About an hour away from Taipei lies a hill station little known outside the Formosa. This area, a little to the east of the famed Jiufen, has been a mining area used by the Japanese during the Second World War. Today, however, little here remains to suggest its tumultuous past apart from the Mining Museum and scattered Japanese style houses. Most of the mines are now carpeted in lush green vegetation, and its location, hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean, are attracting local holidaymakers and artists seeking to enjoy the slow life.
Ms. Yang was a Taipeier who like many, came looking for solace years ago and fell in love with the blue skies, lush green hills and distant waters. She first started accepting guests into her own house and named it 月河民宿 Moon River Inn, a two story structure along a small flowing river. Think brick walls, fireplace, wooden windows frames decked in green, a bright red sofa and lots of drapery. There’s even a beautifully designed light court by the dining table to allow light in through the gabled roof.
真心咖啡 True Heart Café, with additional rooms in the basement, came afterwards, also retaining much of the building’s original wooden structure and decked in warm vibrant colours and fabrics. Books and CDs adorn one wall while another is decorated with postcards sent from satisfied guests from all over the world. I arrived at True Heart Cafe on Jinguashi’s old street one warm, sunny afternoon to find the entrance to the café blocked by a group of serious looking men and women. The only relaxed person there, one Ah Nuo, drenched in sweat and wearing ripped cargo shorts and a simple T-shirt, explained that they were teachers on a study tour stopping for some coffee en route to the Mining Museum. He explained that he was a friend of Ms. Yang’s, and that I should come visit his art gallery later on if I have time. I might also want to tag along with this group to the museum, and he’d be happy to be my guide.
Being from a city like Hong Kong, my alert signal naturally started wailing. He doesn’t look like someone who owns a gallery… and offering to be my guide upon our first five minutes of meeting? This doesn’t sound right. And so, being a typical city girl, I respectfully declined. That same afternoon, Ms. Yang took me to a beautiful art gallery on the foot on the Jinguashi mountains and facing the vast Pacific Ocean. One signature piece from the gallery was a wooden chime made to resemble the bells worn on the belts of miners so that they could find each other in the dark when trapped. The crafter designed this wooden chime in memory of his father. As a kid, he always remembered the joy of hearing the bells’ muted ring outside the house, because it meant that his father was coming home safe from the mines. The crafter, and owner of that beautiful space, was of course Ah Nuo.
In Taiwan, learn to open up to people. When you do so, you’ll find that you’re making friends fast, at every turn of a corner. Jinguashi happens to be an exceptionally beautiful place to practice this art.
PS: apparently Ms. Yang has acquired an additional two story building next door the café and named it Little White Palace. Perfect for a family of four!
月河民宿 Moon River Hostel
tel: +886 938-752202