There are many different ways of getting to these locations – you could go by bus or even rent a taxi for a day and go to all these places but we decided to go by train. We liked the train process because you get to ride on this old train which I will insert a clip of later but it’s nice.
From Taipei train station get a ticket to Ruifang. We checked online to see the schedule and decided to take an early train but when we got to the station to buy the ticket – the time slot that we wanted didn’t exist. Keep in mind that the train station schedules online aren’t always correct. We got on the 9am train and it takes 35 minutes to get to Ruifang. At the train station, it doesn’t really tell you clearly when your train comes so please look carefully at each train and where it’s going. We ALMOST missed ours even though we were sitting right in front of the trains. We got on at the last minute.
When you get to Ruifang, you need to buy a ticket that allows you to travel on this old Pingxi train for the entire day. It doesn’t cost much and is definitely worth buying because you just get on any train and get off at any station you want.
We got off at Shifen as our first stop. We wanted to go to other places like the Cat town as well but we just did not have enough time which is why spending your time wisely is important if you want to make use out of the ticket. So what is there to see at Shifen exactly? When you get off the train you will see lots of people setting off lanterns here at Shifen but this is actually not the place that is known for lanterns being set off. But if you have no time, you can do it here.
Shifen is famous for it’s waterfall. It’s actually a 20-30 minute walk from the train station so be warned.
Here’s also a PICTURE of the timetable for the trains that go to further stops along the Ruifang line.
So for the waterfall after the 20-30 minute walk to the site (just follow the signs to get there), you will see the sign for the Shifen Waterfall Park. Once you pass the sign there’s still around a 10 minute walk before you see the actual waterfall. It was actually quiet nice and there’s also bridges where you can take pictures etc.
After the waterfall head back to the train station to catch the next train. We were on a tight schedule so we tried to do everything as quickly as possible.
Our next stop was Pingxi for the lanterns and also for the peanut ice cream. Pingxi is a very picturesque place. It’s also a nice place to take pictures of the lanterns and set of lanterns with your wishes on them as well.
Our next stop was Jiufen which is famous for their beautiful sunset and nighttime views. It also inspired the movie Spirited Away. Now keep in mind Jiufen is not on the same line as Pingxi and Shifen. In fact, to get to Jiufen, you must take the train back to Ruifang then take a bus to Jiufen. When you exit Ruifang train station, you might get pretty lost because there’s a bus stop right in front of the train station and think that that’s the bus. But its actually not. Please refrain from taking that bus. It’s actually on the other side of the street, down a couple of blocks. We saw the bus coming and had to sprint after it to catch it. If you ask the anyone on the street they will tell you where it is. They were really friendly and without us even asking they were like “it’s over there!”
Once you get on the bus, the bus stop you get off at is basically the last stop or just where everybody else is getting off. You’ll be on top of the mountain and know that you will have to get off. The views here are breathtaking and I definitely see why it inspired Spirited Away. As for souvenirs, you can get some tea here and also some of these “cha guo” which were so delicious I went back to purchase them a few times after as well.
After exploring Jiufen, it will probably be night time because that’s the best time to see everything. Now you have two options to getting back to Taipei, either take the only bus that goes down to Taipei or take a different bus that goes down to Ruifang and take the train back or you can also take a taxi. We decided to take the bus back to the city but at night there are A LOT of people taking the bus so be warned. The line is long and if you don’t get on the next bus there’s a long LONG wait. So try to get down asap.
And that concludes my guide to Jiufen, Shifen and Pingxi. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do up there, but it’s nice seeing these places and getting away from the city. It’s hectic but nice. It’s like going on an adventure – almost missing the train and almost not getting on the last bus down to Taipei, just added to the excitement.