[Travel – Taiwan] Hunting for Gold? You can at JinGuaShi 金瓜石

{After have been in Taiwan for 2 years, it will be such a waste if I don’t share my travel journey with you. Taiwan is an island where I was born in. So it will be great to start my first blog post about something from my birth place!}

If you are feeling a bit claustrophobic in Taipei then you should just do a little getaway to Jiufen (九份), but I would definitely recommend the nearby Jinguashi (金瓜石).

I am not saying Jiufen is not a great place; it is because the place is way too crowded, especially during weekends. If you are opting for a relaxed day out, away from the pushing and shoving, then Jinguashi is definitely a great option to take.

To tell you a bit about Jinguashi, which is on the northeast coast of Taiwan, it was once a booming gold and copper mining town. But then the area took a major plunge after the mines exhausted. After decades later, Jinguashi was named a potential World Heritage site in 2002 and the area has reinvented itself as a popular tourist destination.

It was like the last-minute plan when my aunt decided to go to Jinguashi so we’ve arrived there just after lunch time. We didn’t go on the main route to Jinguashi (which passes the ever-so-busy Jiufen), but instead we went in from the other side and witnessed some of the most beautiful views in the area.

Coming from the other side of Jinguashi, our first stop was Remains of the 13 Levels (十三層遺址). The remains are actually an abandoned copper smelting refinery during the booming time of Jiufen and Jinguashi. Wasn’t sure if the vicinity opens to the public for viewing so we just continued driving our way up to our next stop.

Our second stop, we pulled over by the Gold Waterfall (黃金瀑布). Thanks to the perfect weather on the day, the grass and bushes is vividly green and the sky is just bluest I’ve ever seen in Taiwan. The water running though has a yellow hue due to the copper and iron deposits it picks up as it passes through old mines. The hues of the Gold Waterfall, the sky and the greens, the contrast of these colours is just pure spectacular!

After the waterfall, my aunt seen to be a bit lost of where the Gold Ecological Park (黃金博物園區) is. So after some turns and misses, we managed to find a parking lot just above the Cyuanji Temple, and from there we can actually see the park snuggled nicely up in the valley right across the temple, and there is even a pathway heading to the back of park. The Cyuanji Temple was built in 1896 and is has the world’s largest statue of Guan Gong (關公), one of the Chinese deities.

After a brisk 10 minutes walk to the Gold Ecological Park . I immediately see stunning outline of the park, which preserves some of the area’s Japanese era buildings, old-mining heritage and natural surroundings of the area.

Just as I entered the park, I’ve noticed the park closes at 6pm, which means I have less than 3 hours to do everything! I decided not to buy a ticket to go into the Benshan Fifth Tunnel (本山五坑) for a hand-on mining experience and the museum. Instead, I walked around the park and enjoyed the magnificent views and check out the old Japanese buildings.

Another thing I’ve noticed is the translation aids around the site. Quite tourist-friendly!

My first visit in the park is to view and touch the 220kg gold brick, the world’s largest gold ingot, on display at The Gold Building (黃金館). This is probably the main attraction of this exhibition space. Besides that, it exhibits some history of the local mines and the cultural importance of gold.

Another memorable part of the park is the hike to the remains of the old Shinto temple. It is quite a hike up so if you are not fit enough, I think you might need to reconsider. Quite a few people I passed by stopped halfway and headed back down to the park. But it is worthwhile, not only you see the remains of the temple, but the view from up there was just way too awesome.

You can also spot the Teapot Mountain (茶壺山) on the hill right across the park. See the resemblance?

Built during the Japanese colonial period in 1922, the Crown Prince Chalet is one of the area’s several Japanese-style buildings. This was built to welcome a visit by the Japanese crown prince, even though the prince never actually stays there. Sad part is that we weren’t allowed into the house, I think mainly because of their way to preserve the building.

After walking further toward the entrance of the park, you will see some souvenirs shops, eateries and even a police station! The Gold Refining Building (煉金樓) and the Environment Education Center (環境館) is also nearby.

I went to the Residence of Mike Kikujirou (三毛菊次郎宅) just before 5pm and the guide is about to close and busy calling the last group to tour this house.

Unlike the Crown Price Chalet, visitors can actually go inside and tour the interior of the restored building once used by Japanese mine technicians and their families. The Residence of Mike Kikujirou (三毛菊次郎宅) is the bureau director’s house used by the second but last director of the Jinguashi Mining Bureau in the Japanese era. The four Japanese residences have been demolished and then rebuilt to the original forms. From the tatami mats to the eight-tracker player, the house is furnished to reflect different periods from the time of the original Japanese occupants to when Taiwanese lived there in the 1970s.

And finally the main entrance of Gold Ecological Park! So weird as if I just entered someone’s house from the back and came out from the front. 😛

Just one or two things you need to remember if you are coming to Jinguashi (金瓜石): be prepared to do a lot of walking, so girls, don’t wear your fancy dresses and shoes (still don’t know why girls love to wear heels to go out….but anyway). And do come early! I was quite surprised that I managed to most of the major sightseeing in the park, but obviously I would like to take my time and enjoy surrounding nature and the rest of its historical value.

Transport wise, it is really convenient to get your way to Jinguashi via public transport, the most ideal would be taking a train from Taipei Main Station to Keelung (基隆), you can even use EasyCard (悠遊卡) to pay for the train ticket! From Keelung train station, there is a bus stop (to Jinguashi/Jiufen) just opposite the station’s entrance

Gold Ecological Park 黃金博物園區

Add: 8 Jinguang Rd., Jinguashi, Ruifang District, New Taipei City (新北市瑞芳區金瓜石金光路8號)

Website: www.gep.ntpc.gov.tw/

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