One of the day trips not to be missed when we're in Taipei. We've done this so many times, and are ready to do it many more times. :)
A day trip to this region may sound a little complicated, as it involves several transfers of public transport. However, we have done it ourselves a few times and find it manageable. Hence, the next time when you're here, why not give it a try? You may enjoy it as much as we do.
= / This is an extension from Taipei Travel Guide published on this blog. / =
SUMMARY OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT YOU NEED FOR THE TRIP
The easiest way to begin the day trip is by taking Taiwan Railways (TRA) from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang Station（瑞芳站）. To make it simple:
Go to Taipei Main Station. Follow TRA signage.
Once you are in TRA ticketing area, purchase single-journey ticket to Ruifang. Ticketing machine accepts only coins. If you have EasyCard, you may choose to use the card and skip ticket purchasing procedure. Fare ranges from NT$25-38.
Go to Platform 4 and wait for the train.
Before you board the train, double confirm that the train will stop at Ruifang Station.
Pingxi Line extends from Ruifang Railway Station. The train is infrequent, so it is advisable to take a photo of the schedule to plan your time properly. (Alternatively, use Google Maps and Taiwan Railway website). Pingxi Line One-Day Pass gives you the flexibility to hop on-and-off the train as many times as you please, at the town stations along the line. (There are 7 stations in total)
ITINERARY OF THE DAY
In the Morning (Taipei 台北- Jingtong 菁桐)
Catch the early train from Taipei Main Station and depart at 8:00AM. From Ruifang Station, take Pingxi Line to Jingtong. As soon as you exit Jingtong train station, you will be mesmerised by the nostalgic atmosphere of Jingtong Old Street. There are a number of merchants selling souvenirs and local delicacies. An interesting feature in Jingtong is the many bamboos with written prayers hung next to the railway. This becomes the most photographed feature here.
At Noon (Jingtong 菁桐 - Shifen 十分 - Houtong 侯硐)
The train is infrequent (roughly once in an hour), so plan your time carefully. Board the train again before noon and head for Shifen. Shifen Old Street is very recognisable with row of shops selling souvenirs and lantern on both sides of train track. Buy a lantern and write your prayers on the side. It will be an experience of a life time to let off the lantern to the sky from the train track. Shifen is not only about the Old Street, however, if you're interested in beauty of nature, there is Shifen Waterfall that you should visit. The waterfall is a little further from the Old Street, but still within walking distance. This waterfall is dubbed "Niagara of Taiwan" because it is magnificently inspiring.
Cat lovers must not miss out Houtong. This former coal mining village is now home to hundreds of cats. After the mining pits closed in the last century, the residents here thinned out and was only resided by few hundred people. Just as it was about to die down to silence, a cat admirer, Peggy Chien, posted photos of the village’s efforts to look after stray cats. Since then, it has attracted more people and volunteers visiting this village (and of course, more kittens too).
In the Evening (Houtong 侯硐 - Ruifang 瑞芳 - Jiufen 九份)
Before evening sets in, board the last leg of train on Pingxi Line and return to Ruifang. From there, catch Bus 1062 / 827 / 788 to Jiufen. Note that the bus station is 300m away from Ruifang Train Station (refer to the map below). The ride shall take you on narrow, winding road. The temperature goes slightly lower too. It gives the right mood that you're heading to a mountain town.
Jiufen is famous for its narrow alleyways weaving through and across the old town. There are plenty of local street-food shacks here serving unique delicacies, teahouses which offer spectacular view, and of course, souvenir shops selling local products and crafts. When the evening kicks in, lanterns are lit up, turning the area into a magical setting one will never forget.
WHAT TO EAT
It's bizarre to ask what to eat in Taiwan because you will never run out of ideas for good food. BUT we have collected some really outstanding street-food you just have to try in this area.
= / If you want to know our Taipei food recommendation, we have a list on this blog. / =
Click on the image for location in Google Maps
WHERE TO STAY
Choosing a place to stay for the convenience of this day-trip is highly recommended. These locations are recommended:
/1/ Nearby Taipei Main Station
/2/ Nearby Zhongxiao Fuxing Station
From prayers on lantern, stray cats well-loved to twisting alleyways, this region is a treasure that will capture everyone's heart in a glimpse.