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Taipei County's coastal gold mining towns
photos courtesy of Jessie Hsueh

imageJioufen and Jinguashi are located in Taipei County's Rueifang Town. These were once gold mining boomtowns that eventually went bust. Today, Jioufen and Jinguashi have been revived as popular tourist destinations. They feature meandering stone staircases cut into mountain slopes, traditional houses and spectacular views of the ocean.

Jioufen's old streets, mountains, coastline and cuisine

A trip to Jioufen would not be complete without a visit to its old streets. Jioufen has three main streets. From south to north, they are Ciche, Cingbian and Jishan. The most distinctive of these is Jishan Street. Narrow stone staircases twist and turn as they make their way upward. On both sides are art galleries, museums, coffee houses, teahouses and a wide variety of food stalls. Guesthouses are also springing up for those wanting to make this more than a one-day trip.

A number of historic sites await your discovery on Jishan Street such as the Taiyang Mining Affairs Office. This is the place to find out about this area's mining past. There are also the Wufan Mine, a kite museum, the Sheng Ping Theater, the Jioufen Culture and History Workshop and the Jioufen Elementary School.

On Ciche Road is a gold mining museum, opened by a former miner. Visitors can watch demonstrations of mining techniques, panning for gold and gold refining methods.

Jioufen also offers much in the way of natural beauty. It often rains, creating a cool stillness. On sunny days, enjoy spectacular scenes such as waves crashing against the shore.

Jinguashi-Home to a new gold mining and ecological park

Walk among Japanese colonial era buildings

Jinguashi is about a 15-minute drive from Jioufen in the direction of Keelung Mountain. In addition to Keelung Mountain, Jinguashi boasts Wuerchahu (Handle-less Teapot) Mountain, and, at its estuary, the unique Yinyan Sea. In the 1950s, Jinguashi was a booming area due to its extraordinary gold output. As a testament to its glorious past, below ground remain kilometer upon kilometer of mine tunnels.

Near the Jinguashi station is a group of Japanese-style dormitory buildings. Many local films and TV series have been shot here due to the unique setting these buildings provide. Jinguashi is also home to the Crown Prince Chalet, located behind the Jinguashi police station. To complement the opening of the Gold Ecological Park, this Japanese colonial era chalet is being opened to tourism. Taking the stairs to the side of the chalet continue upward to view mine ruins and the ruins of a Japanese Zen temple. The climb, though somewhat tiring, will be rewarded with beautiful views of the surrounding hillsides, the azure sea and the traditional Jinguashi settlement.

Touch the world's largest gold brick

The recently opened Gold Ecological Park is focused on the area's gold mining history and culture. On the first floor of the Gold Ecological Park Museum is a corridor of old and aerial photographs of the area that allow visitors to understand the physical changes that have occurred over time. Following the example of gold museums in Chile and Australia, the Gold Ecological Park Museum has on display a large gold brick. The brick is the largest in the world, weighing in at 220 kilograms.

After completing necessary repairs, the Five Tunnels mine has been opened to guided tours. During these tours, visitors gain an appreciation of the working conditions in the mines and the difficulties that early miners experienced.

The museum also has an area to try your hand at panning for gold. Any gold dust that you are able to obtain is yours to take home.

On weekends and holidays, traffic restrictions are in place in the Jinguashi and Jioufen area. During these times, visitors can make use of a shuttle bus service for NT$15 per person.