A Day in Shifen Old Station
The Shifen Old Station, originally built for transporting coal, was built right alongside the Shifen Old Street, and today stands as a reminder of Taiwan’s history.
Shifen is a small town located in Pingxi District southeast of New Taipei City. This is a good detour if your heading to the mountain town of Jiufen. Departing from Taipei City in the early afternoon, the first stop is to Shifen old street then a journey to Juifen (until night) then head back to the city. Travel time is almost an hour to reach the mountainous Shifen from the downtown Taipei area by bus.
Once you jumped out of the bus, you are part of the crowd! The one stretch of road to walk along is heavily crowded (in between the road is the old train tracks). It’s like every square inch of the sidewalk is occupied once the train and busses offload travelers. I must have spent two hours just wandering, clicking and eating street foods in the small town. I have to say, tourist trap or not, I just enjoy the experience and admire the picturesque scenery of the entire town.
Location: 226, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Pingxi District
Jing-an Suspension Bridge
This is the longest suspension bridge in the town of Pingxi. Built in 1974 by a mining company, the 128-meter long bridge connects Shifen and Nanshan Village.
Shifen Old Street
Shifen Old Street is one straight railroad lined up with souvenir shops and street foods and lots of bubble teas. The buildings are charmingly old and the main attraction or the “selling point” is the sky lantern. The unique thing about this place is people can actually walk, light up lanterns and take a photo in the train tracks. When the old school train arrives (every hour), the crowd rushes into the side.
Street foods and bubble teas are everywhere. They are lined on both sides of the railroad and I had a chance to try some of them. Here are some photos of the foods I tried.
The main idea of this is to buy a lantern, write down your wishes, light it up and let it fly in the sky. Sending prayers or wishes through a lantern is interesting and uplifting but it’s an eyesore to see fallen lanterns on trees, on the riverside, and to the mountains. Although the lanterns are made of rice paper, still it’s not nature-friendly. I talk to one store owner and he says that there is a group of local folks that are paid to collect every fallen lantern. Well, I hope it’s true. Even under gloomy and drizzly weather, you can still fly your lanterns!
Almost all the shops are selling different kinds of paper lanterns. A lantern cost roughly around NT$150-200 (colored & multi-colored) and each color represents meaning like good health (Red), Money (Yellow), Bliss (Pink), Sucess (Green), etc. The store staff will help you set it and light it up. What’s more, is that the staff will be your photographer and choreographer on how to release the lanterns. Not bad!
Sky lantern has been going around in Shifen over a hundred years ago. But it is more popular on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year to celebrate the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival. That would be so amazing to see them mass lighted at night. For the whole of Taiwan, Pingxi is the only place that is legal to fly lanterns.
Location: 226 Taiwan, New Taipei City, Pingxi District
By Train: From Taipei Main Station, take a northbound train (except Keelung-bound trains) towards Ruifang Station. Transfer to the Pingxi Line and purchase a One Day Ticket for the Pingxi Line, NT$52.