Adventures in Jiufen 九份

Jiufen is the famous, magical little town known for being Miyazaki’s inspiration for ‘Spirited Away.’ Being in this town, even in a torrential down-pour, couldn’t sadden the most-deflated of hearts. It’s such a happy, quirky little place. As the bus crawled up the country cliffs, and Jiufen came into view, I was awestruck. It’s quite literally perched on the edge of a cliff, and it winds down and almost juts out of the side. There was one giant mountain covered in mystical mist that I would have loved to climb if it hasn’t been so rainy. What a glorious, whimsical place…

You can’t go to Jiufen and NOT have tea. It’s essential.

 These faces were stuck onto the wall of the primary school.

Taro ice-cream and shaved peanuts= Jiufen burrito…why have we never put ice-cream inside a tortilla wrap before? Delicious!!

Having a little snack break at one of the many Taro houses.

Look at these alleys, winding and cobbled and cute.

I absolutely loved this sign above a little craft store.

Double happiness!!

I felt like I’d just stepped straight into Spirited Away…look at that ocean…

Alternatively, I could be in a Murakami story…

 Oh, hazy waves and misty days, hello!

Our tea menu- quirky!

Can’t get enough of the lantern love!

A time-less town.

Now, if only I could ride back to Taipei on this guy…In a Murakami novel I totally could…

Do yourself a favour and come to Taiwan and go to Jiufen. It’ll honestly lighten your heart and you’ll feel so free roaming those winding streets. And I’ll come with you!

A little Scottish/Chinese mash-up!

How the people of one small Scots fishing village launched their own record label and became a global phenomenon.  - The Guardian

 

Yesterday, while browsing my old-beloved echinacities.com, I came across an article that said the Scottish record label- The Fence Collective, were bringing some of their bands to China for a tour! How exciting! I love it when local bands near where I live in Scotland can reach to a bigger audience, and China’s certainly bigger!! If you’re in Shanghai, they’re playing on Tuesday 16th! Please go and enjoy for me! I love King Creosote! They’re touring along the Silk Road trade route and are going to be mingling with local musicians from China, resulting in some awesome collab-work! My two special countries coming together, yay! They have been given the chance to go to China and play music, with the help of UK Now, a big festival of British arts and creative industries held in China. I hope they can come to Taiwan next!!

This is one of my favourite King Creosote songs!

Magical Maokong 貓空

I did not know that a mere 20minutes from my apartment I could chase butterflies, hike for hours on roads with no crowds, dance in the rice fields, and breathe fresh, oh-so-fresh air. And to get here I could take a cheap cable car ride for 15minutes, known as the Maokong Gondola. Beautiful. There are 3 stops on the cable car journey, and we took it all the way to the last station, where we wandered for a couple of hours around the most stunning green rolling fields and honestly, really were chasing butterflies the size of bats! They were ridiculously huge! The view of Taipei city from the Maokong is also gorgeous. Seeing the majestic Taipei 101 sticking out of the city, all proud and tall, and standing above it all, just looking down, it’s quite something. And people live up there! Oh, how I’d love to live up there too! My heart is so happy out there in the countryside, in the mountains…

貓空-literally translates as cat empty. I have no idea…haha!

It used to be the biggest tea growing area of Taipei, and now there are still tons of tea houses scattered along the curvy mountain paths. So, if you like tea, you’ll also love this place!

Tea, butterflies and green mountains. Sold!

Oh! And the leaves are heart-shaped!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimmy Liao 機米

A few years ago I came across a cute postcard book of a couple and their chance-encounter resulting in love at first sight. I had no idea that it was illustrated by such a famous Taiwanese picture book writer. A few weeks ago I happened to stumble upon an exhibition of his at HuaShan Cultural and Creative Park, here in Taiwan. His name is Jimmy Liao or 機米, and he is unbelievably talented. As soon as I saw the images from my postcard book, I immediately bought the actual book- A Chance of Sunshine, which was voted one of the ten most influential books and was actually made into a movie- Turn left, Turn right. It’s the story of two neighbours who never meet because one always turns left and one always turns right, but then one day they have a fateful encounter in the park and share a magical day. But typical of fate, they lose touch because the rain ruins their hand-written notes which they exchanged, containing the ever-important telephone numbers. Will they meet again? Or are they destined to have only ever shared one unforgettable day together? Read it to find out!

This is the book in video form:

It’s a really sweet story, and although his pictures are illustrated in a cute way, he’s aiming to reach an adult reading-audience. He has a very witty and philosophical approach towards the dream world, and I feel like if I do decide to start taking my writing of children’s stories seriously, he’s going to have a big influence on me.

He was diagnosed with Leukemia, and that was when he started really focusing on his whimsical ideas and putting them into practice in his stories. As he started to mend, his ideas became more hopeful, and gave birth to the famous books that he has created and had published today.

I’m using his books as a way of ‘practicing’ my Chinese reading skills, and I’m pretty sure they have been translated into many languages so I truly recommend picking up one of his stories and letting your mind follow his characters into the lovely world that he has created. He allows other urbanites to really connect with the feelings of being alienated and stressed out in a bit city, and emphasises that you are not alone, and that it’s not all destined to be doom and gloom. Just focus on the small things in life, those uplifting moments that really capture those magical times. Live a simple life, that’s what Jimmy does!

Here are a few of my favourite images from his books:

The inspiring man himself!