Going out to Shifen was one of my favourite days in Taiwan. Okay, actually all my days in Taiwan were my favourite – but I recommend adding this destination into your trip itinerary for a day. It is accessible as a day trip from Taipei. It is the prefect spot if you are a fan of lanterns and waterfalls! So how exactly do you get there and what is it about?
To start, take the train from Taipei main station to Ruifang . From here you can transfer to the Pingxi Branch Line (this requires another ticket). This ticket has the different stops along the line written on it- but since it’s in Chinese characters this will be of no help to you.
Instead, keep your eyes peeled for signs at each train stop and ask people around you for help.
I would recommend doing what I did and take the train all the way out to Pingxi station. You will notice that a lot of people get off before at Shifen station. Shifen is popular because there is a waterfall here and you can release lanterns into the sky.
We were about to get off at Shifen since we heard you could buy lanterns here- and this was our whole reason for our day trip. But we ended up staying on the train to Pingxi – and boy am I glad that we did! It took longer to get to Pingxi but it was totally worth it.
At Pingxi you can also buy a lantern. The lanterns sold for about 100 NTW- so cheap! Then you get to write four wishes on your lantern. Once you finish thinking of all your hopes and dreams, world peace, and how to end world hunger – you’ll be taken onto the train tracks to light your lantern.
This moment is why I recommend coming to Pingxi. Shifen’s packed with tourists and so there are lots of people and noise as you release your lantern. In Pingxi there was no one else on the tracks as I released my lantern.
I was on the train tracks of a small old town with lush greenery all around me. The woman lit my lantern for me and together we released it into the open sky. In that moment I felt exhilarated. It was so strange. I know that it was just a some paper floating up into the air but for me it meant something more.
Later, my friend who also released a lantern said that she felt the same sensation. It felt like a load was released off of our shoulders and into the universe. The feeling wouldn’t be as special if you were at Shifen, surrounded by hoards of tourists.
After we released our lanterns we still had a bit of time before the train back to Shifen left (take a picture of the schedule as you get off the train since the trains are not frequent) . We took this time to wander around this little town. I bought some tiny lantern souvenirs here that have wishes written on them in Chinese. They can make a sweet gift for someone and they are very light to carry and inexpensive.
The little town was cute and didn’t take too long to explore.
After, we headed back to the train station and caught the train going back towards Shifen. This time we did get off at Shifen.
We couldn’t believe how busy it was here. Vendors lined the train station selling food, drinks and souvenirs. The train tracks were packed with people letting off lanterns and taking pictures. As we stepped off of the train to the right, we bustled our way through the packs of tourists. As we got out of the crowd we headed towards the waterfall.
It was a bit of a walk to the park that holds the waterfall. Once you enter the park the way down was quite steep. Going down wasn’t an issue it’s more of a worry coming back because if it is a hot day your shirt will be drenched in sweat.
When we approached the waterfall we were lucky that there were not a lot of people around. I have read that I lot of people love this waterfall but the hoards of tourists ruined it for them. Perhaps we beat everyone to the waterfall since we didn’t stop for lanterns as when we got off the train.
I have heard of these falls being nicknamed “The Taiwanese Niagara Falls.” Umm….what? This is a terrible nickname as these falls don’t even come close. Don’t go expecting this or you will be let down. I think that the falls were quite small when I was there though, so maybe it will come a little closer to Niagara falls during typhoon season. Nevertheless it was still beautiful to see and I enjoyed the walk there.
If time permits you can head back towards the train station and explore Shifen or wander across the charismatic bridge.
This proved to be a long day for us and we were pretty tired after Shifen and we decided to head back to Taipei. If you have the energy you can add more to your day trip. To do this head back to Ruifang station and then from there take a bus to Jiufen.
Jiufen is an old town built up on the side of a mountain that is famous for it’s streets decorated with lanterns. As well, it’s a great destination for trying street food and buying souvenirs. The ideal time to visit is for the sunset since you have a beautiful view from up top. As well, the city looks much cooler once the sun is down because all the lanterns and shops light up the night.
If you don’t want to head back to Taipei you can book a place to stay in Jiufen. This may make for a more relaxing trip.