Our original plan was to cover three towns, Shifen (十分), Pingxi (平溪) and Jingtong (菁桐), along the Pingxi railway line in a day. However, we got delayed with our check-in at our accommodation in Jiufen and it was already past lunch when we were ready to set off. Since the sun sets early in the winter (around 5pm), it was quite unrealistic to even attempt to cover three towns in one afternoon; not with the infrequent train schedule. After some consideration, we decided to spend the whole afternoon in just one town and Shifen was the chosen one.
There were a few reasons why we chose Shifen instead of the other two. Firstly, Shifen is the nearest station (among the three towns) to Ruifang and the shorter travelling time is definitely something we appreciate very much in a tight schedule. Secondly, sky lanterns (天燈) are also available in Shifen; although we would very much prefer to do it at Pingxi, which is the original site for sky lanterns. Thirdly, we prefer the attractions in Shifen (Shifen Waterfall and Coal Museum with coal train ride). With these “justifications”, we convinced ourselves that Shifen was the one and I am glad we made that decision.
If you are planning to visit the various towns along Pingxi line, you should considering getting the All-Day pass (about NT$54/person) which will give you unlimited rides for the day (along Pingxi line only, obviously). A single trip ticket is about NT$20 and just do your math to decide which is a better deal for you.
Since we planned to visit only one town, we bought the single trip ticket. The train ride was surprisingly very comfortable and it took only 20 minutes to reach Shifen from Ruifang. Like I mentioned earlier, the train schedule along Pingxi line is not very frequent and thus please check the timing of the next train before you leave a station.
The Pingxi district was once an important coal mining area in the 20th century and the Pingxi line was built then for the transportation of the coal. Now there isn’t much coal left in the area and the railway line has been preserved to serve tourists instead.
What makes the trip interesting is that the railway actually runs through a couple of towns. Similar to roads running between buildings in a city, the Pingxi line cuts through the heart of these towns. Do take note that there is no traffic lights or proper crossings and the only warning is the long horn when the train is approaching…
After exploring Shifen town for a few minutes, we were off to Shifen waterfall (十分瀑布), which is otherwise known as the Little Niagara of Taiwan.
Useful Information – Pingxi area:
Pingxi Railway Line:
- Ruifang -> Houtong -> Sandiaoling -> Dahua -> Shifen -> Wanggu -> Lingjiao -> Pingxi -> JingTong
Things to do at Shifen:
- 十分 Old Street
- 十分 waterfall
- 十分 Coal Mine and Mining Train