Taiwan, located in East Asia, is one of the most densely populated countries in the world that is rich in history, culture, steep mountains and lush greenery. While its capital city – Taipei is a lively place with lots to entertain - at times you just feel like retreating to the suburbs for a tranquil kind of experience. Accessible by a 1-hour train ride from Taipei to the scenic town of Ruifang in New Taipei City, you will be amazed how easy and convenient you can escape the bustling city. Using Ruifang as a base for your suburb trip, treat yourself to a sensory feast from Ruifang to Pingxi exploring the two charming quaint old towns!
See the nostalgic Ruifang Station
From Taipei Main Station, take any northbound train (except Keelung-bound trains) to Ruifang Station. Upon arrival, you will be welcomed by a charming old station that has existed for almost a century. It seems like time has freeze here, as the station interior appears similar to how it looked like several decades ago. Outside the station, traditional Chinese-style and Japanese-style tea houses line the old streets, evoking a unique appeal that the nostalgic buff in you will be looking forward to explore.
Soak in the lovely coastal scenery views along Jishan Street at Jiufen
Done exploring the Ruifang Old Street near Ruifang Station? Ride on the Keelung Transit bus to Jiufen to catch this stunning view of the Pacific Ocean! It is an economical 15-minute bus ride from the bus stop next to Wellcome Supermarket across the railway station, which only costs 15 TWD (0.46 USD) on weekends and public holidays and 21 TWD (0.65 USD) on weekdays.
Jiufen is a small town in Ruifang County that used to be a prosperous gold-mining village until the 1950s when mining was discontinued. Many buildings in the town remain untouched to date, and this is exactly what makes the old town attractive to tourists eager to soak and immerse in the unique atmosphere and natural beauty from the past.
Taste the numerous delicacies only available in Jiufen
You may have heard that Taiwan is well-known for its variety of delectable local street food. Needless to say, at Jiufen Old Street, you can look forward to tasting the exclusive selection of local delights as well. Besides the most famous Grandma Lai’s Yuyuan that serves chewy taro balls, you will also be able to try delicacies such as the traditional fishballs at Chang’s, handmade glutinous rice cakes at Ah Lan Hakka Glutinous Rice Cake, and many more. It should take you more than an hour to sink your teeth into all the delicious snacks in this old town of Japanese-influence, not just because Jiufen is always crowded with visitors, but largely due to the fact that there is just too much good food you can find in its narrow alleys!
Smell the aromatic Chinese tea at the traditional teahouses
Jiufen is also filled with over twenty retro-looking Chinese and Japanese style teahouses. As you manoeuvre your way through the narrow cobblestone alleys and lanes, you will be awakened by the fragrant brew of authentic Chinese tea coming from these traditional teahouses. Instead of just smelling the aromatic tea, step into one of these teahouses to soak in the prevalent tea culture of the quaint town. Feel relaxed with the entire experience of appreciating tea in such nostalgic ambience. Who knows, it may even convert you to become a tea lover, if you aren’t already one.
Hear the thunderous tumbling of water at Shifen Waterfall
Transfer to the Pingxi Line (a One-Day Pass costs 52 TWD or 1.60 USD per adult) at Ruifang Station to visit the historical town of Pingxi. Do not miss a visit to Taiwan’s Niagara Falls – Shifen Waterfalls - upon alighting at Shifen Station. Listen to the water torrents tumbling down thunderously from the steep cliff into the deep pool beneath at the largest waterfall in Taiwan. In order to maintain the natural beauty of the 20-metre waterfall, visitors need to pay a small admission fee of 80 TWD (2.50 USD) to enter the park. You can enjoy a cup of tea at the café here, while breathing in fresh air and listening to the thundering sounds of the breathtaking waterfall.
Touch and fly a sky lantern written with your wishes
Setting a sky lantern into the sky with your wishes written on it is like a ritual for every visitor to Pingxi. In fact, since the first Sky Lantern Festival was held in 1999, the tradition has continued annually on the 15th day of the lunar month. The sky lantern can be purchased at Shifen Old Street to write your wishes on before setting it into the sky. If you wish for good luck in all aspects of your life – career, money, love and health, get the most popular sky lantern package at a reasonable 150 TWD (4.60 USD).
To hold and fly your handwritten sky lantern up the sky is a fun-filled activity along the railway tracks at Shifen Old Street. As this is a working railway track, you have to be alert and stop whatever you are doing if a train is coming along your way. Sounds exciting isn’t it?
More to discover in Ruifang and Pingxi for a memorable trip
The above are just a few of the top attractions in the cultural towns of Ruifang and Pingxi that will stimulate your senses for an enjoyable and relaxing time. Both towns definitely have more to offer, waiting for you to discover them on your own. If you have more time, you may consider staying over at one of the friendly guest houses in the area for an authentic experience that you will remember for a long time. Enjoy the sensory feast!
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