Jiufen is located on the east side of Taipei and Shifen resides farther than Jiufen, around 30 mins more going South. It was recommended by travelers to stay in one area for a day but instead, we made a day trip to both places to maximize our time in Taiwan.
How to get to Shifen from Taipei
Our first leg was to Shifen. We went there first because it's the farthest and Shifen has more attractions. The commute is a little complicating if you look all over the internet but I'll show you the easy guide via train. Note that we did NOT do any pre-orderings nor ticket reservations on the TRA website. All these are done DIY and on the spot. As far as I recall you cannot use your EasyCard on TRA train lines as it can only be used within Taipei.
Oh, and the website has tons of instructions which made us feel discouraged to book online so what the heck, let's just do it on the spot! YOLO mode! (Website UX needs to be improved and simplified IMHO especially for foreigners who just wants to book at ease)
First Leg: Taipei Main Station
You'll need to go to Taipei Main Station, the central station where you could access dozens of options for the commute. I assume you are within the Taipei area so you can get there by riding either the Red (Tamsui–Xinyi) line or Blue (Bannan) line then alight on Taipei Main Station. Inside the station, you'll go to the floor where you could buy tickets for the TRA (Taiwan Railways Administration) train lines. As far as I recall, it's on the second level.
Look for this signpost on the second floor
Look for the counter where you could buy TRA tickets. It's located on the east of that floor so you can't miss it. Now for the confusing part, which train to ride and what station to alight?
For sure you will be riding a TRA-line train but which train in particular? In general, there are lots of lines that could lead you there and the internet kinda makes it confusing. In fact, there are more than 10 lines to choose from and honestly, we were so confused about all those options which lead us to be clueless. The schedules are written in Chinese so it became even harder. Let me tell you how we did it.
Second Leg: Ruifang Station
The station you need to get to is Ruifang Station. We rode a train via Pingxi line. Take note of these words! This is the bridging station from either Shifen or Jiufen. Since we were clueless, what we did was upon reaching the counter, I told the guy "Ruifang Station". He said that the next train is on 40 minutes and he pointed out that we need to board on platform 4. I'm not sure which train line was it but for me, it didn't matter. That made things easy for us and the staff was accommodating. The ticket price from Taipei to Ruifang is NTD80. It's just like buying food. No sweat!
Compared to other travelers who want a well-planned itinerary (with advanced booking), this method is good for travelers who are unsure of what to do. Trains come and go. I don't think you'll run out of trains. Just be sure to check the schedules on the screens!
TRA ticket from Taipei to Ruifang
I then figured out that trains come and go every 40 mins. Since we bought a chance ticket, there's no guarantee for seats and possibly standing throughout the 35-minute trip. If you want sure seats, book online but it's more expensive. Curious about what we did? Here's a clip from my vlog. Let me show the next steps we did:
10 mins before our schedule, we're now heading up
Waiting for the train. More and more people pile up as the minute passes
Riding the train. Fortunately, a majority of the people went off at the 3rd station so our chance ticket was worth it! It was a weekday morning so I assume they are going to work.
Outside view of our train
Arrival at Ruifang Station - Bridging to Shifen Station
We finally made it at Ruifang station! Our next objective is to ride the train from Ruifang to Shifen. In order to transfer, you need to go to Platform 3 and buy the ticket to Shifen upon exit.
This is the arrival platform. Go downstairs to platform 3 as displayed on the black signboard
After traversing the underpass, this is what you'll see. Head straight to exit the platform
Since we bought chance tickets, we need to give it to the counter. Unlike easy cards, they're not tappable nor taken by the machine upon exit. Again, EasyCards are not welcomed on TRA lines. We just bought the ticket at the counter (as you can see me holding it) then you can see the schedules of the train. The ticket costs NTD60 but NTD40 for kids, persons with disabilities, and senior citizens. This ticket is good for a day (it's called a day pass by the way) so you could use it on your trip going back.
Our train comes in 20 mins so we stayed in Ruifang for a while and ate some street food. As you can see on the left, there's a path with railings. That's the entrance to Ruifang station.
Exploring a bit on the place
Fast-forward 8 mins before the schedule, we proceeded to the platform.
Up and ready with the ticket following the designated schedule
Waiting in the platform. The platform on the right was where we alighted earlier.
Standing in line. The text looks drunk though
Finally on the train. Fortunately, everyone had a chance to sit
The Wonders of Shifen
At last, we're at Shifen after approximately 2 hours! It's 10:00 AM upon our arrival and we have until the afternoon to go around the place.
Shifen Station. No, that's not where we alighted. That's the platform where you'll depart later
The train you'll ride later. That was used by the Japanese back then to transfer minerals in the area
On the right was where we alighted. Now off to the main area!
Shifen is an area known for sky lanterns and its iconic waterfall. It's not big as we've seen in pictures as it's just one straight area full of shops. I'm not sure why people recommended staying here on one whole day but we managed to go through everything within 4 hours. The waterfall is a little far from this area.
Shifen with lots of tourists. You can see a person painting her lantern
Shifen facing the train station. Lots of shops indeed! On the part where I'm standing are shops that sell lanterns
I was getting hungry so I ought to buy food. This caught my attention. It costs NTD50.
What the Fried Chicken with Baked Cheese actually looks like. Not bad I guess
After eating, we explored more on the place and canvassed some potential souvenirs. We planned to fly our lantern after we visit the waterfall so might as well save the best for last!
Going to Shifen Waterfall
There are 2 options to go there: 1.) take the cab 2.) walk. The cab AFAIK costs NTD100 so we instead, walked our way through despite the scourging heat. If you'd go for the walk with the hot weather, I suggest bringing water and an umbrella. You'll only encounter one shady area then no more moving forward 'till you get to the waterfall. Also, there will be a small hike in the waterfall so make sure to recharge with water. The walk overall is around 20 minutes so prepare yourself!
This is the first thing you'll see upon exiting the old street. The cabs are waiting in case you change your mind. Once you go beyond that bridge, there are no more public transportations so you'll have to walk moving forward.
One of the perks of walking. Seeing the marvelous view!
As you go further, you'll pass by 2 bridges. Can you feel the heat now?
The first bridge
Walking view of the bridge
View upon crossing the first bridge. That house over there is the only shady area. No more shady areas after so prepare for your umbrella!
The pathway proceeding to the second bridge. Okay maybe the tree here serves as a shade but I doubt you'll stay there long.
The view of the second bridge. Just a few more minutes 'till we're spared from the heat!
Upon going down the bridge, you'll see a simulation of the place from the past. This used to be a mining area during the Japanese colonization. You'll also see the wires on top that supports the bridge.
At last, we finally made it! There are plenty of tourists in the area and this isn't the best view of the waterfall so you'll need to hike further to get the perfect shot.
More stairs for the front-line
There we go, picture-perfect!
There are shops in the area and prices are slightly more expensive than the old street. They sell the same foods and souvenirs so we didn't buy any. Though if you're really hungry, might as well eat. We rested for a while then roamed around the area. After, we walked back to the old street. Time to endure the heat again.
By the way, you can buy drinks in the area so think twice if you need more juice.
Shifen waterfall open from 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM. It was fortunate that we went here first than Jiufen as it closes early. Yes, 4:30 PM is early for me.
Back in Shiufen Old Street - Flying our lanterns and visiting the Jingan bridge
Finally back in the old street. Those cool bamboo sticks on the side sound great when blown by the winds
Wrote our wishes then posed before the flight. Since we're 4, we wrote our wishes individually on each side. A lantern costs NTD180 with each color corresponding to a good luck charm
For our last stop, we went to Shifen's Jingan bridge. It's just near the Shifen station.
The trip wouldn't be complete without a picture from the old street.
That concludes our Shifen trip folks! It was fun exploring their wonders. Now off to Jiufen!
Traveling from Shifen to Jiufen
We went back to Shifen station and waited for our train going back to Ruifang Station via Pingxi line. Ours was scheduled at 2:40 PM going northbound and regardless of what destination, it's all going to Ruifang. We're reusing the day pass we purchased earlier so no need to buy tickets.
Upon arrival at Ruifang, we went outside and rode a bus going straight to Jiufen. Sorry, I forgot the bus number but you can always ask the locals for directions (which we did). You can also take the taxi as an option if you're willing to shoulder more.
The bus trip was around 15 minutes. We used that time to rest a bit. Upon arrival, you'll see a temple and a nice view of the sea.
Overlooking from the bus stop
From there, just walk a little upwards 'till you see the sign with "Jiufen Old Street". 7-11 is your landmark. It's not that visible but your senses will tell you that's Jiufen due to the volume of people.
Sign as seen on the left
Jiufen Old Street
You could buy lots of food here! We tried out this sausage and it seems like this shop is famous looking on its vibe. The lady in the front was very jolly and we felt persuaded to try out their sausages. It's great my friends! You will see her shop if you just go straight from the entrance before making the first turn.
More details about the shop. I can't seem to determine the name. If ever you go here, don't forget to visit and try out her sausages.
If you move forward, you'll see a balcony overlooking the view. It's filled with nature's beauty that you'd want to stare at it the whole day.
Next up, we went for milk tea. Your trip to Taiwan won't be complete without tasting it from the land of its origin. Comparing it to other bubble teas abroad, I can't seem to figure out the difference. Maybe they're good at replicating the taste, the formula is common elsewhere or they ventured out overseas. Regardless, at least I could say I've tasted a milk tea in Taiwan.
This is the only milk tea store we've seen in Jiufen. Worth every penny!
Another food to complete our Taiwan experience was the notable stinky tofu. My family told me before I left for Taipei to try it out. I'm not a fan of tofu but I'm willing to go out of my comfort zone to try this local experience. So, what do you think was my reaction when I first tasted it?
Behold, the stinky tofu!
I felt like being poured with slime and the crowd cheering "Welcome to the club!". It's not that bad. I felt uncomfortable that my breath stinks after a few bites. No wonder they call it stinky tofu! Fortunately, I still have my milk tea to neutralize the flavor. I think the significant difference between it and normal tofu is this has garlic... lot's of it. I finished every bit of it so please allow me to pat myself on my back.
Back in the balcony. Does this scene ring a bell to you? If it doesn't, Google "Relaxing Car Drive". Although this is not the exact scene, it personally resonated with me. Don't even dare Google it if you have a weak heart! I'm warning you!
We're almost done roaming. This is the last stretch of Jiufen
This end of the road. It's a tea store.
We asked for locals nearby where's the next place to go. They mentioned that we should go to visit the place where the anime "Spirited Away" originated. Honestly, I have no idea what it was because I've stopped watching anime a long time ago but I'm still curious about the place. We went back to the balcony, walked a few more steps then finally found the place.
Spirited Away Shooting Place
The beginning of the staircase. The lanterns are the hints going there.
After a few flights, more and more people are coming
Reaching the picture-perfect spot, plenty of tourists are taking photos
What the view looks like. Would have been better if the wires are out
The entrance to the restaurant. The hand on the side is a little distracting though
Beside the entrance is this weird looking cave. That over there is a door leading to a tea house. Surprising isn't it? I don't see anyone attempting to open it. Didn't tried either.
We went further downstairs and more tourists flock as they take pictures. From below, you will see an overview from above. As night came along, the timing went perfect for the lights to shine. We got to witness the great view of the houses.
Staircase crowded by locals and tourists
The view from the night
After that, we concluded our day by buying some souvenirs. Souvenirs are cheaper in Jiufen and it's a good thing we did not buy beforehand from the first days of our trip. We were able to save around 20% of our budget. They also have unique items that you won't see in Taipei like stickers (with unique designs), bags, and toys so I'd recommend you buy here.
Return back to Taipei from Jiufen
As the night passes, we went back to the bus station and waited in the queue back to Ruifang Station. The line is pretty long that it took us around 20 minutes before we got to ride. My friends and I chatted about our experience in the area. Sorry again as I forgot the bus number for your reference but this was the same bus station we alighted when we arrived.
Waiting in line for our turn. The line is pretty long. This was actually way longer before I took this photo.
After a 20 minute trip, we're back at Ruifang Station! Lots of people alighting as well.
The lights look cool and there's a teddy bear exhibit on the side.
Upon arriving, we bought immediately our TRA tickets. The same thing as before, we have no idea which train lines to take so I just told the guy on the counter "Taipei" and he gave me the ticket pointing out the schedule and platform. Our train arrives in 20 minutes. Yes, this is a chance ticket so no guarantee for seats.
The ticket back to Taipei
The entrance to the platform with schedules above. Compared last time, we waited only for 20 minutes. Luck was on our side!
Not many riders past 9:00 PM. My friends are tired yet my other friend is awake lol.
Train displaying technical errors lol
Upon arriving in Taipei, we rode another train back to our accommodation via Taipei MRT. It's back to EasyCards! We took our dinner, roamed nearby, then concluded the day on our bed. I ate Gyoudon at Yoshinoya for dinner. Overall, it was a tiring yet amazing day. There were lots of discoveries (and expenses) for us but it sure was worth it! Shifen and Jiufen are a must for any traveler going to Taiwan. I'm hoping to go back to these places again! Hope this article was helpful to you. Let me know your thoughts on the comments section!
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