Hey guys! So we were previously in the scenic gold-mining mountain town, Jiufen, the setting that inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away anime. We took it one step further the next day and headed to… Shifen.
Ok sorry bad pun haha. You know I’m terrible at these things. Jiufen in Chinese literally means ‘nine portions/points’ and Shifen is +1, or ‘ten portions/points’. Unlike Jiufen, though, Shifen was a coal mining town, characterised by train tracks running through its Old Streets. Trains still run through, although now they carry passengers instead of coal.
Public transport from Taipei takes approximately two hours. If possible, I suggest going on a weekday to avoid the crowds, because trains will be super packed. My parents are elderly, so what I did was rush in, book a spot, and then gesture for them to squeeze over the sea of people so they could sit. My mum finally appreciated all my previous efforts (she usually only complains): “You organise things well.”
If I had planned the itinerary, knowing my parents can’t walk around too much, I’d usually arrange for private transport to take them everywhere. I’d rather pay for the extra expenses because it’s difficult to ask a couple nearing 60 to stand in the train for two hours, when they aren’t very strong/healthy to begin with. But since this trip was organised by my cousin, we had no say in where/how to get to places.
See, mum, now you know :P
Switching trains at a station.
We finally arrived at Shifen Station. Look at the crowd!
Nearby is the Shifen Old Streets; quaint little shophouses selling souvenirs and food. They’re gimmicky but charming all the same.
As I said earlier, the track runs straight through the center of town. When there are no trains, visitors can simply walk onto them or cross over to the other side. There are people at the side who will blow a whistle whenever a train passes (usually every half hour or so) so visitors can make way.
Shifen is also known to be a place where you can release Kongming (Sky) Lanterns, owing to its rural location (no air traffic around!). There were many South Korean and Japanese tourists milling about, writing their wishes with large calligraphy brushes before releasing the lanterns into the air.
Our group got one too. I think I’m not supposed to spoil the wish by telling you about it; let’s see if it comes true. :P
An obese doggo. It looked more pig than dog; probably has too much to eat from kind strangers.
Bamboo strips with well wishes written over them, hanging prettily from a string.
Next, we trekked about 20minutes uphill to the Shifen Waterfall; the broadest waterfall in Taiwan. The walk isn’t too tough, but me being unfit, was a little winded by the time we got to the bridge.
Crossing the bridge over part of the Keelung River.
Calm and tranquil Keelung River. The water was a beautiful jade-green colour, lined with lush vegetation on both sides.
The river abruptly comes to drop – the line is so clean it looks like it was carved by something – cascading about 20ms below. It measures 40m across.
More obese doggos at the local shop. This was rather unfriendly though; growled at me when I got close.
Geese by the river. Apparently geese make great guard dogs. At least, according to anyone who has ever been pecked by a goose.
Another miming. The cats here are rather slim; it’s just the doggos that look like pigs.
Walked back to Old Streets and the station, where we waited for a train that would take us back to Taipei.
FB-cover photo? :)
From Taipei Main Station, take the train to Ruifang station (an hour). Alight at Ruifang, head on to the opposite platform and take another train to Shifen (30minutes).