Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Visiting Old Streets of Jingtong, Pingxi, Shifen, and Jiufen

We spent a day station hopping the Pingxi Line.

From Taipei Main Station, we took the train to Ruifang Station, then transferred to the Pingxi Line. There are eight stations along the Pingxi Line and while rolling along the tracks, we'd decide where to alight, then we'd change our mind. In the end, we decided we'd get off at the end of the line: Jingtong Station. Most of the passengers got off at Shifen Station, and by the time we reached Jingtong Station, there were probably just a dozen of us.

Jingtong Station

Surrounding Jingtong Station were shops selling souvenirs and snacks. But only a few shops were open. It was a very quiet place with only a few tourists. Maybe because it was raining, or maybe because it was too early.

Jingtong Old Street

The old street spilled out on the highway, where on the right we saw a lantern-shaped police station.

Lantern-shaped police station

Jingtong Old Street is just around 200 meters long. There wasn't much else to do except to check out the tracks (once the train had left), the old building across the tracks, and the dozens of wishes written on bamboo hanging along the fence.

We could have waited for the train to come back, but I persuaded my friends to walk to the next station: Pingxi Station. It was only a 20-minute walk along the road that ran parallel to the tracks. There were a few houses here and there, and lots of vegetation in between. In short, there really wasn't much to see.

In terms of buildings, there were way more in Pingxi than in Jingtong. And yes, more shops. And a few more tourists. My friends saw a shop selling lanterns and they decided they'd buy and fly one. (This is an activity popular in Shifen, so if you'd like to fly one, best to do it Pingxi where there are fewer tourists.) Tightwad that I am, I volunteered to be their photographer.

Spot the cat

Train tracks running through Pingxi

Write your wish on a lantern and let it fly

We did not get to explore the little alleys of Pingxi because soon the train rolled along. We didn't want to miss it and wait for the next one. Our next stop, Shifen Station, was too far to walk from Pingxi.

Shifen, too, had souvenir shops, and food stalls. Plus restaurants, cafes. And it was crowded. Very, very crowded. After the less-crowded visits to Jingtong and Pingxi, we were overwhelmed by the number of tourists here and had to escape by ducking inside a coffee shop.

Shifen, a popular place to fly lanterns is also known for its waterfall. Shifen Waterfall was just nearby. By nearby, I meant a 20-minute walk. But I guess my friends have had enough of 20-minute walks for the day: they wanted to take a taxi (100 NTD per taxi, 4 passengers).

From where the taxi dropped us off, it was only about a 10-minute walk over bridges and along an established concrete path to the waterfall. Because it was raining (and had been raining the past few days), Shifen Waterfall was gushing a gazillions gallons per second. The spray was too much at the viewing deck which caused us to scurry away after a few quick clicks of our cameras.

Shifen Waterfall

Guanpu Suspension Bridge

We made our way back to where the taxi dropped us off. Our watch warned us we only had a few minutes until the next train. (The plan was take the train to Ruifang Station, then from Ruifang, take the bus to Jiufen.) But, there was no taxi in sight. By the time we found a taxi, the train had already left, and we decided to just pay the taxi to take us straight to Jiufen (1000 NTD per taxi, 4 passengers).

The taxi driver dropped us off at a little square with large letters spelling Jiufen and he pointed to a set of stairs as a way of telling us to go and climb it. The stairs led to an area alight with lanterns (it was almost dusk) and teeming with people. Jiufen is another popular tourist destination and it, too, had many tourists.


We left a gaggle of raincoat-wearing tourists on the square and followed another crowd up the stairs where we passed by some shops. The stairs led to Jishan Street, a street full of souvenir shops, craft shops, tea shops, food stalls, etc. A familiar sight—my sister and I had been in this area of Jiufen in 2014.

The rest of the evening was spent popping in and out of shops, looking at bits and bobs, until we got tired and hungry. We looked for a random restaurant to have our dinner before heading to the bus stop to take Bus 1062 back to Taipei City (fare is 101 NTD).

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Taipei 2019
Taipei Accommodation: Haozhan Hotel
Taoyuan Airport MRT
Taipei Nature Trip: Yangmingshan National Park and Yehliu Geopark
Visiting Old Streets of Jingtong, Pingxi, Shifen, and Jiufen (you're here!)

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