, you can follow your gastronomical route in Calle Maestro Garcia Rivero (best pintxo bar of the street: Gozatu) or in Plaza Campuzano (traditional Pintxo bar: Bar el Estoril, highly recommended).
Years ago Plaza Nueva looked different, nowadays it is the new Bilbao´s pintxos area. Reconverted in “the place to be”, many new bars are opening their doors in this part of the old town. The best ones? I would like to recommend you: Bar Sorginzulo, Bar Zuga and Bar Gure Toki. All of them have a great pintxos variety.
Classics never die.
Diputación is a small square located in the downtown, nearby the council office (ES: Diputación), full of traditional Bilbao bars. I recommend you to try at least one pintxo in each bar:
Bar el Globo: Most popular pintxo – Pintxo de Txangurro
Café la Vina: Do not forget to eat jamón there. They have the best one in the entire city
Bar Zurekin: Try one Pintxo de Bacalao
Bar la Olla: Really tasty Tortilla de Patata
What else to visit in Bilbao
Before leaving this beautiful basque city I would like to recommend you a couple of places more to visit:
You can take a cable car in Plaza del Funicular, a couple of meters away from the city hall, up to the hill to see a fantastic view of Bilbao from above. It is worthy!
Basílica de Begoña
Built on the site where the Virgin appeared in the early sixteenth century, this Gothic Basilica is the sanctuary to venerate the Virgin of Begoña, patron saint of Bizkaia. Thousands of tourists and pilgrims (the Way of Saint James pass through its main arcade) visit this one of the greatest symbols of the city.
Ready to drive to the coast? Just take the modern city subway and go to Las Arenas. Have a walk around, visit Puente Colgante and walk along the river side until you reach the beach. Fantastic views!
If you travel in summer you can also go to Larrabasterra or Plentzia to enjoy the beautiful, wild basque beaches.
Did you like the post? Do you want to recommend us another spot? Do you have any question regarding this city? Just leave your comments below or via social networks: FB, IG, Twitter
Visiting Montenegro had always been on my bucket list. In fact, exploring all its bordering countries is an experience that I would like to make come true one day. Therefore, the minute we planned our trip to Croatia we knew that we were going to visit the neighbour country of Montenegro.
The initial ideal was to travel until Budva with the car and to explore different spots on our way to that city, however, the weather did not co-operated with us so we had to change our plans.
Finally, we decided to travel until Kotor and to stop spontaneously on the way when we saw any dramatic spot.
Our journey started in Dubrovnik early in the morning (by the way, I still have to write a post about the amazing city of Dubrovnik, in the meanwhile you can find more spectacular croatian spots by clicking here) under a grey sky who reminded us that autumn was around the corner.
Although the weather was not as good as expected we did not care that much about it because our appetite for adventure was enormous, so we had the chance to stop in many different amazing places located beside the Bay of Kotor.
Located beneath the hill of St.Ilija, Perast is an historical old town of the Bay of Kotor. Although its cobblestone streets are full of history (thousands of tourists stop by during the year to admire this small town, which was the center of many historical empires battles throughout the centuries) they were really quiet that day. I supposed that its less than 300 inhabitants would rather stay at home than walking under the rain.
One of the main attractions of this charming place is the artificial island known as “Our lady on the rocks”, where a Roman Catholic Church is located. According to the legend, the islet was made over the centuries by local seamen after finding an icon of the virgin Mary on the rock in the sea
To access to this unique place it is necessary to go by boat (you can buy tickets at Perast´s port for around 4€).
Since the weather conditions were not good enough to navigate to the islet we decided to stay in Perast and have a walk around the town.
As the weather was getting worse we decided to keep traveling to Kotor.
We thought it would be better to visit the city of Kotor where we could find some warm places to have a cup of coffee every time it rained intensely.
An enormous port, full of immense ferries, welcomed us in our arrival to the city of Kotor. After the first impression (I think I had never seen such huge ferries before) we discovered an enormous wall with a stunning gate. Since Kotor was settled during the ancient Roman times, the almost 5km wall was the perfect construction to protect the city from possible attacks.
The ancient wall enclosed a beautiful city brimming with charm and history. One of the most renewed place is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, built in honor of the patron and protector of the city around 1166.
The famous main square, Piazza of the Arms, offers the tourist restaurants and cafes from where to enjoy the well preserved facades of the city and its old buildings made of stone. (We ended up having lunch in a non touristic street surrounded by locals. I would like to recommend you the place where we went but actually I do not know how we ended up there… So, if you go to Kotor just give a chance to its touristic restaurants and let us know if you like them 🙂 )
However, what really got our attention was something I had never seen in other countries. Kotor is full of stray cats, in fact, these animals are part of the city.
They are present in each corner, in every souvenir store, even it exists a cat museum in the city!.
As we found this “cat-love” really fascinating, we decided to ask some locals about it. They explained us that cats were considered as good luck symbols, however, no one was sure about the origin of this belief.
After spending the whole day visiting historical places we decided to come back home no without stopping in another beautiful montenegrin town.
Bar Stari Grad
A small town famous due to its ancient ruins (I had no pictures of the ruins… Sorry…!! It rained cats and dogs!).
This was a great experience & we are sure that we will be back, but next time in summer when the sun shines and the temperatures are higher 🙂
I hope you enjoyed the post, it was a short trip but intense 🙂
Have you ever been in Montenegro? Which spot do you recommend? Feel free to share your thoughts 🙂
The tour started early in the morning (around 8.30 am) the moment we got off the train at Montecarlo main station.
Once we went out we were welcomed by the sizzling Monegasque weather; the sun was bright and ready to accompany us during our half-day trip to Monaco.
Following the traces
Walking around the steep streets we saw old buildings merged into new neigbourhood, luxury cars, and international renowned stores nearby local ones, until we reached the celebrated Casino of Montecarlo. It was too early to go inside but we took a couple of photos (To be sincere, we were expecting a bigger building)
At that point we were starving (we desperately needed a breakfast) and we were also really excited about having just found the traces that the Formula 1 cars left on the road. We decided to follow them (actually the streets are more perpendicular than it seems on TV) until we arrived to the famous Nikki Beach behind which we saw… A cafeteria in the rooftop of a building! We ran to get a breakfast and what was our surprise when we discovered the magnificent views from the place. We really enjoyed our cookies and coffee.
Then we visited the port of Monaco taking a great delight in watching the impressive yachts docked there.
A love story
One important fact of Monaco´s history is its royal family and the love story between Rainier and Grace Kelly. Walking uphills we arrived to the royal palace in front of which appear the colourful quarter of Monaco-Ville. This area of the city is surrounded by a viewpoint-promenade from where the visitor can enjoy the best views of Montecarlo.
Not far from the palace it is located the cathedral. A huge part of the history of this city is placed among its huge stained glasses because all the monegasque princes are entombed under it. Also Grace Kelly and Rainier, who are buried together.
The moment we started considering coming downhill the police appear facing the royal palace, we approached to see what was going on (call me curious 😉 ) when we found out that it was changing of the guard time!
You can also fall in love with it
Before leaving Montecarlo we had a walk all around; its football stadium, its industrial part, its malls (all of them dedicated to the monegasque princesses)… It was really warm, therefore we started to look for a beach and suddenly we were in France!! Only a small road separated France from Monaco so, unintentionally, we sunbathed under the French sun.
Falling in love with Monaco is really easy. Its people are really nice, the city of Montecarlo is beautiful and the mediterranean weather helps to provide the place with a special feeling.
Ready to also fall in love with it?
What to visit in Monaco
The port: To enjoy the impressive yachts docked there
The Prince´s Palace of Monaco: At 12.00 o´clock is the changing of guard time
The cathedral: Beautiful, full of stained glasses and works of art. All the princes of Monaco are entombed at the cathedral, including Grace Kelly and Rainier III
The oceanographic museum of Monaco
Monaco train station
What about you, have you ever been there? Did you like it? What is your favourite area of the city?