This post starts with a few 'nevers': I never knew Jiufen was Miyazaki's inspiration for Spirited Away, I have never been in a custom fake Volkswagen, I never knew inflatable ducks could be celebrities and last but not least, we never ever say no to Elbert.
Here's the thing about Elbert. If he tells you that we have to take a day to hang in Jiufen and that he has to be the one to take you, you just say yes. It's a guaranteed day of memories, laughter and questionable photos.
"Just come downstairs and look for the most subtle looking car!"
There he was. Our brother Elbert laughing giddily as he stepped out of a delicious candy apple red Volkswagen. "It's fake," he laughed some more, "my friend customized this thing from the inside out to make it look like a VW and let me borrow it for our daytrip today!"
Fake or not, it was clearly the most adorable and special car I'd ever met; all I wanted to do for some strange reason was to see it in cake or candy form and eat it. After some more gawking, squealing and picture-taking, we were finally off winding through roads and hills up into the mountains of Jiufen. This area draws a lot of tourists internationally but locally from Taipei, too.
Once a gold mining town, tunnels and stairs glide your feet throughout this mountain village to melodious cafes, teahouses and eats; if you've watched Miyazaki's Spirited Away, it's incredibly easy to see why this town was hard for the beloved director and animator to forget.
As one often does when in Taiwan, we were eating all day; when the sun started to set Elbert assured us the real eating was just about to begin. Our first round of dinner involved free range chicken baked in a fiery clay oven. Then it was up to your hands to shred it into pieces, armored in gloves they provided.
Dinner Part 2? The Keelung night market. This was, by far, my favorite night market in all of Taiwan. With an emphasis on seafood, lined stalls and some serious flavors, I for sure can't wait to come back to this one on a much emptier stomach. Oh and Keelung's pineapple cake? Solid thumbs up.
Our night ended face to face with Taiwan's biggest celebrity. That duck bobbing (and at times exploding) on the waters of Keelung was in the news literally every single day. It was pretty dang cute. Not gonna lie.
It was difficult to do this day justice by photos (clay baked chicken and riotous laughter included); I'll have to post a video from our Jiufen day trip soon.
Thank you Elbert for our last, most fun and unforgettable day in Taiwan. As for them questionable Ray+Elbert photos? Well, let's just say that I stopped questioning the two of you long ago. We love you and miss you!