Sunday, November 15, 2015

Shifen 十分

We left Hualien for the northern part of the island by train. We bade Allie farewell and thanked him for all that he has helped us with. The journey took 56 minutes and at Yilan Station, we were greeted by another roundTAIWANround driver, Phyllis, who herself is very experienced in the travel and tours field.

Our first stop was the Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布). Phyllis told us that they referred to it as the Niagara of Taiwan because it is the widest waterfall in Taiwan. It also has a slight horseshoe shape. The walk down to the waterfall was really steep, and so I was not looking forward to the walk back up. But, it was sure popular, as there were so many people there.

After visiting the waterfall, we adjourned to Shifen Old Street (十分老街), about 15 to 20 minutes away by foot. No, we did not walk - Phyllis drove us there. Both the waterfall and the old street are located in the Pingxi District (平溪区) of New Taipei City (新北市) and are probably the most popular landmarks in the district.

I have seen so many pictures of this place that I made sure to include this in my itinerary when liaising with Judy. I am glad that I did because Dad was amused by how everyone had to make way for a passing train, as the railway line was a working line.

The Shifen Train Station is the most popular train stop along the Pingxi Branch Line. Originally, the train line was constructed to allow the transportation of coal from the mines.

Today, the train line serves as a commuter train and also as education of coal-mining history.

The name Shifen literally means 10 portions, as it all started with 10 families living here. Coal mining was a main source of income. Now, with the mining ceased, I wondered what the place would be like if not for tourism. The whole row of shops were selling snacks, drinks, souvenir, and sky lanterns (天灯) of all sorts.

As with tradition, good luck phrases or wishes are written on the sky lanterns. Mum wrote quite a few in her beautiful Chinese.

You could tell which side was mine - the only side with English haha! Dad was too busy looking around and taking photos of us writing on the sky lantern.

Each shop would price their sky lanterns differently but were very professional in that they have everything organised for you. After lighting up, they would take a photo of customers with each side of their respective sky lanterns.

And then, the sky lantern would float into the sky after we let go of it. I could not help but think of all the pollution this sky lantern business would cause. I mean, they would have to fall back down to somewhere and if no one goes out to collect them, they would end up to be rubbish scattered in Mother Nature.

There was a suspension bridge called Jing An Suspension Bridge (静安桥) behind the old street. Although we did not cross the street, we found out later that it was also originally used to transport coal. Now, it has been converted into a pedestrian bridge to connect Shifen and Nanshan.

The bridge is 128 metres long and overlooks the stony Keelung River (基隆河) below.

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