Day Trip to Pingxi from Taipei: What To Do and Expect
A guide to exploring Pingxi and Shifen
· 5 min read
Taipei may be a charming city, and there is a lot to do. But sometimes, you need a break from the bustling streets. Luckily, there are plenty of exciting day trips just a stone's throw away from the capital. For one of the most popular destinations, look no further than Pingxi, a small town known for its sky lanterns. While it sure is touristy, if it is your first time visiting Taipei, this is a destination that you should definitely consider.
While it is relatively common to hire a driver to get you to Pingxi, we recommend considering taking a train for a different experience.
While definitely less convenient and more planning will be required if you take the rail, hopping onto the Pingxi railroad is part of the entire experience. To get to Pingxi, you can first take the Taiwan Rail to Ruifang, and from there, change to the Pingxi line. The trains that depart are rather infrequent, so it is best to check the train schedules before planning your trip — key in 7360 - Ruifang as the station code, and the trains that you would be interested in would be the ones with Jingtong as the terminal station.
At Ruifang station, you can get a train ticket for unlimited rides along the Pingxi line the entire day.
What to do at Pingxi
The Pingxi line consists multiple stops, with each stop having its own character and attractions. While the area is generally known as Pingxi, Shifen is actually where most people gather. Some other areas that are worth exploring include Jingtong, Pingxi, and Houtong.
Releasing Sky Lanterns
The most popular activity at Pingxi is definitely the releasing of sky lanterns along the train tracks. While you can technically release the sky lanterns at most of the stops, most people would choose to release the sky lanterns at Shifen. There are multiple shops along the Shifen Old Street selling these sky lanterns, so take your time to browse through the options to find something that you like. Choose a lantern, write your wish on it, and send it off into the sky!
If you prefer to avoid the crowds, Pingxi is a good alternative to release these lanterns.
⚠️ In recent years, there have been growing concerns about how the sky lanterns might impact the environment. There are some shops that now sell more environmentally-friendly sky lanterns. You can ask the shops for these variations instead, but do note that these variations are usually more expensive.
Explore the Old Streets
Old streets are a characteristic of many Taiwanese districts. And of course, the Shifen old street is one of the most crowded old streets along the Pingxi line. For something quieter and more serene, consider exploring the old streets at Pingxi and Jingtong instead. The old streets are located just outside the train stations.
As you explore the old streets, take in the vibes that are different from the modern city of Taipei. Be sure to also get some street food along the way! And another rather touristy but meaningful thing to do? Get a postcard from one of the shops that offer such a service (most of them selling postcards do though), write a letter to yourself, and ask for it to be mailed to you one year later.
Hike to the Shifen Waterfall
Another attraction at Shifen is the Shifen waterfall, just a short hike away from the old street. Our honest opinion about the waterfall? It really isn't all that grand and impressive. But if you have time before your next train, it's a good respite away from the crowds at the Main Street. And since you are already at Shifen, why not just take a short walk there to see what it is all about!
Explore the Pingxi Crags
Now, if you are looking for something a bit different from normal tourist-activities, consider hiking the Pingxi Crags, a set of hiking trails traversing the mountains peaks and rock cliffs near Pingxi Village. It is recommended that you start hiking from the Xiaozishan trail, with its entrance being just a 10-minute walk away from the Pingxi Old Street. The Xiaozishan trail is also connected to other trails if you are up for more hiking!
Play with cats at Houtong
If you are a cat lover, then you probably wouldn't want to miss Houtong. Also along the Pingxi line, Houtong is also known as a cat village, because of its many stray cats. While it isn't always guaranteed that you will see a lot of stray cats (since well, they are cats), you can be sure to find plenty of cat-themed shops and cafes!
Combine your visit to Shifen with Jiufen or Shenkeng
It is fairly easy to spend an entire afternoon along the Pingxi line. But in case you only want to visit Shifen, you can also consider combining your trip with a visit to Jiufen or Shenkeng. Both destinations are also common day-trip destinations, but if you are only planning to cover the main attractions, it is definitely possible to combine a visit to Shifen with one of these areas.
The Shenkeng old street is famous for its tofu — so if you want to try some of the best stinky tofu, this is where you should be headed. And Jiufen is best known for its connection to the famous Ghibli movie, _Spirited Away. _
If you are planning to do a combination of places, we recommend that you hire a driver instead so you have more flexibility with time.
End your day at Keelung
Before heading back to Taipei, go to the Temple Night Market at Keelung for dinner. From Ruifang station, hop onto the train that brings you to Keelung.
One of the most popular night markets in the Taipei area, there are many food stalls to choose from at Keelung Temple Night Market. Some of the most popular stalls include the Tian Yi Xiang Pork Thick Soup (which specialises in Braised Pork Rice and Pork Soup), the Nutritious Sandwich (whose sandwiches are probably not the healthiest), and the Yi Kou Chi Taiwanese Sausage.
Tips and Things to Note
- If you will be stopping along multiple stops on the Pingxi line, be sure to check the timetables of the trains and plan your time accordingly! The trains are rather infrequent, so if you miss the train, you might have to wait an hour or so for the next one.
- One of the best things to do at Pingxi line is to walk along the train tracks. And you are free to do so since the trains don't run that often — but be careful and remember to clear the tracks for incoming trains.
- For one of the grandest mass release of sky lanterns, head to Shifen on Yuanxiao Festival, which occurs on 15th day of the first lunar month.