Taiwan Best Trip: Riding the PingXi Branch Rail Line

*LATEST* Taiwan Itinerary Year 2012 – 9 Days around Taipei, Taitung, Green Island, Kaohsiung, Jiufen

For our full trip itinerary, please click here.

The first day of our Taiwan Best Trip is actually similar to Day 4 of our Taiwan Trip last month. Hence, this will be a combined post completed with transportation information and maps.

Meet Tammy and Senna, our photographer and videographer from 中華電視公司. They were assigned to capture the memories of our lil adventure in Taiwan. We really enjoyed the time we got to spend together and I started to miss them now :(

To create a travel experience that is authentically unique, our theme of the day is “Small Town Story” and we will explore that historic and nostalgic treasures of beautiful small towns. On the first day of our trip, we rode on the PingXi branch rail line, one of the three historic small branch lines (other than Neiwan and Jiji) that have remained open for tourism. These historic branch lines are playing a small role in revitalizing the local tourist industry.

There are three main towns along the PingXi line – Jingtong, PingXi, Shifen. To get here, you can board a train to Rueifang station (40 min frm Taipei Station), and then transferred to PingXi line. Travelers can savor the beautiful scenery as the train winds through rivers, wooded gorges and streams along the way. Remember to get the one day pass ticket for unlimited ride along PingXi line (NT54). Or you can take Taipei Bus from Muzha MRT station to PingXi at 07:15 08:20 09:45 11:00 12:20 and coming back at 17:50 18:30 20:00 21:10 daily (NT 45).

Travel Information:

PingXi Line Time Table (very important because the train frequency is very low) – pingxi-line

Maps (click to enlarge)


Our first stop was Jingtong town. Jingtong was once the center of coal mining in Taiwan in the early 20th century. The town then went into a rapid decline where most of the population have moved away and many of the buildings were abandoned until recently when the government revived the tourism activities.

Places of interest around JingTong:

1. JingTong Train Station. Built in 1931, it is a wooden train station and a third class historic site. There are still relics of railroad equipment and other objects remained in the train station

2. JingTong Train Story Museum A great place to shop for souvenirs and to replay the old life from yesterday.

3. JingTong Old Street. Most shops along the street have a distinctly Japanese feel. We tried the famous ‘mian cha’ (flour tea) and Yang’s chicken roll to experience what the poor villagers eat in hard time. Mian Cha is made by mixing (hot/cold) water with flour made from husk or wheat. We were also told that the chicken rolls were made with leftover meats and veges to resemble the taste and texture of chicken. We also wrote our wishes on a bamboo roll and hang it at the wishing tent.

4. JingTong Pit Museum. The museum is the reconstruction of a deserted dormitory of the railroad bureau. It exhibits information on the ecological environment and history of the towns along the PingXi line. One can get an insight of the working places of the pit labor back then too.

5. Taiyang Employees Club. Built in 1922, it serves as a training centre and accommodation for VIPs during the olden days. Four Japanese masters, together with 102 workers were employed to construct the building. Major parts of the structure were made with cypress wood from Alishan. If you wish to visit the Taiyang Employees Club, pre-bookings are recommended as it is a private entity.

JingTong Wooden Built Train Station

Mian Cha/Flour Tea is actually wheat or ground corn mixed with ground sesame seeds, brown sugar and water to form a thick concoction that resembles porridge. For those who cannot afford three simple meals a day back then, a small bowl of these mian cha could actually combat hunger.

1. Coal Miners’ Canteen 2. Mian Cha in its original state 3. Hot Mian Cha, NT50 4. Cold Mian Cha, NT50

1. KampungBoy trying his hands in making the famous Yang’s Chicken Roll 2. It wrote “Corn Starch Soup without Corn Starch, Chicken Roll without Chicken 3. In fact, the chicken rolls were made using leftover vegetables wrapped in beancurd skins. Luxury item like chicken meat is almost non existence 4. JingTong town is a great place for bridal photography too

We wrote our wishes on to bamboo roll and hang it under the hut.





From JingTong, we boarded the train to the next station PingXi – the homeland of sky-lantern. In Pingxi, every year during the Lantern Festival, people have their wishes written on sky lanterns, and release them to the skies.

Places of interest around PingXi:

1. Fang Kong Dong. During the Japanese Occupation era, the villagers would seek refuge here if there is any bombing.

Saw my postcard? :)

2. Antique Mailbox. The mailbox has been here since the Japanese Occupation era, and it is continuing to serve the PingXi community until now.



Our last stop was Shifen, a small village where the rail track cut through it.

Places of interest around Shifen:

1. Shifen old street – Once can see a unique scene of trains passing through the resident area, right in front of their doors here.

2. Shifen recreational area – The power of the rushing water has modified layers of rock formations in the area, creating beautiful “kettle holes” along the stream.



ShiFen Old Street

“ShiFen Xing Fu”

Taiwan Coal Mine Museum

“Kettle Holes” – a shallow, sediment-filled body of water formed by retreating glaciers or draining floodwaters.

ShiFen Scenic Area

The Spectacle Waterfall

One of the highlight of our itinerary is the release of sky lantern into the sky. Sky lantern is an airborne lantern made with rice paper on a bamboo frame. People in PingXi believes that by writing your wishes on the lantern and release it to the sky, all your wishes will come true. After arriving at ShiFen, we met up with lantern-master Chang SiFu and he agreed to show us the quite simple process of assembling a lantern.

Each colour in the sky lantern carries a different meaning and different element.


wish wish wish

We were touched the moment our lantern drift over and become smaller in the sky. We had so much fun and we will come back the next year just to fly the lanterns again!




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  • Christine says:

    PingXi sounded very interesting! Chris and I would love to fly the giant lantern here!

  • Simon Seow says:

    Wow, I also read about this program in the Sun. 超級星光大道, 我猜我猜我猜猜猜 and 康熙來了’s TV station. 3 of my favourite Taiwanese shows.

  • Jason says:

    Lucky nyerrr… Why didn’t they ask me one?! So sad.

  • Traveller says:

    Thank you! Very useful information for us. You often write very interesting articles. Keep it up.

  • Andrew says:

    How long you take to go from Ruefang – jintong – ping xi – shifen – rueifang again?

    It seems like 1 whole day.

  • hi andrew, yeah its one whole day :)

  • Pua says:

    hi there! for the PingXi line timetable, i dont really understand about it. U said the train frequency is vry low, but then from the timetable, it looks like almost every hour there will a train from 瑞芳-菁桐 and vice-versa. And what does it mean by those highlighted in yellow color.

  • Hi Pua, i meant the train frecuency between pingxi-jingtong-shifen, etc. bcoz if u missed the train, u’ll have to wait for another hour. n theres ntg much to do in those small town

  • Pua says:

    icic…thx for the info. =)
    i plan to follow most of ur itinerary, jz on the 5th day, after the Jinguashi, i plan to go 野柳, then follow by 东区商圈 and 忠孝东路。Will it be too rush if i go 野柳 after Jinguashi? or Do u have any suggestion where i cn go on 5th day after Jinguashi?

  • hi np, u can depart earlier. do yeliu + jinguashi, c which one open earlier. by the time u reach taipei shud be 8pm and beyond. can still shop for a while i guess?

  • Aileen says:

    Hi !

    I’m doing my Taiwan trip planning now and would like to find out from you, to tour ard Jingtong – PingXi – Shifen, how many hrs is needed.

    Pls. advise me.


  • Sean says:

    Hi, would like to ask…. did you do your lantern thing in pingxi or shifen?
    Seems like its available at both place. If so, any diff between the 2?
    Also, it seems from your shots the lantern happens at before dusk. About 4-5pm?
    Just wanna confirm that to plan the return trip time.


  • Hi sean, yeah you can do it at both places. its the same. Its better to decide when ur there, depending on your train time table, and where do u have more time to spent
    u can release the lantern anytime, of course its the best to be done when the sky is dark, but we gota rush back, so we did it around 6pm.

  • Sheraine says:

    Hello! I chanced upon your blog while researching for my upcoming trip and really love how informative your entries are! However, I am also slightly confused about the long intervals between the train timings, do you mean that these long intervals are only if i am planning to go to all of Jingtong,PingXi and Shifen? If I just head from Jiu fen to Pingxi (and not shifen/jingtong), and back to the Keelung MiaoKou Night Market, would I be able to avoid this problem of the long waiting time?
    Thanks in advance! :)

  • Hi Sheraine, thanks dear! Hi the long interval is referring to the pingshi line only, because its separated frm the intercity line. From jiufen to pingxi, you need to get to rueifang train station, and transfer to pingxi line (pingxi station). SO you need to study the time table of rueifang pingxi as well. Hope it helps :)

  • jane says:


    For releasing of sky lanterns, are they available only at shifen and not ping xi?
    Is there any particular shop to go to for making of the sky lanterns? and how much does it cost?

    Hope you could assist with those questions.
    Really interested with sky lanterns!


  • Hi dear,sky lantern is available at both shifen n ping xi. there is a shop owned by a lantern-master Chang SiFu in pingxi, you can ask d local n they will lead u there. It cost about RM 20

  • sorry he’s in shifen :)

  • ms says:

    hi there!i m planning to go shi fen to light lantern as well!
    but i am quite confused on how to get to shifen.
    from what i know, one can take a bus (ping xi line) from ruifang to shifen.
    but i do see railway tracks at shifen as well. so we can take train to shifen from ruifang?
    and if we take bus, is the frequency so low as well?


  • hi ms. yeah there r buses to pingxi but from what i know, the time table is worst! so its better to take the train, just rmb to download the train schedule and do some proper planning :)

  • Shirley says:


    How many hours do you spend on each stop? ie. Jingtong, Pingxi and Shifen.

  • Ling ling says:

    Hi there, i like to know if theres any stay which you would reccommend in pingxi? :)

  • hi ling, r u sure that u wana stay there? its more like a day trip place, pingxi is dead quiet at night

  • Ruby says:

    Thanks for this post!! It’s very helpful for my trip planning to Ping Xi..now I know I can fly the lantern at Shi Fen too :) May I know if we can fly the lantern in April? :)

  • ahling14 says:

    hi, would like to know is yehliu near here?

  • ahling14 says:

    i was planning to go to e places u stated n jiufen n yehliu but was abt blur abt e location.

  • Christie says:

    Hi… Like your post…
    Like to have some advise from you guys… We planning to taipei this march… We planning to yehliu, shifen, jiufen and Keelung nightmarket.. Do you think we could this like in a day…???

  • hi christie. thanks. it would be TOO rush, coz usually one will spend quite some time at jiufen. why not spend a night at jiufen? 😉

  • yes yehliu is nearby dear

  • Christie says:

    Thanks So much for your advise.. noted!!!

  • Christie says:

    Hi… Sorry to ask you again… Any nice and not too expensive room to recommend us… thanks

  • Felina says:

    Hi there!

    i’m a little confused with the locations. how long and how do you suggest should i plan my itinerary, if i want to cover the small towns, jiufen-yeliu,jinguashi, keelung and then yeliu? how should i plan my trip to make it “on the way” if i start from taipei?

  • hi dear, i will suggest u to take a direct bus to jiufen from taipei, put down ur luggage in ur jiufen hotel, then go to jinguashi and night time @ keelung. next day explore yeliu+jiufen. it’s impossible to cover everything in 1 day.

  • Zikun says:

    Hi there! im also confused about the train timetable. do u mind explaining?? lets say if i reach ruifang station at 11, what is the nxt train i can take to get to pingxi? :)

  • hi zikun. the next train is 11.24am. you can look frm column D in the excel spreadsheet. then u’ll reach pingxi at 12 noon

  • Christina says:


    I will be reaching jiufen at around 1 plus. So i thought of having lunch and walk around jiufen old street. And head down to shifen around 330. How many hours do you think it would take to travel around shifen only? (Including the scenic spots and sky lanterns)

    What time do the teahouses in Jiufen close? Do you think I will be able to have dinner at around 8plus?

    Thanks a lot for your help!

  • Hi dear, don’t think that you can make it back to shifen on time. you have to catch a train to shifen from rueifang. so why not from taipei take a train to rueifang, hang out at rueifang then transfer to shifen. tea houses there close pretty late, but the other snack stalls and souvenir shops would be close by 8-9 pm.

  • Christina says:

    Hihi! I’m quite confused.. Sorry!

    I have already booked two nights stay at Windsor b&b. And will be reaching jiufen ard 1 plus on the first day. So my plan is to hang around in jiufen for lunch. Then head down to shifen ard 3 plus to visit the waterfall and release the sky lantern. I am deciding if I should have dinner at shifen or jiufen because I’m not sure what time do the tea houses in jiufen close. If the teahouses in jiufen close early, don’t think I will be able to make it to jiufen for dinner.

    Thanks so much for your help!! ((:

  • Hi christine. ooo so if you are reaching jiufen around 1 plus, then maybe lunch there is doable. It will still be quite rush as you need to get down from jiufen to rueifang train station, and transfer to shifen. It is better to have dinner at Jiufen, more choices. Or head to Keelung night market for awesome street food :)

  • Christina says:

    Hmm. So if i were to plan my days in jiufen this way is it okay?

    Day 1: 1 plus reach jiufen, lunch at jiufen. After lunch head down to shifen. Be back to jiufen around 7. Dinner at the teahouses.

    Day 2: Go to yehliu, jinguashi, Nanya, yinyang sea. And at night go to keelung night market.

    Day 3: Shop around jiufen old street before heading back to taipei.

  • wp says:


    Need your help as im quite blurr about the route. Im gg to taipei in july.
    Would like to know can i travel to pingxi,jiufen,danshui,shifen n come back to taipei and still have time to shop. I will only b in taipei for 4days and moving to yilan on 4th for a night stay at rotheburglodge and leaving tp on the 5th. Not sure if Im able to make it to cover all the places.

    Hope you can assist me TIA =)

  • Hi dear Dansui and pingxi/shifen/jiufen is totally different. If you want to shop, would suggest u to just go to Dansui

  • Billy says:

    Hi, if i’ll be hiring a van to jiufen area & I would love to try taking a short train ride from shifen, pingxi & jingtong then back to shifen where the van waits for us. I wana know if the train ride is worth taking that has beautiful sceneries and good for photo taking? If its not, then I might just get our van driver to send us directly to maybe shifen & jingtong. And how long do u think the train ride takes from shifen – pingxi, pingxi – jingtong? Please advise, appreciate it!!

  • Billy says:

    Oh, I also wana find out what kinda train is that? Is it a modern type or old locomotive kinda train? :)

  • Billy says:

    Is these areas located on top of a mountain? Sorry, suddenly came out with all these questions LOL, hope you dont mind!

  • Xin says:

    Hi, may i know if it is possible to travel from taipei to shifen+jinguashi+jiufen+keelung night market in a day? If yes, then how do you suggest I go about doing that, as in the transport and planning of routes etc.

    Thanks! 😀

  • Hi Xin, it’s impossible. you will be dead tired and it defeats the purpose of visiting them. You can do taipei – shi fen/jingtong/ping xi – keelung – jiufen (stay 1 night) then jiufen next morning and keelung next

  • hi the train is modern type of train but the railway is old. the train ride between these three stations is short, but you must print out the schedule as the train frequency is scarce. if you are having a van driver, then it is better to have him to chauffeur u around. theres no need to rush for the next train

  • Myra says:

    Hi, there! If we have one extra day in Taiwan, where do you suggest we spend it in, Sun Moon Lake or explore PingXi Line? Really need your advise… Thank you very much in advance!

  • Ping says:

    Hi, chanced upon your blog as i am also planning a trip to Jiufen- shifen-pingsi-jingtong. I have a question to ask for your advice, is the Shifen waterfall far from the Shifen railway station? Is it of walkable distance or it is more advisible to take a bus or cab? Do you know the opening hours of the waterfall?

  • hi not too far (about 15-20 min) to walk as u can see from the map. it opens from 10am

  • Lunar bay says:

    If we stay at Juifen, & wish to visit Keelung, Miaoko night market, what transport should we use & would it be safe when we return to Juifen late at night.

  • it is recommended that u take a cab back as the last bus departs at 9+ :)

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  • kendy says:

    I am intending to stay 1 night at Windsor (Jiufen). Do you think I can cover YangMingShan/Danshui/Jiufen/Shifen in a day?


  • hi there, its impossible. u can do it over 2 days though

  • Jess says:

    Hi ,
    i happen to come across your blog , wanting to download yur full trip itinerary but wasnt able to dl it .
    Can i requrest you to email to me ?

  • Shen says:

    Can I go Yehliu by taking train?

  • it is best to go by car :) of u can take train to keelung then take cab to yehliu

  • Tze How says:

    Hi, I am planning to visit Pingsi next month, can I check with you what time you started your journey to Ruifang from Taipei?
    Sorry, I can’t access the itinerary (link is broken), thanks.

  • Low Shu Fung says:

    Hi, would like to ask, the distance between shi fen and jiu fen is long or short? it is easy to go? Tq

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