Shifen 十分

Shifen is famous for the old streets, lantern and the 20-metre high waterfall. It is located in the Pingxi area (平溪).  Shifen Old Street refers to a collection of lanes and alleys around the railway station area.  The town was originally built for transporting coal during the Japanese era.  
Shifen railway station is an opened one.   People can cross the rails freely.  I have the feeling of going back to the very old time.  I remember, even in the eighties, it was forbidden to cross the railways in Hong Kong.  But Shifen still freezes in the past. it brings folks of tourists and they filled up the tiny station.

A lot of people from Asia travelled there with one sole aim: flying Chinese lantern marked full with good wishes. From time to time, friends upload photos of flying the lanterns.  We went there for the waterfall.   Once we stepped out the area of the railway stations, crowds of people were flying the lanterns.  Along the way to the waterfall, we saw lanterns falling in the mid of the air or lying on the ground to become rubbish.
The walk to the waterfall took about half an hour.  The way is dotted with a few nice buildings and beautiful nature. 

Soon we were in the area for the waterfall.  It is connected with red wooden pavement.  Walking is comfortable.  As the majority of the tourists were flying lanterns, we enjoyed the waterfall in a leisure way.  We saw a small rainbow at the bottom of the waterfall.  Not sure if it is always there.

We spent only very short time in the old streets as we had to rush for the train (very infrequent) to the town at the end of the station, Jingtong 菁桐, which is famous as a coal town.  The white building at the railway station is often seen at travel sites.

It began to rain and we still aimed for reaching and enjoying Jiufen in the afternoon.  Therefore we did not stay at Jingtong but hop on the train back to Ruifang and from there took a bus to Jiufen.
Ah, way to Shifen.   We took a train from Taipei in the morning.  The journey lasted about 40 minutes.  But the journey length depends on the kinds of train.  Then we purchased a Pingxi Line train ticket for NT52, each of us.  Here is a link for travel information.  Hope you will enjoy the places.


Jiufen 九份

We went back from Shifen to Ruifang and to go further to Jiufen. Get out of the station, cross the big street and turn left to walk perhaps 200 metre, you will reach a bus station with buses running to Jiufen.

When we arrived at Jiufen, it was cloudy and began to rain. Darkness covered the surrounding mountains and sea. It's like a spell over the earth. We went into the main street. Crowds were a characteristic of this small hill town. It was like that many years ago and remain so, even not on public holiday.

To get shelter against the rain and refill energy, we had snacks and drinks on the main streets, just like all tourists. We first passed by 魚丸伯仔 which has been standing for over 60 years.  Two out of the three renowned dishes (豆干包, 魚丸湯,乾冬粉) were on our table.  Yummy!

Weather remained bad. We sat down again for a drink and sweet. Then the wandering began and the sun came out. When we reached almost the edge of the main street, more modern tea houses showed up and so were shops with character.

Nice scenes and landscapes were seen the further we were from the main street and its intricate alleys. Stunning views of the Pacific Ocean were gorgeous.  We kept on pressing the shutter.


We enjoyed this little hill town with the rain and sun. Decades ago it became from a barren place to popular due to the mining development.  It was called Jiufen because at the beginning there were only 9 families. When one went shopping, one would buy 9 portions of stuff and shared with all families.  But this helping culture and close neighbourhood vanished with the arrival of the mining fever. Nowadays, though the mining industry is gone, the old houses and architecture remain.  It draws tourists from different parts of Taiwan and the world.  We returned to the alleys, tasted some snacks, experienced the unique atmosphere and it's time to leave.  We went back to the bus station where we got off.  Go up the street a bit to wait for a bus direct back to Taipei.  

The bus journey took less than an hour to arrive at Songshan. From there we visited the night market at Raohe Street,  The famous beef buns were really tasty.  Long queue but worthwhile. The buns were baked like tandoori. Piping hot and we could not wait it to be cool.

At the end of the day, we went back to Xinyi where a big store eslite stands. I got a book about Yilan. And have another look of the Xinyi district and Taipei 101 in the night.


Beitou 北投

One of Taiwan's attractions is certainly its hot springs (onsen). Three hot spring areas near Taipei are Beitou, Wulai and Yangmingshan.  It was my friends' first visit to Taiwan.  I think we should enjoy hot spring at least once. We opt for Beitou as it is easy to reach from Taipei.

Beitou is a city of hot spring and history. It  had once one of the largest hot spring spas under Japanese rule. The area was initially army nursing homes, and then opened as Beitou Park in 1911. The park's current size is 1/3 of the former size, is still a lovely wooded space, filled with old stone bridges and heritage buildings. Hot spring stream runs through the centre.

We travelled from Alishan to Taipei Railway Station, switched to Beitou and then Xinbeitou MRT station. Taipei station was full of people.  Once we were in the MRT to Beitou we could enjoy the ride in the less crowded train compartment. Passengers heading to Xinbeitou need to change at Beitou station. The train to Xinbeitou was very colourful and so as the doors. The MRT station also has special decorations to show its outstanding characteristic: spa, hot spring.  A group of carton children is enjoying the fun of spa.

I sent email to request for hotel (Double One) pick up but was not able to get into touch. We took taxi to reach the hotel and were told that we've got an upgrade to the most expensive room.  Very nice! We were driven to Marshal Zen Garden for our afternoon tea. Only guests dining there, enjoying spa are admitted to the garden.  Easiest is to take the afternoon tea set.  Sumptuous! 

On the way back we passed by Beitou Museum.  It is a wooden Japanese-styled house dedicating to cultural exhibitions and performances.
Our room was comfortable, luxurious, with a big pool of hot spring and even a sauna room.  It's amazing!  The hotel services were outstanding, best of best ever.   Breakfast was fantastic.  They offered to transport our luggage to the MRT station after we have finished the sightseeing.  Just make a call and they would deliver.

The next morning we were ready for our sight visit.  We began with the Hot Spring Valley / Thermal Valley 地熱谷. It was humid and had a strong smell of sulphur.  Blue water with rising steam in the nature.  We enjoyed it  It recalled my walks in Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland and Kuirau Park in Rotorua.  Yes, they are of much bigger scale and stunning.

Our next visiting point was Plum Garden 梅庭.  It was the home of a former famed calligrapher and political leader Yu you-ren 于右任.  The house was built in 1930's and opened to the public in 2010. It is a fine example of traditional Japanese wood framed architecture.  The many exhibits of the calligrapher, elegant wooden architecture and airy house gave a tranquil feeling. But we needed to move on......

Another highlight of the city is the Hot Spring Museum.  It was once the biggest public bath house in East Asia but abandoned after the World War II. It was restored in 1998 and opened to the public as a museum.

A floor is dedicated to the baths. After the soothing bath, visitors can proceed to the upper floor, sit at the tatami lobby to take a rest, enjoy a cup of tea or a meal or walk to the balcony to view the beautiful scenery around.

A large part of the museum is dedicated to its history. Local stones and materials are presented. Photos of the past are showcased to aid visitors creating an impression of the old look and the gradual evolution.

You would not have missed out the library in the area. The wooden architecture is fitted with eco-friendly features and settings to make it as one of the most energy-efficient and environmentally friend building in East Asia.

Last but not least is the Ketagalan Cultural Centre.  It features indigenous people, culture and art. On a dedicated floor it shows the costumes, social structures, traditions of the Taiwanese aboriginal people. The colourful clothing reflect the fine weaving techniques in the old days.  The more colourful clothing, the more cheerful tribe is, my opinion.

Various cultural and historical artefacts are shown to give a glimpse of the development.  They are beautiful. Already in the old days people were very concerned on decorating them nicely and enjoying life with fine utensils and gorgeous art.

It is much to see in Beitou. But the key sightseeing points are clustered close together.  Hope the map below will help you orient yourself and facilitate your planning. Enjoy!