Pingxi Old Street has the second largest old street in Pingxi district, and is full of delicious food, souvenirs, and opportunities to light off sky lanterns. From Pingxi station you can walk down to the historic streets in the small town, and take selfies with the train tracks and bridges that cross the two rivers passing through the town. It is definitely a must see stop along the Pingxi Railway.
Pingxi station was completed in 1929 to transport coal out of the area. Currently it has an average of 844 passengers per day.
Pingxi is the third busiest stop on the Pingxi Railway after Shifen and Jingtong.
Pingxi is also a popular spot for setting off Sky Lanterns. The practice of lighting off sky lanterns in Taiwan began in Shifen, when during the Qing Dynasty local villagers would flee into the mountains during raids from bandits. Once the bandits had left, the remaining villagers sent sky lanterns into the air to let the fleeing villagers know that it was safe to come down from the mountains.
The people of Pingxi send off sky lanterns as a symbol of peace, and celebrate every year during Lantern Festival (元宵節), a Chinese holiday.
Setting off sky lanterns as a tourist attraction began in the 1990's and you can find people lighting off lanterns every day from Pingxi.
You can also enjoy the mining hamlet feel of the town, which has characteristic sloping streets and bridges, that all have views of the passing trains.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA to Ruifang Station, and then switch to the Pingxi Railway line. Get off at Pingxi Station, and then walk west down the tracks and you have arrived!
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 east toward Pinglin, then get off the main highway once you reach Shifen. Then turn right and go west on county road 106 until you reach the Pingxi Village. After that, you can park your scooter on the street, or if you have a car there is a parking lot nearby that charges 100 NT per stay.
Please see below:
Shifen Old Street is the largest and busiest old street on the Pingxi Railway line, famous for setting off lanterns into the sky, and for visiting the famous Shifen Waterfall nearby. Here one can enjoy delicious food, beautiful scenery, and learn about the mining history of the area. The sky lanterns have become a major environmental issue, but because of the allure to tourists the practice doesn't seem like it will end soon.
The town of Shifen, which was originally named for the ten families that lived there in the Qing Dynasty, who needed ten portions of goods (Shi 十 = ten Fen 分/份 = portion).
Shifen Train station was completed in1918 and is the biggest train station on the Pingxi Railway line. During its heyday, it had the largest coal mining operation and largest population in Pingxi District of New Taipei.
After the coal industry died down in the 1970s, tourism has taken its place as the major industry in the area.
The practice of lighting off sky lanterns in Taiwan began in Shifen, when during the Qing Dynasty local villagers would flee into the mountains during raids from bandits. Once the bandits had left, the remaining villagers sent sky lanterns into the air to let the fleeing villagers know that it was safe to come down from the mountains.
The people of Shifen send off sky lanterns as a symbol of peace, and celebrate every year during Lantern Festival (元宵節), a Chinese holiday.
Setting off sky lanterns as a tourist attraction began in the 1990's and you can find people lighting off lanterns every day from Shifen.
Because of the hundreds of sky lanterns set off every day, this creates an environmental problem with lantern trash piling around the forests and mountains of Pingxi District. The local people and volunteers help to clean up, but because of the tourism allure associated with lighting off the sky lanterns, it seems that this practice is not going away anytime soon.
Winter ( October to May): 9 AM -4:30 PM (last people admitted, park open till 5:00 PM)
Summer (June to September) 9 AM -5:30 PM (last people admitted, park open till 6:00 PM)
When to go:
Lantern Festival! (February to March)
If you go during weekends or holidays, it can get really crowded on the Pingxi Railway, especially if you plan on taking the train. You may not be able to even fit on the train, so go on weekdays to avoid the crowds.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA to Ruifang Station, and then switch to the Pingxi Railway line. Get off at Shifen Station, and you have arrived at Shifen Old Street!
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 east toward Pinglin, then get off the main highway once you reach Shifen. The Old Street is to the right of the main bridge across the valley. Parking is plentiful but you may have to walk a ways to get to the old street.
Please see below:
Jiufen is an old mountain village in Ruifang District of New Taipei City, and has perhaps the best old street in all of Taiwan, with authentic Taiwanese food, sloping steps, traditional Chinese architecture, and great views of Su Ao and Keelung Harbors. There are also multiple historical sights within the town. The entire village is built on a mountain slope, so that you can enjoy views of Taiwan's north coast from basically anywhere in the city.
Jiufen gets its name from the original nine families who settled in the village during the Qing dynasty, who asked for nine portions of shipments every time they arrived (九Jiu=nine 份Fen=portion). The discovery of gold in the area created a gold rush in the town that lasted until the last Japense Era. When gold mining ended in 1971, the town began to decay. After A City of Sadness was filmed there, the town began to see a tourist boom. Also the town began to see many visitors especially from Japan after 2001 due to the resemblance of the town in Spirited Away, even though Miyazaki has said that Jiufen was not inspiration for the movie.
Around 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM
How to get There:
By Train: Take TRA to Ruifang Station, then transfer to Keelung Bus which goes directly to Jiufen every few minutes (about a 15 minute ride from Ruifang).
By Bus: Buses directly to Jiufen leave from Taipei Main Station and Songshan Station regularly.
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 to Ruifang and then travel on highway 102 all the way up to Jiufen. Parking is scarce and some of the most expensive in Taiwan. Expect at least 250 NT per day for a car and 50 NT per day for a scooter.
Please see below:
Ruifang Old Street is a long old street extending out of Ruifang Train Station. Ruifang Station sits on the terminus to the Pingxi Railway, and provides direct bus service to Jiufen and Jinguashi, making it a must stop (literally) destination for tourists travelling to nearby tourist destinations.
The food on Ruifang Old Street is plentiful and delicious, and you will not regret a brief pit stop here.
During the Qing Dynasty (before there was a railroad), the Keelung River was the main means of transport from Ruifang to Taipei and the rest of Taiwan. Later, gold and copper mines were founded in Ruifang and the surrounding areas of Jiufen and Jinguashi, and the railroad was finished in 1924 during the Japanese occupation, connecting Taipei to Eastern Taiwan. A Railway line was also made into Pingxi to connect to more mining operations.
Markets and stalls on Ruifang Old Street probably started with the completion of Ruifang Train Station on the Yilan line in 1924.
All day until about 9 PM, but some stalls will be open later than that.
How to get there:
By Train: Take TRA to Ruifang Station.
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 5 out of Taipei, then turn right onto Provincial Highway 2 after Qidu (七堵）until you reach Ruifang.
Please see below:
Tainan Anping Fort (aka Fort Zeelandia) is an ancient fort in Tainan City that dates back to the Dutch rule of Taiwan. The fort sits right next to Anping Old street, making it a great place to understand Taiwan's culture and at the same time get some of the best snacking at the culinary capital of Taiwan.
After the Dutch defeat in Penghu in 1624, they turned their sights instead to the island of Taiwan (Formosa) and began building on what were then sandbars in what is now Anping, Tainan (the inland sea that once existed here has long silted in).
Fort Zeelandia was completed in 1634 after 10 years of construction, built on the high ground of one of the sand bars, along with other forts in the area, such as Fort Zeeburg. It included a one story outer fort armed with cannons. There was also a three story inner fort for administration, including a church and jail. The bricks for the building were shipped in from Java.
The Dutch ruled most of Taiwan until 1661 when they were defeated by Ming Loyalists lead by Koxinga. Koxinga sieged fort Zeelandia, for nine months, killing 1,600 of the Dutch people there before they surrendered due to lack of water. The victory at Zeelandia proved to be the end of 38 years of Dutch rule in Taiwan, the survivors fleeing to Batavia.
After Taiwan was taken over by the Qing Dynasty in the late 1600s, Tainan became the provincial capital of Taiwan. Fort Zeelandia fell into disrepair as the bay silted in. The bricks on the outer wall were harvested for the Eternal Golden Castle fort closer to the ocean.
During the Japanese occupation, the fort was repaired and renamed Anping Fort.
In 1975 the fort was further repaired and the tower improved to what currently stands.
Anping Fort: 50 NT per person
Anping Old Street: Free
Anping Fort: Every day 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM.
Anping Old Street: Every day 7 AM to 6:30 PM.
How to get there:
By Car/Scooter: From central Tainan go west on Minsheng Road until it becomes Anping Road. After that keep going until you see the tower.
By Bus: Take Tainan Bus 2 from Tainan Train Station to Anping Old Fort station. The ride takes about an hour.
Map: Please see below:
Full Moon Waterfall (Manyue Waterfall) lies in Sanxia's Manyueyuan National Forest Recreation Area in New Taipei. It's a beautiful waterfall and an easy family hike.
I actually recommend not going until the new tourist information center and Virgin Waterfall are opened up. That's right, Virgin Waterfall, the biggest waterfall in the park, is not even accessible, but you can still see Manyueyuan Waterfall for a discounted price.
To get there, the only way is by taking your own vehicle or taxi. According to the recreation area website, there are no buses to get there. See a map of the waterfall below:
Before we get into hiking just let me tell you about the parking situation here. If you go on a weekend, especially on a long holiday weekend, parking is going to be competitive. There is some free parking near the entrance to the trail, if you buy some vegetables. So what happens if you don't buy some veggies before your hike? You get yelled at by the kid next to the sign and by the people selling them. We were afraid that people would scratch our car while we gone out of spite, but we also didn't want to haul a bunch of potatoes up a mountain.
There is an entrance fee, which is normally 100 NT per person. However, because Virgin Waterfall was closed on this day, the fee was only 50 NT per person. Yipee!
View of the trail entrance as we began our way up. There's even a map in English!
This day in January was rather chilly and windy (you can tell how far behind we are on posts for this blog).
From the get-go, there were signs that this nature trail had little nature. Besides the smelly bathrooms, the trail was a paved asphalt path, and you can see the river below has a rock wall.
Oh, the rock wall reduces the impact of the stream water?! Really!
The sign says" Piled stones are used to reinforce the riverbed. The arch principle and watertight construction methods are used to reduce the impact form the water in areas where the waterway curves even large stone pile-ups may not be able to withstand the long-term erosion of the water. In these locations, adding a spur dike can achieve the goal of protecting the shores."
Let's protect nature against getting destroyed by nature by building walls all over nature!
There are large stones in the river due to erosion!
This is probably the prettiest part of the trail, even though it is completely man made. A nice stop for selfies from everyone walking by.
Further up the trail, we find a pavilion that has truly become one with nature.
Here is the tourist information center that is still under construction. It will probably be a cool place once its finished, so come back in few months or a year and check it out.
My perfectly balanced photo of the park ranger lodge.
Is this the Full Moon Waterfall? Nope, its a man made waterfall that you can barely see through the bushes. Keep walking.
If you are sick of nature halfway through the hike, you're in luck because there is a restaurant right at the halfway mark so satisfy your hunger for man-made consumables.
You can also learn about nature from these cool flippy signs.
Soon you'll be able to memorize the Latin name for almost every plant in the forest!
A glimpse of the river below before the waterfall.
Just before the waterfall, there is a trail to the left that leads to a pavilion overlooking the waterfall.
It's a beautiful view! On the day we went there seemed to be quite a lot of people, so we couldn't sit and stare for very long.
Below the waterfall is a bridge from which you can see the lower part of the waterfall.
So you can't see much here and there are a few branches in the way, but that's what nature is all about.
Closeup of Full Moon Waterfall. There happened to be a full moon that night! It was destiny that we visited this magical waterfall.
The whole hike took less than two hours, and was really easy and flat. You could bring young children here and hike to the end with no problem.
After our hike down, we bought a bag of sweet potatoes for only 45NT and headed down the mountain. The traffic was quite bad going down the mountain to Sanxia Old Street.
It took a while to find parking, but we eventually found a spot under the elementary school nearby. That night we ate some sausages, ice cream, stinky tofu, and we bought some Ox Horn Bread for our relatives because apparently that is the delicacy of Sanxia.
Sanxia Old Street is beautiful and one of the best Old Streets in greater Taipei. Be sure to follow our Instagram!
Thanks for sharing this obscure family friendly hike in Taiwan with us, and be sure to follow and like so you can see our next adventures!
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.