Along with teenagers, school kids and families on summer vacation who were waiting patiently at Ruifang station, I was excited to ride the famous Ping Hsi Branch Railway Line. There is very limited information available on the web about this particular train line but with whatever information there is, it always promises one thing – a ride along a scenic rural side of Taiwan with waterfalls, farmlands, bridges and houses along the track.
With a total length of 12.9 kilometers and said to be originally built for coal transportation, the six station town along Ping His Branch Railway offers variety of tourist attraction but united by one common theme- sky lanterns and the Lantern Festival.
The sky lantern shops besides the track and the few tourist who are preparing their lanterns, writing wishes and prayers are the first thing you will notice at the town of Shifen. Mid-day is not the ideal time to fly sky lanterns and only few can be seen up in the air together with blinding sun rays.
The walk from Shifen station towards the waterfall takes about 15 to 20 minutes but walking on a summer noon it feels like forever, though the scenic view of the hanging bridge, the passing Ping Hsi Branch train and the Keelung River compensates for the uncomfortable, sticky sweaty feeling.
The Shifen Waterfalls is said to be Taiwan’s greatest screen curtain style waterfall, with some even declaring it as Taiwan’s “mini” Niagara Falls.
An entrance fee of 50 TWD is required to enter the waterfalls area and several patios are available for picnic,that is if you are able to secure a spot.
After a half day spent at Shifen, I decided to head back to Taipei but made a brief stop at the town of Ruifang. Nothing special going on but I like the vibe of simplicity and people walking around just going about their daily lives.