The Magical Old Streets of Ruifang District 瑞芳區: Pingxi 平溪 (1/2)

In October, crossed off an item on my bucket list when I visited Ruifang District in New Taipei with good friends from college. After months of planning (c/o my friend Gracie) and daydreaming, we finally went to visit the old streets of Pingxi 平溪 and Jiufen 九份.

Since it was the first item on our itinerary, we headed straight to the Taipei Main Station 台北車站 from Taoyuan Airport. From there, we took a 50-minute ride on the TRA to Ruifang 瑞芳 Station. Commuting via Taipei’s public transportation system was just so convenient.

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(A word of advice: when you’re going backpacking across the country, make sure you bring a backpack, so you won’t hurt your back or look silly when you’re trying to fish for your wallet in your large bag.)

When we got to Ruifang 瑞芳, we bought tickets and transferred to the Pingxi Line 平溪線. For NT$80, we got a whole day pass for the entire Pingxi Line. That meant we could get off at any station and hop back on the train after an hour. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to explore Shifen and the other towns along the way because we were pressed for time (the train comes only once in every hour) and there were just too many tourists.

Don’t take pictures along the railway. This is actually prohibited (don’t ask what happened when a local spotted us haha).

We arrived at Pingxi Station after 45 minutes. Before we set out to look for Pingxi Old Street 平溪老街, we took pictures of the station and the cute souvenir shops selling postcards and tiny sky lanterns.

The houses in Pingxi look a bit like those in Japan’s countryside. From what I’ve read on other blogs, some of the wooden houses and shops date back to the Japanese occupation in the 1930s, so that could be the reason why the town made me feel like I was in a film set in Japan.

Pingxi Lao Jie

Houses in Pingxi

The people living in Pingxi District are known for their custom of writing wishes on sky lanterns and bamboo flutes every Lunar New Year. Many tourists participate in this unique Chinese tradition. There are many small handmade lanterns for sale, too, for visitors who want a quirky souvenir. (I wanted to take one, but I can’t read or speak Mandarin, so I decided against it.)

Bamboo sticks

Of course, we had to try their street food. We waited in line for steaming hot garlic sausages, which were divine. We also tried the ice cream burrito, or the ice cream and peanut candy shavings wrap. (Think of it as lumpiang sariwa without vegetables, but with vanilla ice cream and peanut brittle.) Since I didn’t have a proper breakfast that morning, I also bought what I call a Taiwanese kikiam, which was a savory and filling treat. (I promise I’ll update this if I ever discover the name of the food.)

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After about an hour, we returned to Ruifang Station and looked for the bus that will take us to Jiufen. We were only able to find the right bus stop after a kind lady at 7-Eleven gave us directions. (If you’re planning to take this route, this guide will be very helpful. Don’t forget to buy an Easy Card from 7-Eleven; most buses accept that as a mode of payment. It can also come in handy when you’re out of cash, and you need a quick bite — many convenience stores take Easy Card.)

Where did we leave our luggage?

In case you’re wondering, we didn’t bring our luggage with us on this day trip to Ruifang. We left our luggage at the Carry-On Baggage Center 台北車站行李託運中心, which is located near the Taipei Main Station. To get there, take East Exit 3 (the exit near 7-Eleven) and cross the street. Walk past the taxi stand and take a left turn around the next corner. You’ll find the Carry-On Baggage Center across the road from there. They’re open from 8 AM to 8 PM, Mondays through Saturdays. Rates are NT$100 for the first day and NT$50 for each additional day.

There are many lockers at Taipei Main Station, but the Carry-On Baggage Center was the most affordable option for us. All the electronic lockers charged the user by the hour, so it doesn’t make sense for us to use that.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about Jiufen Old Street 九份老街, one of the best towns I’ve visited in my life. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

(This post is part of a series on my Taiwan trip. I visited Pingxi in October 2016; if there are any outdated information, let me know.)

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