Getting Lost in Jiufen (Part Two): The Places Between

We walk back and forth through the market trying to find the road my phone claims is there.

"Maybe it's this one? Lets try it?"

We make our way up the steep stairs. A the top there's an intersection, the way straight ahead is up more stairs and then gated off, to the right is back down towards the ocean and to the left the road winds through houses built into the hillside.

"Well, none of these are the right thing, but if we go left, I think we can get back on track"

The road winds straight up and tightly around and suddenly we find ourselves at the same height as another brightly colored and adorned temple roof, fog swallowed mountains rising in the background.

Temple Roof in Jiufen, Taiwain

"I think we turn here, I thought it would be a bigger road?"

We turn off the car friendly road we were on to the more pedestrian friendly foot path that seems to be winding through people's back yards. Except for the occasional construction worker, nobody else seems to be over here. I check my phone about five times, since in Korea it's walking directions to the subway station nearest my house seem to involve flying down the hill over houses, but the blue line is, in fact, traveling along paths on the map, not through buildings, so we continue. After a few more narrow staircases and winding paths, we find ourselves back on a proper road, walking past a group of dogs playing by themselves in a basketball court and pink ancestral shrines popping out of the hillside.

The road meets up with the larger highway we came in on.

"Great, now I think we just follow this around the park" I say and head off in completely the wrong direction.

"Oh no, maybe it was that tiny turn off back there?"

We turn around and head down a cement path surrounded by lush, overgrown trees. Quickly the cement changes to dirt and soon the scene opens wide on the green hills surrounding us.

"Did anyone actually say this was a good walking trip or did you just decided to do it?"

"The book didn't give directions and my phone said walking and the bus would take the same time so..." I shrug, "Adventure?".

Now instead of walking through people's backyards, we're going down through more shrines, surrounded again by the twisted, sub-tropical trees. Everything is misty and slick and I'm happy with my decision to wear a hoodie and trail running shoes for our beach day. Our dirt path continues down and after a few convergences and turns, widens into a dirt road, turning left but directly in front of us is a mud pit and a steep overgrown scraggly path heading down to a real road. Dan continues to the left.

"Uh oh, wait"

"It's across the mud pit?

"It's across the mud pit"

I pick my way carefully across on a few broken bits and pieces of wood, somehow managing to keep myself mud free and proceed with caution down our new slippery path. We cut across the main road, back into narrow sidewalks that once again seem to just be the paths to people's homes, and then a switchback and across the main road again back onto a narrow dirt path.

"How long is this supposed to take?"

"About 45 minutes"

"That's how long we've been walking!"

"Well, we go lost a few times?"

We're once again going through residences but here the path is overgrown and many of the houses looking broken down and abandoned except for one large one from which a dog is barking at us. We scurry through this part of the path, meeting up with the road again. A path across from us leads straight up the hill into the forest. It looks like we'd have to scramble up it and there's no way we're doing that without ending up covered in mud. Thankfully, we don't have to, we get to follow the road for a while. There's not much room to walk on the side, but there's not much traffic either. A black dog goes running past us, on a mission through a seemingly unnecessary tunnel over the road. We follow but quickly lose sight of him and soon turn off the road ourselves.

Ahead and above us I can see some sort of windmills and I'm fairly certain that means we have our destinations in sight. Back onto cement paths through houses demolished by typhoons, some under construction and some overtaken by nature.

Around and through and finally! Stairs straight up to the road and those promising windmills. We get up to the road and try to cross to the signpost right as a huge group of school children is being rushed across. We make it through and around the corner, at last at our destination.

"Hello, Ni Hao, Konichiwa" a woman repeats matter of factly as she hands each group of visitors a map with the language of their choice.

We take ours and proceed in...

Gold Museum, Jiufen, Taiwan