Taiwan’s infamous red lantern city of Jiufen is just a rickety, slightly sickly, one-hour bus ride out of Taipei City. There’s a fare bit of hype around the lanterns. Yes, very narrow streets are particularly cute when sheltered by glowing red paper lamps. But it’s hardly enough to make the God awful trek worthwhile.
What’s seriously under hyped is Jiufen’s incredible, breathtaking, lots-of-positive-adjectives view. It’s so incredible it’s a touch scary. In the same way you might be scared at the top of the stairs to heaven; overwhelmed by the craziness of earth from such an angle. From Jiufen, you can see down towards Taipei city and then beyond Taiwan’s mainland to its surrounding islands, grasping true perspective of how hilly the place is. There’s an intricately detailed Chinese temple sitting on the side of Jiufen that appears to be marveling down at the view as much as the tourists are, and it glows something spectacular at sunset.