What’s next after our hottest-ever mountain-hiking experience in the morning? In the afternoon of Day 6, we would drive to Shifen and visit Shifen waterfall and Shifen Old Street. Shifen must be one of the most touristy places in Taiwan. People – tourists and locals alike – come here to release sky lanterns, hoping their wishes would come true.
Read on and I’ll also share why Shifen Old Street left me feeling unimpressed. Stay till the end and you’ll get to feast with us at Luodong Night Market – my third consecutive night having dinner there. The meal is on me – come on in!
Did we overplan our Taiwan Itinerary?
Sure, we did! Our initial plan was to hike from Sandiaoling to Shifen Waterfall which would take 4 hours. We must have underestimated the time required. And honestly, I think we were over-ambitious in our planning for the whole of Day 6. Remember we had already skipped numerous attractions around Sandiaoling and also didn’t manage to hike Bitoujiao Trail.
On hind sight, we were crazy to have arranged so many hikes to be done in a day. But don’t worry! The benefit of being on free and easy was that we could change anything at any time.
Say ‘Yay’ to DIY traveling!
Long story short, we skipped Sandiaoling and drove straight to Shifen Waterfall.
Shifen Waterfall – Touristy but worth a visit
Shifen Waterfall makes it to a must-visit destination on many tourists’ itinerary because it is a natural sight that’s easily accessible from Taipei. It was crowded with tourists when we visited and this reminded me of my experience at Yehliu Geopark in an earlier solo trip. The good thing about touristy places is that they often come with modern amenities. For instance, Shifen Waterfall has well-paved walkways and concrete shelters offering food, resting areas and toilets.
Here’s a video shot at one of the viewing platforms. Please turn down the volume as the energy of the waterfall makes this a loud video.
If you thought Shifen Waterfall is set in a tranquil and natural landscape, you have to manage your expectation. While the backdrop of Shifen Waterfall is set against a forested mountainside, everything else that you have access to is man-made. You can view Shifen Waterfall from two platforms – one located next to the Shifen Waterfall (where I took the video above) and the other opposite of it.
The powerful horseshoe-shape “Little Niagara Falls” of Taiwan is certainly worth a visit, but nature lovers would need to adjust their expectations on how they are able to interact with the waterfalls. No swimming was witnessed when we visited (probably not safe to do so).
There was no admission charge to enter the Shifen Waterfall, unlike in the past. But do expect to pay tourist prices if you intend to have your meals and drinks at the waterfall areas.
Getting to Shifen Waterfall
Public Transport to Shifen Waterfall
Most people would take a north-bound train (except Keelung-bound) to Ruifang Station. From there, they will transfer to another train – Pingxi Line – and alight at Shifen Train Station. Then walk through a well-paved path to reach Shifen Waterfall. This 15 minutes walk includes crossing suspension bridges and climbing multiple staircases (See map location).
Self-Drive to Shifen Waterfall
Since we drove, we parked near Shifen Waterfall, along a road beside Yanjingdong Falls (loosely translated as Eyeglasses Falls). From here, we walked through a sheltered old street/market to reach Shifen Waterfall. Here’s google map location on where we parked.
Not impressed with Shifen Old Street
From Shifen Waterfall, we walked 15 minutes to Shifen Old Street for lunch. I was expecting Shifen Old Street to be as “happening” as Jiufen Old Street which is located in the same region. I thought I would be pampered with a wide array of delicious and well-priced street food, but that wasn’t the case.
Shifen Old Street was significantly shorter than Jiufen Old Street. With a significant number of stalls dedicated to selling sky lanterns, we couldn’t find any food that truly appealed to us.
After walking to and fro the street a couple of times, we settled for a cozy shop selling Chinese noodles. The noodle he ordered (NTD55) had absolutely no ingredients – just plain carbo. I was lucky because my bee hoon (rice vermicelli) came with some meatballs (the egg at the side was an add-on).
Food was average at best and left us feeling underwhelmed. Sure, there could be other stalls selling better food. However, I do recall food prices being steeper than other old streets in Taiwan. It appeared that Shifen Old Street was more of a tourist street because tourists are often prepared to pay more.
Despite our disappointment in food options, Shifen Old Street was unique in her own rights as it was set along a live railway track. Numerous mini-shops lined the railway track with most selling food or sky lanterns. Eager tourists were seen standing on the railway track, either writing wishes on the sky lanterns or releasing them into the sky.
If you are into such activity, Shifen Old Street would appeal to you, like how it appealed to many tourists and locals alike. I think such an activity is fun and memorable especially when it is done in large groups – with family and friends.
And I can also imagine this place to be exceptionally charming at night – when sky lanterns float and glow against the pitch dark sky.
Lantern cost about NTD150 (one-color) or NTD200 for a multi-colored lantern. Apparently, each color represents a certain aspect of fortune, e.g. money, romance, health. So if you want more areas of your life to improve, you have to fork out more.
To me, this is pure commercialism and profiteering. While I enjoyed the sight and buzz of the quaint Shifen Old Street, the practical side of me did not yearn to participate in such an activity. But I do respect others who have different beliefs. If this can lift up one’s spirit and hope or elevate their general well-being, then please go ahead. We are not here to judge.
By the way, did anyone wonder where the lanterns disappear to?
With the benefit of driving, we got to witness the remnants of these sky lanterns. The burnt residue was either hanging on lamp posts or power cables further down the road. I read that others ended up on the mountains. Not a pretty sight, but probably not one that most tourists would care about.
(Location: Refer Google Map)
Called the Day Short and Retreated to Luodong
We were supposed to drive to Keelung and visit Miaokou Night Market. But we miscalculated the part on hiking Teapot Mountain – we didn’t know it would be that HOT and caused us to be in such a smelly, sticky and uncomfortable state. Did I mention that was the hottest hiking experience in my life? (Okay, I think I did).
Don’t miss: Miaokou Night Market on my first solo trip
By then, I was at the peak of my illness and the best word to describe me is “A Walking Zombie.” I must be running a high fever then as I would fall asleep immediately after entering the car. In fact, I was 99% asleep the entire day, when I wasn’t walking or hiking.
Reluctantly, we made a hard decision to call it a day at 3pm plus and retreat back to our base at Luodong.
The first thing we did after entering our hotel was to take a cold bath to bring down our temperature. It was darn refreshing! And then we slept for a few hours to recuperate.
Don’t miss Luodong Night Market and its Excellent Food Options
This was our third night in Luodong and we certainly appreciate staying in a hotel that was within walking distance to Luodong Night Market. It was such a happening food street we didn’t mind having our dinner here every night if we had to. With a great variety of food, we didn’t have to worry about having the same food every night.
Now, take a look at our dinner for the night. First, we saw this stall branding itself as Flat-Chested Girl Egg Cake (平胸妹鸡蛋糕) and selling bite-sized cake. I ordered a small bag containing about 6 mini cakes (NTD30). I’ll be honest – I couldn’t help stealing glances at the chest of the lady selling this. She was obviously being humble. :)
Next, we saw a stall selling smelly tofu fries (臭薯条). The long queue that extended from this stall hinted to us that this was a must-try. Whether it’s nice or not, try it because we wouldn’t be able to find this outside of Taiwan. The first few bites were yummy and the ‘smelly tofu’ wasn’t overpowering. Subsequent bites had diminishing returns on exponential pace.
A cup of smelly fries cost NTD60 – see location here.
Next up is a store selling biscuit roll (潤餅捲) or what we Singaporeans termed as “Popiah” (NTD40). There were bean sprout, cabbage, beancurd and some crispy bits wrapped within an ultra-thin crepe (See location). It was a very large popiah – too large perhaps. Good for sharing if you want stomach space to sample other street food.
There were quite a number of stalls in Luodong Night Market selling BBQ stuff. We ordered some BBQ chicken which were meaty, tender and juicy. I loved it that it wasn’t crispy as it worked well for my emerging sore throat.
We also ordered peanut ice cream cone and bitter gourd juice (NTD60). The bitter gourd juice was quite good as I could taste its bitterness. It wasn’t as diluted as the one I had in Raohe Night Market.
The last item to round off the night of feasting was a dessert from Wei Jie Bao Xin (魏姐包心粉圓). This is a chain dessert store, commonly found in Luodong and probably the nearby Yilan region. Wei Jie Bao Xin was in Singapore too but I’m not sure if it’s still around.
I sat down at the tiny shop and ordered from its extensive menu a cold dessert that came with a combination of soya bean curd, sweetened peanuts, red beans, corn and purple rice (NTD65). It was served with a plate of warm pearls by the side. The distinctive characteristics of these pearls was how they were stuffed with red bean paste.
This was a really comforting dish and I highly recommend it.
Other than food, there were shops selling cosmetics, shoes, clothes and sundries in Luodong Night Market. Things were reasonably-priced and I thoroughly enjoyed the authentic local ambiance. Luodong Night Market is one of my favorite night markets in Taiwan.
And that concluded the day! I hope you enjoyed the feast as much as I do. Next day, I would explore Luodong’s attraction and then make my way to Taipei. Stay tuned!
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- Day 1 (pt 1): How to get from Taipei to Hualien!
- Day 1 (pt 2): How to rent a scooter in Hualien?
- Day 1 (pt 3): Hualien Dongdamen Night Market on a rainy day!
- Day 2 (pt 1): Taroko Gorge on a Rainy Day
- Day 2 (pt 2): Exploring Shakadang Trail and Chisingtan Beach
- Day 3 (pt 1): Best hike of Taroko Gorge was at Lushui Trail!
- Day 3 (pt 2): Explore Wenshan Hot Spring and Qingshui Cliff
- Day 4: Goodbye, Hualien. Hello, Luodong!
- Day 5 (pt 1): Chasing waterfalls at Wufengchi and Yuemeikeng
- Day 5 (pt 2): Around Yilan – Jiaoxi, Daxi Fishing Harbor, Lanyang Museum, Mr Brown Castle and Jimmy Park
- Day 6 (pt 1): Hike Teapot Mountain in Taiwan and visited Nanya and Yin Yang Sea
- Day 6 (pt 2): Not in Awe with Shifen Old Street – but Shifen Waterfall deserves a visit
- Day 7: Last day in Taiwan: Explored Luodong and Taipei in one day (Day 7)