23-26 October 2013, Taiwan, Taipei
Taipei, Shifen 十分
This day we decided to visit Shifen 十分 and Jiufen 九分, famed for its nature and rustic country side. The way to get there can be really confusing. It is possible to visit both places within one day though I’d prefer to stay a night in Jiufen so I could spend a full day in each place. We took the MRT to Taipei Main Station, transfer to the railway station which is within the compound. We didn’t manage to get train tickets in advance, the railway service staff told us we could just use our YouYou card to board the railway train to Ruifang Railway Station. We ended up standing in the train for about an hour (might be two, I couldn’t recall).
Δ From Ruifang Railway Station, Shifen was about 25 mins railway train ride away. We exited Ruifang Railway Station, bought the one day train ticket for Pingxi Line 平溪縣 for NT$52 (平溪線一日周遊卷) and quickly rushed to take the next train. Good thing both lines are located within the same station. Timing was of essence, cos if we missed one train, we might end up waiting for another hour before the next train arrives.
Trains depart from Ruifang daily at the following times: 04:39, 05:27, 06:43, 07:24, 08:46, 09:30, 10:22, 11:16, 12:13, 13:15, 14:15, 15:10, 16:09, 17:08, 18:26, 19:06, 21:09, 22:27
It seemed that the train brought us back on a journey a generation before mine, this place was a totally different world from the city landscape I was too familiar of.
Δ Loving the countryside. I wondered how many welcomes and farewells this train station had seen.
Δ It was a Friday and crowded with locals and tourists.
Δ One of the best Taiwanese sausages I have ever had – wild boar sausages. Don’t think I could find it in Singapore.
Δ Shifen used to have ten families living in the town (ten portions), hence its name. Shifen Old Street 十分老街 was the most famous stop along Pingxi Branch Rail Line. The 13km rail line was originally built in 1918 to transport coal and was re-purposed as a toursm route in 1992. All the shops sell either sky lanterns or souvenirs or food.
Δ This section was really quiet and mainly for residence though I saw some shops selling souvenirs, ornaments, and even a minsu 民宿 a.k.a. local hostel.
Δ We decided to walk to the big waterfall 十分大瀑布, it took us about 45 mins by foot. Along the way, we passed by some beautiful rivers and forests, and were totally immensed in the beauty of this countryside.
Δ We paid NT$100 per pax to enter the waterfall area. It wasn’t very crowded. The view was indeed spectacular. It wasn’t very tall but the water fell very powerfully. This waterfall was also named by some as the little Niagara.
Δ Even thou we were in the countryside with no obvious road signs except for an occasional signboard, we somehow knew the way back to Shifen train station.
Δ Back to Shifen old street, we found a cute shop selling old toys. The old owner was chatty but insisted that we buy a local soft drink in order to take pictures in his shop. It was not expensive though. In his shop, there was a life size Ronald MacDonald’s statue which he insisted no photography allowed. We spent about 30 minutes in this entertaining shop talking to the owner and taking pictures.
Δ Even Gangnam style Psy was immortalised here.
Δ Ah … one of those controversial posters by United Colors of Benetton.
Δ Many times, people thought Steven and I were a couple, to which I quickly denied, loudly and firmly. Then Steven said, you should just say ‘I am not so lucky to have him as my bf.’ I was kinda baffled.
Δ Every winter in Pingxi, the locals release about 1000 lanterns into the sky during the lantern festival. We found a couple of shops selling mini lanterns as ornaments and sky lanterns shops that allowed tourists to release lanterns. It was highly commercialised but for the experience of it, I thought it was one of the must-do things in Shifen. I chose one and used a Chinese calligraphy brush to write my wishes on the lanterns.
Δ This was what I wrote: 心想事成. 美夢成真. 十分幸福. 天天快樂. (May my wishes all come true, be happy everyday) Steven wrote: 告別單身. 我愛台妹. 事事順利. 身體健康. (Goodbye to singlehood. I love Taiwanese girls. May all things go well and good health)
Δ This was what everyone did. Stand in the middle of the railway track, someone will light the fire in the lantern …
Δ And it went right up into the sky.
It was about 3pm and time to move on. We took the railway train back to Ruifang Railway Station, then took a bus to Jiufen 九分, which was another 2o mins away.
Δ Jiufen is another countryside along the Pingxi line but a different feel.
Δ Jiufen by the night. This place was charming.
Δ I was already quite full by the time we reached this place but the dessert caught my attention.
Δ I wasn’t a fan of all Taiwanese cuisine, but this bean curb, yam balls and sweet potato balls in sweet ginger broth was truly amazing.
Δ More and more choices as we went deeper into this market place.
Δ Could never resist honey cake. It wasn’t too sweet, just the way I loved it.
Δ I didn’t try this but this block of date pastry with nuts looked amazing.
Δ I was really full to the point of bloating. But still I couldn’t resist the Taiwanese sausages. This time, black boar meat (left) and squid (right) sausages. They were absolutely delicious. The lady boss was too spontaneous for photography.
Δ The famous Jiufen red wine meat balls 九分紅糟肉圓.
Δ But they tasted kinda weird.
Δ There were tonnes of Japanese tourists by about 8pm and the market place was about to close. Buses were hard to catch as we wanted to take a bus that will take us right back to Taipei city.
Δ Safe waiting zone in MRT stations to make sure women don’t get assaulted when traveling alone at night.
Δ Something cute I found in convenience store – happy little pig bun 開心小豬包.
Δ The Ding Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 restaurant in Taipei always had a long queue. We had dinner there one day and it was pretty good, although I think the ones in Singapore are as good.
Δ I saw dogs of all species everywhere in Taiwan. Taiwanese really love dogs, especially cute dogs.
Δ Xi Men Ding 西門町. Just like Seoul’s MyeongDong, Hongkong’s Granville Road.
Δ The legendary Ah Chung flour-rice noodles 阿宗麵線. Honestly didn’t think it was that fantastic.
Δ By the side, there was a Japanese camera crew. The host introduced the noodles with so much passion, it was easy to believe the noodles was really really good, just like what I always see on TV programmes.
Δ Tainan 台南 food for breakfast: Tainan noodles 台南擔仔面，Tainan steamed cake 台南碗粿，minced meat rice 肉燥飯，shrimp meat balls 蝦仁肉丸 all for NT$185.