Shifen Waterfall is a place I had passed by on several trips on the way to hikes in the Pingxi area, I had never taken the time to explore before this recent trip there. Getting there is fairly simple, the best route is to take the local train from either Taipei main station or Banqiao towards Ruifang. Once there, transfer to the Pingxi line and away you go! The train there can take a while as it's a fairly small train and very crowded. I would highly reccomend avoiding going there on the weekend if at all possible, as that train line gets very busy with the tourist foot traffic heading towards Pingxi Old street. Shifen itself is fairly well known too, so there are quite a few tourist groups there most days of the week, it's not enough to be off-putting in my opinion though!
Once you hop off the train at Shifen station, follow the train track right, and follow the old street there. The waterfall trail is clearly signposted and takes around 20 minutes to get to from the station. The initial walk through the old street is a bit of a crush with tons of tourists painting lanterns and shopping for trinkets, I have to admit I did get a chuckle out of an unfortunate gust of wind that blew a lantern into a telegraph pole almost immediately. Having hiked all around that area, you'll see old lanterns all over the mountains there littering everywhere, so as nice as it might be as a one off thing, I don't agree with the general mess they inevitably create!
Anyways back to the guide! follow the road until you reach the tourist centre, then cross over small suspension bridge towards the first waterfall in Shifen. For any photographers heading there, I would suggest you pack a good set of ND filters in order to get the most out of the fast moving water flow here.
Once across the first bridge there is a short walk to the main waterfall area, along the way there are some interesting little food stalls and lucky charms you can purchase. Quite a few of the tree there are covered in these red ties, which makes for a nice photo!
It would be best to try and visit here on a good weather day, as in flat light or rain, I could see a trip here being fairly miserable. That said, on this visit I lucked out somewhat with the weather. For the majority of the day, the light was overcast and generally rubbish for photography. Not long after getting to the the main falls though, the sun broke through the cloud cover, and in combination with the spray from the waterfall created a pretty cool rainbow effect!
The light later on during the day rather saved the photographic results from that trip. If you don't have a weather sealed camera though, you might want to be careful of which direction the wind is blowing, as it carries a fair bit of spray from the waterfall. Luckily all my camera bodies and lens are weather sealed so I wasn't too worried about a little bit of water getting on them. Considering I shot most of the pictures without any kind of filter I was quite happy with the results.
There are quite a few nice local snacks in the area if you fancy having lunch by the waterfall, the prices are reasonably set considering it's a pretty popular tourist area. There's a little koi pond if you you fancy feeding the fish too! On the whole Shifen is a pretty location given the right weather (which I suppose could apply to most places). On handy purchase might be one of the cheap rain ponchos you can buy in 7/11 if you are worried about the spray, but personally I didn't find to be much of an issue.
As a last minute thought, on the way back I stopped off at Cat Village to see what the draw there was all about. I'm more a dog person myself but cats can make for some interesting photo subjects. The village itself is somewhere else I have passed through many times but never stopped to take a proper look. It's not a massive place by any stretch of the imagination, and you could explore most of it in 30 mins or so. There are some nice little cafes there to sit and drink at though! And it certainly lives up to it's name. There are cats all around the place, although there are quite a few signs telling people not to touch the cats, sooooo not sure what's up with that. Anyways I did end up getting a couple of decent animal pictures.
One interesting area of the village is the burnt ruins of the old mining building and connecting bridge, there was a mini tour of the mineshaft there but I ran out of time to take the tour this time. It had an interesting rustic vibe though, I can see it being an interesting place for a photoshoot or something along those lines. After post processing some of the pictures into black and white, it looked like something straight out of the 1920s.
Lucky for me, the wind started to pick up towards the end of the day right at golden hour, which resulted in some awesome warm light to finish off the day! The surrounding mountains and area looked fantastic in the evening light. It was a great finish to a highly successful little adventure I feel!
All in all I would recommend Shifen to anyone looking for a quick escape from the city. It's a very easy walk that the whole family could do together. The food and transportation links are numerous and fairly decent for the most part. If you get lucky with the weather it's an interesting little area to explore and check out!
I hope this helps anyone on the fence about visiting Shifen!
Until next time