Wild Taiwan

A lady of leisure writes about wildlife in Taiwan.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Shifen waterfall 十 分瀑布

Shifen is located at Pingxi township, in Taipei county. It's upstream from Jilong river. The whole area is mountainous, many waterfalls and full of what the locals call huxue, 壶穴, kettle pits in the river beds. Huxue are round, shallow pits formed by erosion of the soft rocks by pebbles grinding against the soft rocks by rapid water action. There were coal mining here but have ceased to exist. The areas have been transformed into coal mining museums.

Shifen waterfall is nicknamed the little Niagara of Taiwan. There is some resemblance to the real thing although much more a scaled down version. See my pictures.

One can get to Shifen fairly easily. If you are taking the train, give yourself plenty of time. From Taipei main station -> take Yilan or Hua-Dong line, get off at Ruifang or Houtong station -> transfer to Pingxi line -> Shifen -> 15 min walk to Shifen visitor centre. The train actually passes by the waterfall, if you stand up instead of sitting on the train seats, you can see it quite well. An artificial wall prevents one from seeing it easily so that they can charge entrance fees of 100NT. The entrance fees include insurance and maintenance fees of the environment.

If one is driving, 1) goto shenkeng -> shihding interchange -> take county road 106 -> Pingxi -> shifen or 2) take National expressway 1 -> Badu interchange -> ruiba clearway (County road 102B) -> county road 106 at Ruifang industrial park -> shifen or 3) xizhi 汐止 ->si-ping clearway (county road North 31) -> Pingxi -> Shifen or 4) National Expressway 2 north -> shihding interchange, take National Expressway 5 ->county road 106 -> Pingxi -> Shifen.

By bus, take route 16 to Pingxi at Mamingtan, Muzha, Taipei city -> shnkeng -> shenkeng -> Shiting -> Pingxi -> take train (pingxi line) at Pingxi station to Shifen -> 15 min walk to shifen visitor centre; or take route 15 to shifen -> 10 Min walk to shifen visitor centre.

By MRT take Muzha line -> get off at Muzha station -> transfer to Taipei bus, take route 15 or route 16, see above.

Shin-shin bus: taipei main station -> Muzha, Shiting _> get off at Shungsi-Kou station -> transfer to route 15 or 16 see above.

The visitor centre gives out English as well as Chinese brochures which shows you the map of the area and some information like the area of the whole place, how to get there etc. It also explains the formation of the kettle pits. More can be done at the visitor centre, I feel.

From the visitor centre, walk across the suspension bridge, continue in the direction of the river, is the eyeglass cave. The waterfall here is smaller but no less spectacular. The waterfall forms a veil over a concave cavern.
On a cold, windy day, the sellers will set up stalls barbequeing the pork sausages. The wind carrying the wonderful aroma will wiff upstream as you walk towards little Niagara. By the time you reach eyeglass cave, your salivary glands would have gone on overdrive and you simply must buy one to savour the tasty sausages and overcome the gastronomic cravings.

To continue to little Niagara, one has to walk beside the railway track, avoid the train every half hour interval to get to the entrance of little Niagara. This is not the place to wear stiletto heels. The loose rocks or pebbles to support the railway track can sprain one's ankles easily.

At little Niagara, there's a little coffeeshop where one can sip coffee or tea and admire the view. There's washroom here too. Other than that, a little shrine and nothing else.

If one takes the train right to Qingtong terminal station, there's a railway museum which features some black and white pictures of the local folks. It also shows the location of the old coal mine, the hospital, school etc. On the street path is a number of historical plaques which shows the year the coal mine was established, significant events at Qingtong as one walks along in the direction of the museum. Nothing much here other than short walks to the mines or the surrounding areas.

November is the flowering season of Alpinia ginger so white flowers can be seen dotted here and there. The flowers are very fragrant, people like to keep some cut flowers at home to bring light, sweet, citrus fragrance to their homes.