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.
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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 :(
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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)
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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.
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JingTong Wooden Built Train Station
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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.
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1. Coal Miners’ Canteen 2. Mian Cha in its original state 3. Hot Mian Cha, NT50 4. Cold Mian Cha, NT50
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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
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We wrote our wishes on to bamboo roll and hang it under the hut.
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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.
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Saw my postcard? :)
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2. Antique Mailbox. The mailbox has been here since the Japanese Occupation era, and it is continuing to serve the PingXi community until now.
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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.

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ShiFen
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ShiFen Old Street
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“ShiFen Xing Fu”
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Taiwan Coal Mine Museum
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“Kettle Holes” – a shallow, sediment-filled body of water formed by retreating glaciers or draining floodwaters.
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ShiFen Scenic Area
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The Spectacle Waterfall
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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.
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Each colour in the sky lantern carries a different meaning and different element.
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wish wish wish
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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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