Our second day in Taipei was actually spent OUTSIDE of Taipei city as we left the modern trappings behind us to embrace nature and a rustic environment. The towns of Shifen (十分) and Pingxi (平溪) were our destinations for that day, and we left our hotel bright and early to make our way to Taipei Main Station.

After arriving at Taipei Main Station, we walked over to the TRA side of the station to buy tickets to Shifen. There were sufficient signs within the station to direct passengers to the TRA side, and we found our way there pretty easily. 

Simply tell the person behind the counter that you're heading to Shifen (十分) and he/she will issue you with train tickets. I can't remember how much the ticket cost, but it wasn't very expensive. 

After getting your ticket, head to the platform and wait for the train to Ruifang (瑞芳), as that is where you will need to get off and transfer to another train.

At Ruifang (瑞芳) station, you will need to walk to another platform and wait for the train that runs on the Pingxi Branch Line (平溪線).You can also buy the Pingxi Line 1-day pass here (~54TWD, or S$2.40), which allows for unlimited rides along the branch line. The train plying that route is a much smaller train, and can get quite packed, especially if its the school holidays, as many locals also take the train out to the countryside to enjoy nature. The entire journey from Taipei city to Ruifang (瑞芳) took us about an hour.

We were greeted by clear blue skies and a cool breeze as we got off the local train at Shifen Station.

Just look at the pretty sky!

There were a number of food stalls near the station, so do grab a bite if you're hungry! We were really hungry after the long train ride, and polished off our food before taking any pictures of them. We walked past souvenir shops selling cute little lantern keychains and phone straps, and bought a few back as gifts.

What's pretty cool about Shifen is that the train tracks running through the small town are still in use! Whenever the train chugs down the tracks, all the tourists setting off kong ming lanterns have to scurry aside to make way for the metal beast. 

Naturally, we made sure that there were no oncoming trains before we took this picture!

There were many shops offering kong ming lanterns for sale, and the lanterns were all priced similarly, so we randomly picked a shop. The price for a single-colored lantern was 150TWD (S$6.50) and a multi-colored lantern costs 200TWD (S$8.75). Local custom states that if you write your wishes on the lantern and release it successfully, your wishes would come true. Well, we don't believe in that, but hey, when in Rome, do as the Romans do eh? 

Watching our lantern soaring high into the sky was rather therapeutic. 

After releasing our lantern, we started walking toward the waterfall. It takes about 20-30min of walking to reach the waterfall from Shifen station. If you're feeling tired, there is always the option of renting a motorcycle/scooter from the rental shops in town.

To enter the waterfall area you need to purchase tickets, which cost 100TWD (S$4.40) per person. Take your time and relax there, you've earned it after that long walk! 

After lazing around the waterfall area for a while, we began the walk back to Shifen station, taking another route this time round. We followed the train tracks till the bridge, and spent some time there to take more photos, before continuing back to Shifen station.

We caught a free tourist bus as we were walking back to Shifen (十分), which was very lucky as it was an extremely hot day. It was purely by chance as we hadn't known beforehand that there was a free shuttle between Shifen (十分) and Pingxi (平溪). The bus driver was super nice as he slowed down and asked us if we were heading to Shifen (十分) or Pingxi (平溪). We initially thought that it was a scam but we saw tourists inside the bus as well as the advertisement on the outside of the bus which said 'free shuttle', so we hopped on. Thankfully, it wasn't a scam, and we alighted safely at Pingxi (平溪)! 

We walked around the quaint little town for about an hour, taking pics and buying snacks to munch on. We also bought some delicious pork sausages with fillings to fill our bellies. This stall is the most famous one there, and it was the only one with a long queue.

You don't see this every day either! The peanut ice cream was wrapped in spring roll skin, and rolled into a ball. It made for an interesting dessert, but taste-wise it was pretty ordinary (at least the one we had in pingxi was).

For those of you who didn't get to set off the kong ming lanterns at Shifen (十分), you can also do so here at Pingxi (平溪). There were many shops lining the road leading to the train station. However, I would recommend doing it at Shifen (十分), as there were many electrical cables around the Pingxi (平溪) train station area. We even saw a lantern catching fire as it got caught in the electric cables, causing sparks to fly from the cables. It's doesn't make for a good pic if your lantern catches fire barely 10s into its flight right?

We took the train back to Taipei in the evening at about 6pm, having spent a really good day out. I'd highly recommend that anyone who visits Taipei go on a day trip to Shifen (十分) and Pingxi (平溪)!

We went to the Ximending area for dinner, where we got Hot Star fried chicken (鸡扒) and other street food for dinner. The fried chicken was huge and marinated in yummy spices. It's no surprise that they always have a long queue of people outside their stall!

I also bought cong you bing (葱油饼) from a street stall. It was super oily, and yet super awesome. Do add an egg for extra awesomeness (35TWD, or S$1.50).

 

Summary of Day 2:

- Shifen (十分)

- Pingxi (平溪)

- Ximending for street food and more shopping

 

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Published by Lucas Lee