This is an interesting day out if you want to see rural Taiwan and experience something off the beaten-track. The train takes you on a wonderfully scenic 13km journey from Ruifeng to Shi Fen, passing rural villages and farms on a railway, which, in the past, was important in the transportation of coal. The train runs from Ruifeng Railway Station and stops at Quin Tong, Ping Hsi and then Shi Fen. Ping Hsi and Shi Fen are both known for the traditional paper lanterns (the “Tian Deng”) that are released into the sky for good luck.
If you come here during a festival period you will see thousands of these lanterns being released, with the various colours representing different wishes. Legend has it that they were originally used to alert villagers to bandit raids.
In addition to the release of the traditional lanterns, Shi Fen is interesting in the way the shops line both sides of the track. There is also an impressive waterfall near here, which takes about 20-minutes walking to reach.
Quin Tong was known for its coal mining and also has souvenir shops and a museum.
To get to the Ping Hsi branch line, take the train from Taipei Station to Ruifeng Station (the journey takes about 45 minutes). From Ruifeng station take the Ping Hsi train. An all-day pass is available for the Ping Hsi branch line, which allows you to get on and off at leisure.