Next, he had a vegetarian breakfast in the hotel vicinity unwittingly. It was along Huaiyin Street.
Vegetarian braised rice for NT20. Fragrant and tasty. Taiwanese rice are the short grain ones, calrose rice?
Vegetable balls in soup, NT25. Light and obviously healthy.
Took the morning train to Ruifang, to switch to the Pingxi line.
EasyCard payment was not accepted for the Pingxi line. You had to buy tickets, price dependent on length of your journey. There's the option of buying an unlimited day pass for NT52, which was what he did. Rushed over from one platform to the other to catch the train, otherwise, it would have been an hour's wait.
First destination of the day would be Jingtong. After a leisurely(slow) ride, he passed by one of the destinations for later, Shifen. Another train travelling in the other direction had pulled in at the station. Cheery colors.
Jingtong at last. Many people were trying to take pictures of/with the train. Difficult to get a shot without anyone in it.
Wishes on bamboo sticks hung outside a souvenir shop.
Walked further in and found the "Lovers' Bridge".
More wishes hung on a tree, with the Lovers' Bridge in the background.
Closer look at the bridge. Got bitten by many mosquitoes here. The other end leads to a trail to a temple (not seen), but the upslope was too slippery in the rain, so he didn't continue any further.
What significance are such leaves to Taiwan?
Came back up from the bridge and walked along the railway track in the direction of Pingxi. Came past this elementary school, with some kid-sized palm prints on its wall. It's also sporting the "Taiwan Leaf". Must have been a fun and proud memory for the kids. He remembers a time when his kindergarten drawing won 1st prize and was framed up on the premises for years. Ten years later when his youngest brother was enrolled there, the drawing was still on the wall.
The area around here was also where he first met his first acquaintance on this getaway.
More murals of fun to keep the kids happy. Probably.
Rain came on heavier, but he exited the school and continued to walk along the railway track in the direction of Pingxi. The ground looks so mirror-y. Decided to walk as the frequency of the train was so long, and Pingxi was only one stop away.
Along the trail, he noticed that the peaks of the hills were shrouded in mist/fog. The colorful roof of the building also caught his eye.
Saw some hope along the way, an intersection of some sort. Hopefully it also meant a mid-point.
Bend it like Beckham. Lots of railway views this day.
Enjoying the view of the mountainous silhouette,
Arrived at Pingxi after trudging in the rain for about 40 minutes. Good decision to walk anyway, as the train had not passed him by.
Hungry and thirsty, he made a pit stop at one of the food outlets. Was laying down his baggage when he noticed a dead leaf stuck onto his calf. Tried flicking it but it didn't even budge. On scrutiny, he realized that it was a small leech. Took and piece of tissue and pinched it right out, and his wound would continue bleeding for a while more. Bloody leech.
Had a bowl of oyster soup (NT30) to replenish energy. This had lots of ginger julienne, good to warm the body in the cold. Oysters were juicy and tasted fresh, soft cubes of tofu also helped fill the stomach. So hungry that he finished everything in the bowl. Before leaving, he thanked the proprietors at the kitchen and they brightened up and smiled.
Walked on to the Pingxi Old Street, and from one of the alleys, found part of the railway suspended just above the creek. Looks really flimsy huh.
Got a sausage stuffed with fresh garlic from this stall for NT35 before proceeding further. Forgot to take pictures of the food. The stall display pictures and videos of celebrities coming for their food. The sausage griller was playing with his mobile and used the very same fingers to shove the fresh garlic into the sausage, perhaps that's why the food tasted so good.
Some buildings that looked to have encroached beyond the edges of the bank. But they look so old and will probably be fine forever more. Just thought that it was interesting.
Returned to the stall and got another charcoal grilled sausage stuffed with fresh garlic and topped with wasabi for NT35. This reminded him of the old man at Jinguashi, who sold the cheapest sausages (NT30) he had seen on this trip.
Exited the Pingxi Old Street on a gentle upslope and took more pictures of the railway tracks.
Nature has her hand in this art piece.
Beautiful lanterns hung at the Pingxi Station waiting area. Waited here for the train ride to Shifen as that was several stops away.
Reached Shifen and took a picture of the train at the station. It was interesting to note that the Shifen conductor would check for tickets only after passengers have alighted. He would later bump into the family (Cantonese?) in the foreground at Shifen Waterfall and help them take pictures. The mom probably went for a toilet break as father and daughter seem to be waiting.
This shop-front says "Very Blessed". 十分 in Mandarin means "100%". The shop wasn't open, no idea what it sold.
Sky Lantern shops along the rail, waiting for customers to send their wishes to Heaven.
Went across the tracks to visit Jing-an suspended bridge.
View of the other end of the bridge.
Had to move further in as there were other trying to take self portraits.
View of the Shifen Station area from the bridge.
View on the other side, nice turquoise water. Probably part of the long stream running along the Pingxi line.
Returned to the track to head on to Shifen Waterfalls. Saw a couple ready to send their wishes up into the sky.
Walked on to more tempting food stalls, but he had to keep his stomach light. Ignore!
Went past a mining museum, similar to the one at Jinguashi. This had a warning sign that said not to enter unless having paid the entrance fee. Walked on.
Mesh of wires in the sky. Something he doesn't see back at home.
He thinks it's nice to see how the colors blend in nicely. The rusty color accentuating the rail amongst the cold grey pebbles, and the lush greens providing comfort that life exists. In any case, it looked like the grass was crossing the railway, halfway there.
Picture from a look-back, hybrid road of concrete and metal, hybrid rail of pebbles and metal. Beautiful co-existence.
Further in, he got to witness the stuff he had read online. Pot hole in rocks created by the rushing water. The turquoise water was calm this day though.
Found another suspended bridge just outside the Visitor's Centre, Siguangtan Bridge.
A small fall in seemingly peaceful waters.
Returned to the main road from the bridge and bumped into the man he met at Jingtong. Started a conversation and sharing from travels went on and on. His name was Charles and was from Tainan. Charles was scooting around on a scooter, and expressed his surprise at yours-truly's speed on foot. Saw some people picking flowers along the way, and Charles commented that it was the season for those flowers. Really fragrant white flowers. Can't remember the name though.
Down the red wooden path to the Shifen Waterfalls.
He thought that it was just a leave stuck onto the railing, but Charles pointed it out at a moth. First time he saw such a moth. Even as the wind blew, it just held on and swayed its beautiful wings and tail in the wind.
Had to go through a narrow passage way and small door to get to the Shifen Waterfalls area.
Paid NT70 for entrance as he had a Youth Travel Card. Went straight to the falls and started snapping away.
From another vantage point. He commented that it would be a good experience to stand under a waterfall, and Charles suggested that he try the Guanyin Waterfall at Nantou next time.
Too much mist from the falling waters, it clouded his lens. Charles pointed out that the old path was without steps or railings. He thought that it would be really slippery and dangerous. This picture shows the sealed off old path just below the current staircase. Around here was also where he would help the Cantonese family take their picture with the waterfalls.
Charles probably went on to Houtong, while the nature-starved him decided to stay on and explore further. Saw some fish in the clear water, but they were at peace, not being pushed to the edge. Even the leaves floating on the surface of the water remained in place. Infinity pool ideas came from such works of nature huh?
Scouted the area in more details, and found a goat/lamb feeding area, further upstream was a suspended bridge and he found the Spectacle Falls. Couldn't see much from here, probably got to get on the suspended bridge. Note the discoloration in the water, he wondered if it were the similar to the deposits at Yinyang Sea at Jinguashi.
Left the area at the right time, 6-8 tour buses of tourists had just arrived and started swarming in. Along the walk back, saw some wood cutters at work. Took a picture of the neatly cut and stacked wood.
Some fungi growth on a garden trail.
More pictures of the stream off the garden trail.
Snapped a picture of the signage at the entrance of the road as he didn't take it earlier on. Weird sequence of events.
Reached Shifen a hungry and tired person. Ordered this chicken wing stuffed with fried rice for NT50. Reminded him of the Thai stuffed chicken wings that he had been thinking of trying.
Cute little kitty that people were taking pictures with. So sleepy in the middle of the pavement.
Waiting for the train back to Ruifang, took some pictures in the direction of Jingtong.
Another picture in the direction of Ruifang.
When he finally reached Ruifang, he visited the Old Street and got some guo tie ("pot stickers") to recharge himself. Only NT10 for 3. Nowhere to sit and take pictures, so he just gobbled them up. They were crunchy and had some chewy bits, nice to snack on.
The street was really short, and he would turn back in just a while and settled for a small bowl of braised pork rice (NT20). Short-grained rice drizzled with savory sauce and some thin strips of meat, yummy enough a meal. Ate in a dark alley where scooters kept zipping past, hence the underexposed image.
Went back to Ruifang Station to take the train towards Taipei, next destination being Songshan Station for Wufenpu market and Raohe Night Market.
Went to Wufenpu first, lots of affordable clothes for both ladies and gentlemen. But hunger was screaming and he had to leave for Raohe Night Market. Snapped a picture of a temple at one of the entrances.
Walked around and gave in to the grilled oyster temptation, NT100 for six.
Plump oysters waited to be gulped down. The proprietors probably soaked them in really salty water, he had to get some milk tea (NT20) right after this.
Walked around and had wanted to get a pair of suedes but the stall manager was not around, so he decided to just head to Sun Yat Sen memorial vicinity for his night shoots and then retire to prepare for the next long day. Used Google Maps on his battery-depleted Android and some human help to find the bus. Managed to get the correct bus stop and bus number from a pair of Taiwanese girls, and they even chatted with him for a bit while waiting for the bus. They thought that he was Japanese and was curious how he managed to speak Mandarin fluently. Soon after, one of the girls notified him that his bus was here and they bade their goodbyes.
Alighted and took some night shots from the bus stop. People walking past probably thought he was crazy with his point-n-shoot on a tripod.
Walked to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, thinking that it would be lit up. But he was wrong, the area was dark. But he got to experience the middle-aged aunties dancing to the hottest K-Pop beats. They had their own moves, but their synchronization were mesmerizing. The whole area seemed to be some exercise park too, many joggers around.
A picture of the Taipei 101 from the square.
Tired out, took a train back to Taipei Main Station from the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Station. Back there, climbed onto the overhead bridge near the Taipei Railway Station and got a night shot.
After everything, got a can of Taiwanese Gold beer for NT35 from 7-11 and it was time to call it a day.