It’s really easy to go to Shifen from Taipei, and actually, you even have several options to get there. You could either take the shuttle bus number 795 heading to Pingxi from Muzha Station on the Brown Line (that’s the fastest option), or either you could take a local train from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang and then take the old local train (Pingxi Line) which stops in several little towns along the way and will transport you along the Keelung River. The views from the train are breathtaking. And on each stop you have several hiking options, which is actually perfect for a day out of the city.
As for Shifen, this town in the north-east of Taipei is famous for three things: its old streets, its lantern festival and its waterfalls. The train will transport you in the very heart of the town, and you’ll see many tourists taking the advantage of the track’s position to make some original pictures. The train station is actually just besides the ‘old streets’ of Shifen, where you can stroll amongst food stalls and souvenirs shop. That’s the perfect occasion to get a little lantern key ring as a souvenir. On the right side while strolling the old streets, there’s a suspended bridge taking you across the Keelung River. That’s a definitely good spot to watch the sky lanterns flying away.
On the train tracks, there are many lanterns’ stalls. Right here on the tracks you actually can send a lantern into the sky. It’s crowded, obviously, and it’s quite something to see all of those lanterns flying away in the sky. Shifen is quite famous actually for its Lantern Festival held each year around February. You can release your own lantern any day of the year though if you want to, but be aware that sky lanterns are dangerous for many reasons. First of all, sky lanterns may cause fire -as we witnessed it while there, a sky lantern was caught into electric cables, and fell off burning on the crowd. Second of all, sky lanterns litter. As you might see it if you take a stroll along the Keelung River, there are sky lantern everywhere around which fell off and are now polluting nature. Not to mention that the little metal rod inside might be swallowed by birds or other animals. So, enjoy the show, but be aware of what those beautiful sky lanterns rising into the sky implies for nature.
If you take a nice 15 to 20 minutes walk out of Shifen, you’ll get to see the Shifen Waterfall. On the way from the visitor center to the falls, you’ll come to see a very natural landscape around the Keelung River with many suspended bridges and boardwalks. This waterfall is not very tall but very wide which makes it the broadest waterfall in Taiwan, and it looks a little bit like the Niagara Falls due to its horseshoe shape. You have many platforms around to get a nice view of the Shifen Waterfalls and the Keelung River.
If you purchased a train day-pass, it’s worth the experience to stop at some other stations like the charming town of Lingjiao in which you can spot lazy cats hanging around and some hidden waterfalls with nobody around. The place is quiet and relaxed, a welcome change from the overcrowded Shifen.
This day out of the city is perfect for those who are looking for some nice strolls or hikes into natural landscapes.
So what are you waiting for?
Let’s go to Shifen, baby!
This post and the pictures belongs to Celine