That Time I Got Lost in the Mountains of Taiwan

Exactly two years today, I booked a day trip to explore the mountains of Taiwan – the popular cities of Jiufen and Shifen. People flock to these cities for luscious mountain views, stunning shots of the sea and cultural significance to anime films. Although these cities weren’t originally on my list of places to visit, it was recommended to me often enough that I thought I would give it a shot.

I made my way to the bus meet-up spot in downtown Taipei and before I knew it we were off! The drive up to the first city, Shifen, took around 2 hours and it was blissful. Our pit stop in Shifen was short and full of exploring and soon enough we were back on the road to Jiufen. More details about my time in these small cities and Taipei have been shared.

The trip didn’t really take a turn for the worse until the tail end of my visit in Jiufen. We had around 3 hours to explore the town but I was completely unprepared for the volume of crowds in the town. I also didn’t anticipate how long it would take me to walk through the markets. By the time I needed to start heading back to my bus depot, which was a short drive away by another local bus, I found myself bumbling down steep alley stairs.

Once I made it to the base of the mountain, I had around 30 mins to spare. I took a sigh of relief because my bus depot was only a 5 minute drive away. After a few minutes standing at the bus stop, I noticed that each passing bus that I thought was going to stop, was FULL of people who had boarded higher up on the mountain. I started to panic and wondered if I wouldn’t be able to get on a bus back to the depot. My bus driver was serious about the meet up time and I highly doubted he would head back in the direction of this heavily trafficked town just for lil ole me.

As my hopelessness grew, a bus pulled up and without a glance, I hopped on it. I figured since it looked like the local bus I took from the depot, that this bus would take me back to it. Sure enough as I settled into my seat and the bus pulled away from the curb, my heart rate lowered and I breathed freely knowing I’d be back on my bus in no time.

My split second of relief soon turned into full-fledged fear as the bus approached the depot and passed the depot in an instant. There was no stopping and just like that I freaked out! “What bus am I on? OMG! WHERE AM I GOING?” I didn’t speak the native language and I appeared to be the only American on a bus full of Asain tourists.

I hopped off the bus as soon as possible and the first thing I did was call my mother and freak out (don’t judge me!). After our call, I took in my surroundings. “Hmm…that main train station, surrounded by tourists looks like it could possibly take me back to the main city,” I thought. That’s when things started to click! Like..that little bubble tea shop looked familiar to the one we passed on the way into Jiufen…. So does that fruit stand! Then I considered, “WAIT! If we took this road going up the mountain, maybe the bus will take the same route coming back down? Then maybe I can wave them down!”

Then, I searched for the best spot to stand that would give me the best viewing advantage from the bottom of this tiny hill. I waited and waited and waited and grew nervous as the time we were supposed to meet back at the bus came and went. I wondered if they would bother to look for me or wait a little longer or if someone noticed me waiting for a bus to take me back to the depot so they could tell my story. By this point I kept my eyes glued to the road for any “Klook” sign. Small cars and delivery vans passed but there was no sign of my bus. I was giving up hope, but I stood resolute because I did actually spot a small van with a tiny Klook sign stuck between the windshield and dashboard coming down the road. Could it be mine? I frantically waved my arms and ran into the middle of the street as it drove toward me.

Jiufen Night Market

My suspicions were confirmed as the Klook bus swooped right up to me simultaneously opening its doors as I jumped onto the small bus welcomed in with a light applause! The bus driver was looking out for me just like I was looking out for him and with a little common sense and quick thinking, I was able to enjoy the journey back to Taipei without any issues.

I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays and if you’re traveling, I hope your travels are safe and you’re making amazing memories!

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