Evening view at Jiufen (九份), Taiwan (台湾)
Many tourists associate Taiwan with shopping and food, but do you know that Taiwan also boasts many beautiful waterfalls and other scenic attractions? Waterfalls are something that we can never see in Singapore, so we planned a day to hike through the Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail (三貂嶺瀑布群) and to also visit the tourist hotspot – Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布). Since Jiufen (九份) was nearby, we decided to go there to end the day. It was an intensive day of walking, and we were really thankful for the weather – despite Typhoon Saola just passed, the day was clear with very little rain, a perfect day for hiking!
Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail is an amazing trail that most tourists don’t really visit. In fact, when we chat up with the locals who were on the trail, they were surprised that we weren’t locals. Most tourists actually head for Shifen Waterfall as it’s probably more convenient and there’s less walking involved. But after a day of waterfalls, X and I unanimous agree that the waterfalls in the Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail are more beautiful.
View of Sandiaoling train station (三貂嶺火車站) from a distance
We started by taking a train from Taipei train station to Sandiaoling train station. The train ticket costs NT$59 per person and the ride is approximately 1 hour. We reached the train station at about 10.30am, but I think there are many people who actually started the day earlier than us. The train station is small and quiet, I think only 6 passengers alighted at this stop (including us).
Red sign saying: Pedestrians please use the underground walkway (and arrow pointing forward)
Upon exiting the train station, turn right and walk – following the pedestrian pathway. There’s a short underground tunnel that allows you to cut through the railway tracks to the other side (which you’ll need to do so to get to the trail), but I think many people will just walk across the railway tracks. We couldn’t help but get onto the railway tracks and snap some photos of ourselves for keepsakes 😉
Start of the Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail
We continued walking and we saw a school ahead (Sandiaoling Elementary), which marks the start of the trail. I think there were public restrooms inside (not sure as we didn’t use them). Turn right up to the small path, passing the elementary school.
Up, up and away!
The trail is well-marked with sign-posts at each intersection, but the main waterfalls that we wanted to see were Hegu Waterfall (合谷瀑布), MoTian Waterfall (模天瀑布) and Pipa Dong Waterfall (枇杷洞瀑布), so we stayed on the main trail. It took us only about 15 minutes of walk (casual walk) from the start of the trail to reach the first viewing platform for the first waterfall.
Hegu Falls (合谷瀑布)
Hegu Falls is extremely huge, but it’s a pity that we couldn’t get close to it. We were a little disappointed that we can only watch it from afar. However, we met a few local hikers who were on their way back and they told us the second waterfall is much more beautiful. Encouraged, we continued hiking.
The hike to the second waterfall is slightly longer, about 30 minutes of walking, and we crossed a couple of these small bridges (there were times when we didn’t really know which way to walk, but we looked out for ribbons – these ribbons are tied by previous hiking groups, which I think is an indication of which path to follow).
MoTian Waterfall (模天瀑布)
The view of MoTian Waterfall is simply breathtaking. As the Typhoon Saola brought about a heavy bout of rain, the flow of water is pretty heavy, making the waterfall more majestic and beautiful (so in a way, we were really lucky!) After the hard work to reach MoTian Waterfall, it makes me more appreciative of the natural landscape and the beauty of it.
At this point, some locals will head back the way they came from as the hike to the third waterfall is slightly more challenging. There is also a cave behind the waterfall that we can climb but we didn’t (I’m not an experienced hiker so I’m a little afraid at that time, but now I’m regretting not trying!)
Don’t look down! Don’t look down!
The almost 90 degrees ladders proved to be a little intimidating and challenging for a beginner like me, but the ropes at the side made it easier to climb up. There are in fact 2 of such ladders to be climbed (one if after reaching the PiPa Dong Waterfall) The feeling after “conquering” these 2 ladders was pretty amazing.
PiPa Dong Waterfall (枇杷洞瀑布)
The last waterfall in the main Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail. It’s smaller than MoTian waterfall, but still very beautiful nonetheless. There’s no waterfall called Sandiaoling Waterfall, just in case you were wondering. The trail is called Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail because all these waterfalls are located in Sandiaoling area.
After we left the last waterfall, we climbed another set of steep ladders. Apparently we were supposed to follow the yellow ribbons – turn left from the ladder and follow the track to reach a small village called Xinliao (新寮). From there make another left and followed the road to Yeren Valley (野人谷). There will be a set of stairs to the right of the building and after climbing up the stairs and then down, there’ll be a red bridge which will finally lead to the train tracks on the other side. From the tracks you can go left to get to Dahua (大華) and right to Shifen (十分).
However, we didn’t know that so we were lost after getting out of the jungle (or rather we walked a really long way before finally realizing where we were). Exhausted, we spotted a taxi so we just flagged it and have the taxi driver bring us to Shifen Waterfall.
Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布)
Shifen Waterfall is probably the most visited waterfall in Taiwan (for tourists). The fall is about 20 metres tall and 40 metres wide, making it the broadest waterfall in Taiwan. We paid NT$80 per person for the entrance fee. The heavy rain from the previous days (due to the Typhoon Saola) made the fall very heavy, which is pretty magnificent. However, there were so many tourists at the place that we felt that the atmosphere was a little ruined.
Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布)
There’s not much to do at the waterfall, except to grab some drinks and snacks. We left after a while for Shifen Old Street (十分老街), which was about 20 minutes of walk from the waterfall area.
Train passing through Shifen Lao Jie (Shifen Old Street; 十分老街)
Shifen Old Street is one of the most popular stop along the Pingxi Branch Line (train). The railway was originally built to transport coals but as the coal business dwindled over the years, this place has gradually evolved into a popular tourist spots – for one to discover the coal-mining history of Taiwan and to experience the lighting of sky lanterns (天燈).
I really love this shot when everyone’s attention is on the train passing by, everyone’s eyes are glued to the train!
Shifen Lao Jie (Shifen Old Street; 十分老街)
There are many shops built on both sides of the railway track – there’s food, souvenirs, and of course, sky lantern shops.
People writing their wishes on the sky lanterns
A sky lantern costs about NT$100. I think you can also buy extra attachment, like firecrackers, to attach at the bottom, but I think they’ll only look pretty at night. The shop keepers will provide you with a calligraphy brush (毛笔) and you can just write whatever you wish for on the lantern.
Up, up and away!
The shopkeeper will then help you to light the lantern and assist you to set it off. It’s not as easy as it looks – the shopkeepers have to ensure there’s minimum draft before they release the lanterns, otherwise there’s a risk that the lanterns will be blown to the nearby houses, which can be disastrous.
Train tickets to Ruifang Station (瑞芳車站)
After exploring Shifen Old Street, which doesn’t take very long as it’s pretty small, we board a train towards Ruifang to head to Jiufen (九份). The train tickets cost about NT$20 per person and it’s only about 4 stops away, about 30 minutes of train ride.
Bus stop opposite to go to Jiufen (九份)
Turn left upon exiting the train station. Walk all the way straight for about 200 metres and you’ll see a police station on the opposite of the road. Cross over to the other side (same side as the police station) and just a few more metres above you’ll see a bus stop that has the bus to bring you to Jiufen. The locals are very friendly to point out the bus stop to us.
When you board the bus, try to sit on the left hand side of the bus and you’ll be rewarded with amazing views as the bus climbs the hill up to Jiufen!
Start of Jiufen Old Street (九份舊道)
Jiufen is an incredibly popular tourist spot for both local and foreign tourists. It is so crowded with tourists that you can’t really stop and explore the area, the people behind you are constantly pushing so that they can get through. It can get pretty annoying…
Jiufen Traditional fishballs
The shops in Jiufen sell mainly food and souvenirs. One of the worse thing I felt is that a lot of shops are selling the same type of food and are all claiming they are the original traditional one. I have no idea who is really the original and I definitely don’t have the stomach to try all of them, so I guess it’s just a random choice and hoping that food is good.
Chang’s Traditional Fish Balls (九份張記傳統魚丸) is located just a few shops from the start of the Jiufen Old Street.
Fuzhou fishballs are popular for the meat filling encased in a ball of fish paste. Unfortunately, the fish paste is not springy as I hoped it to be. However, the meat filling is well-marinated and unique in taste.
Traditional meatballs which tasted average. We also ordered noodles (which they called it special) but was so-so to us. It was an average snack which set us back NT$115 for both of us.
Ah Lan Hakka glutinous rice cakes (阿蘭宇粿/草仔粿)
These Hakka glutinous rice cakes were highly raved by many bloggers who went to Taiwan, and so of course we had to give them a try. Each rice cake cost NT$10 and we bought one with red bean filling (sweet) and the other with salted vegetables (savoury).
The glutinous rice cakes – personally, I prefer the sweet one to the savoury one.
Ah Gan Yi Yu Yuan (阿柑姨芋圓)
Continue down the path and when you reach a shop that sells a lot of braised goods, there’ll be a staircase heading up. Head all the way up and you’ll see a popular shop that sells yu yuan, also known as taro balls.
Crowded with people!
The dessert comes in either hot or cold, at NT$40 per bowl. You can choose what kind of beans you want, there’s red beans, green beans and broad beans. It will be served with sweet potato balls and yam balls (taro balls).
A bowl of yummy goodness
Given the long, warm, and humid day that we had, we ordered a bowl of cold one to share. I’m not a fan of broad beans (should have left that out when ordering), but overall, the sweet potato balls and yam balls are pretty yummy. We sat on the steps, feasting on the refreshing dessert while mosquitoes feast on us… but we got to see the sky slowly darkening as the sun sets, pretty relaxing if you ask me.
Jiufen is also well-known for tea – many people will head to tea houses (茶楼) for a sip of Chinese tea and admire the view from there while the sun sets. We didn’t go for it as we were pretty exhausted and we wanted to make sure we can catch the bus back.
And that’s all for our day trip out of Taipei, Taiwan!
Here are some details should you need them!
Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail
|Getting there:||1) Take a train from Taipei main station to Ruifang train station (瑞芳車站)
2) Change to the Pingxi Line (平溪線) and alight at Sandiaoling train station (三貂嶺火車站)Costs NT$59 per person
Train ride about 1 hour
|Total time:||3 to 4 hours for the main trail|
|Difficulty:||Easy to medium|
|Things to bring:||Poncho/umbrella/raincoat, sunscreen, insect repellent, water|
Shifen Old Street ( 十分老街)
Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布)
|Getting to Shifen Old Street:||1) Take a train from Taipei main station to Ruifang train station (瑞芳車站)
2) Change to the Pingxi Line (平溪線) and alight at Shifen train station (十分车站)Train ride about 1 hour
|Getting to Shifen Waterfall:||Walk 15 – 20 minutes from Shifen train station to the waterfall (follow the road signs, shouldn’t be very difficult to navigate).|
|To-do:||1) Shifen Waterfall – NT$80 for audlt; NT$50 for child2) Food and drinks at Shifen Old Street – NT$100
3) Lighting sky lanterns – NT$100
4) Souvenirs – NT$50 to 100 (or more)
|Things to note:||Very crowded during summer breaks (August) and on weekendsSome shops may not be opened on weekdays|
2) From Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT: From the MRT, head for Exit #1, as you are coming out of the station, make a U-turn and the SOGO mall (big red letters) will now be on your right hand side. Walk a minute and take the first left then after a few meters you will see the 1062 bus stop, it is clearly marked.
1) Chang’s Traditional Fish Balls (九份張記傳統魚丸) – about NT$100 to NT$200
2) Ah Lan Hakka glutinous rice cakes (阿蘭宇粿/草仔粿) – NT$10 per rice cake
3) Ah Gan Yi Yu Yuan (阿柑姨芋圓) – NT$40 per bowl
4) Sipping tea at tea houses (茶楼)
5) Souvenirs – NT$100 to NT$200
|Things to note:||On your way back, do try to queue for the bus early – the queue runs very long and the bus only allows a fixed number of passengers. If you aren’t able to board, you’ll have to wait for the next one, which is a pretty long wait. Or if there’s no more buses at all, you’ll have to get a cab back to Taipei, which can get pretty expensive as the drivers will try to rip you off, so remember to bargain!|