When you come to Taipei, there are two main places everyone talks about going for a day trip. So, of course, we went to both of them.
Elaine and I left the hostel a little before 9 to begin our trek. Our first stop was Shifen, an old mining town located northeast of Taipei. To get there, we first hopped on the metro, then took a train out to Ruifang. We had some time before the next train to Shifen, so we took advantage of our mini “layover” to explore the town. I got to try a black pepper pork bun, which was delicious, along with some more bubble tea:
From there, we transferred to another train that dropped us off quite literally in the heart of Shifen old town (excuse the bad picture, the railings got very crowded when the trains came in).
We got off the train and walked around the old town. One of the most common activities is to write your wishes on a lantern and then send it off into the sky. They have festivals where they send hundreds up at the same time, but while we were there they were sent up more periodically.
We set off for our next destination – the Shifen waterfall. To get there, you could driver take a scooter, or walk. We chose the old fashioned route, and set off through the forest. We passed a ton of greenery on our way, and crossed over bridges and through open areas.
After 15-20 minutes arrived at the waterfall. It looked like a mini-Niagara falls, and it was beautiful. We found a path that was surprisingly empty, and took advantage of the clear scenery to get some pictures of the waterfall (and ourselves).
We took our time wandering back, stopping at a little swing and enjoying the scenery. We made our way back through the old town and stopped to get some food from a little restaurant by the train station while we waited for the next one to come.
We also tried another Taiwanese “delicacy” – this is a crepe-like pancake, wrapped around ice cream, peanut, and parsley. We saw these all over the place, and finally decided we had to try it.
We traveled back to Ruifang, and from there grabbed a bus to Jioufen.
Jioufen is another mining town, and it’s best known for being the town Spirited Away is based on. I was super excited to visit here, and especially wanted to see the lanterns come on at night.
Elaine and I walked through the old town market, which was a huge passageway limed with shops selling food, candy, and souvenirs. The souvenirs were also more unique – there were handmade items, beyond what you could get at the typical gift shop.
We walked all the way through the market and emerged on the other side. We kept walking and ended up in the residential area with a view of the markets edge and the houses built into the hill. We could also see a temple and the ocean off in the distance.
Eventually, we made our way back to the market where we stopped for food.
By the time we walked back towards the bus stop, the lanterns were all lit! Oddly enough, many of the stands were also closed. We hadn’t expected this, but luckily had done the majority of our shopping on the way in.
It was a full day, but a great one. Both places were super accessible on public transportation, which was awesome. It was easy to see why they’re extremely popular day trips.