Two Train Towns

Quaint little towns make for an interesting visit even if they’re quaintness is a bit manufactured for tourists. How interesting could coal-mining be?

Quite a bit it seems after spending a good part of the day at Shifen and Jintong, two former mining towns on the Pingxi line.

Getting there and around was easy as I was with Tom, a local whom I met through Couchsurfing. He simply showed me the way and I followed him. We took a local train from Taipei Train Station ($59) to Ruifang then on arrival, transfered to platform 1 for the Pingxi line train.

I was surprised with the local trains as I was expecting something more “train-like” and not the sleek modern one we were on. Sure, outside it looked like the classic train but you step inside and it’s like being in the Metro. We were lucky to get seats as the train filled-up quite quickly being a weekend.

Sniffing-out Shifen
The original plan was to head to Jintong then Pingxi but when the train stopped at Shifen, I was taken with the quaintness of having the train tracks so close to the houses and shops. So we got off together with the rest of humanity.

People were actually taking pictures and walking on the tracks. When a train came round the corner, people merely scrambled away.

It was lunch time when we arrived and I stuffed myself with all the yummy food being sold on the street.

These yummy rolls are stuffed with chicken then sprinkled liberally with your choice of spices—salt and pepper, black pepper, curry, or lemon. They cost $40 each or 3 for $100.

Next was ice-cream with peanuts and wrapped in lumpia wrapper.

I hadn’t eaten rice since arriving in Taiwan so I had this bowl of rice topped with pork in a sweetish sauce which I ate with my chicken roll.

The small eatery was very interesting as the tables and chairs came from the local school. They had been painted-over to cover the graffiti.

Everytime Tom pointed out something saying I should try it, I did. This roast duck stuffed in a crispy crepe was really delicious.

We burned off the calories walking to and from the waterfall which was nice but not worth the $100 entrance at the small park with a viewing platform.

We also crossed the suspension bridge which led to the other, more residential side, of the town.

Back at the station, we boarded the train to Jintong. The train was really full but mostly everyone got off at Pingxi.

This former mining town just like all the other towns along the Pinxi line still had vestiges of its past history. Unfortunately, with its $100 entrance fee, we didn’t go inside the beautifully preserved Japanese complex.

If Shifen had people setting-off sky lanterns, Jingtong had bamboo tubes on which wishes were written. I wonder how many if those came true. It all seemed very romantic though.

Of course, we had to try some of the local eats but first I needed my caffeine fix courtesy of this cute cafe by the train tracks.

The cafe had boxed lunches which supposedly had the same menu as the ones the miners had before —porkchop, rice, and vegetables.

I was still full with all that food in Shifen but I couldn’t pass-up this local delicacy that Tom said was really good. And it was. Very very good.

The color looks so unappetizing but once you bite into the soft sticky parcel and you taste the sumptuous savoury filling, you’re in heaven. It really was so good I had two.

There really was nothing much to do in Jingtong except to hang around.

It was past five already and my feet were really tired so we decided not to go to Pingxi anymore and just take the bus back to Taipei. All seats were taken so we were standing for about an hour to Muzho MRT.

Travel Tips
1. We went today, Sunday, so the trains were really packed. There were also crowds everywhere.

2. Start early if you want to explore more towns. We left Taipei at 10:05 am and arrived in Shifen close to 12 noon.

3. There is a free viewing deck at the Shifen waterfall. We missed it and ended-up at the small park with a viewing deck.

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