Jinguashi 金瓜石 is a historic mining town on the far side of Jiufen 九份 from Taipei 台北. Unlike Jiufen—which has become insanely popular and rather overdeveloped in recent years—Jinguashi maintains a small town charm that belies an unusual concentration of historic sights, rewarding hikes, and offbeat attractions. One great example is the funky restaurant perched on the hillside to the right of Cyuanji Temple 勸濟堂 (pinyin: Quànjìtáng), easily identified by the huge gold statue of Guān Gōng 關公 perched on the rooftop. The restaurant, as I have learned, is simply named for their signature dish: báidàiyú mǐfěntāng 白帶魚米粉湯, a kind of fish and rice noodle soup.
Last weekend I enjoyed a couple of days outside of Taipei 台北 in the northern part of Taiwan 台灣. I went there with friends, ostensibly to show them around Jinguashi 金瓜石 and Jiufen 九份, the town that famously inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, and ended up staying in Keelung 基隆 for the night on a whim. Having recently purchased a great new phone I bombarded Instagram with numerous pictures and plenty of commentary as the trip progressed. This quick and dirty post is a collection of some of my better smartphone snapshots as well as an experiment in blogging with broader brushstrokes. Perhaps you will get a sense of how I travel: spontaneously, intuitively, and with a keen eye for details.
The Ōgon Shrine 黄金神社 (also known as the Gold Temple) is an abandoned Shinto shrine in the mountains above Jinguashi 金瓜石, an old gold mining town in Ruifang 瑞芳, Taiwan 台灣. Built in 1933 by the Nippon Mining Company while Taiwan was under Japanese rule, it was mostly destroyed in the post-war era by vandals. Even so, it’s in better shape than almost every other Shinto shrine in Taiwan apart from the Taoyuan Martyrs’ Shrine 桃園忠烈祠 and Kagi Shrine 嘉義神社 in Chiayi City 嘉義市. The incoming KMT government went to great lengths to expunge the island of Japanese influences.
One of the enduring mysteries of abandoned Taiwan 台灣 is this: why do people leave so much stuff behind when they go? I understand there might not be any descendants or close friends to go through the belongings of the departed—but what about when entire families pick up and move? Sure, leave the junk behind (and there’s lots of that), but what about children’s toys, letters and diaries, old schoolwork, music, book, and movie collections, and photographs? It is almost as if entire families undergo a kind of ritual metamorphosis, pupating within their former domiciles, emerging transformed and casting away the remnants of their former lives, all the miscellaneous detritus and kipple that naturally accumulates in the course of everyday affairs.