Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pingxi Branch Rail Line (平溪支线) - Jingtong (菁桐) - Pingxi (平溪) - Shifen (十分) - Shifen skylantern (十分天灯) [Taiwan Day 365: The Towns That Time Forgot - Aug. 31, 2014]


Taiwan Day 365 was the last day of my Year 1 in Taiwan. It represents the intersection of my past and future as I celebrate my One Year Anniversary in Taiwan. I landed in Taoyuan International Airport in Sept. 1, 2013 and Luo-Mu Jie was born! And that was Taiwan Day 1. Fast forward and it was Taiwan Day 365. Time really flies fast but there are places in Taiwan that seemed to be forgotten by time. I went to these places to see for myself if time indeed abandoned these places and how it happened.





The time frozen places can be reached by the Pingxi (平溪) Branch Railway. I boarded a train from Nangang Station which went to Ruifang Station and then I transferred to a train going to the Pingxi District of New Taipei City. The Pingxi Branch Railway starts to separate from the Yilan Railway Line at the Sandiaoling Station. The railroad tracks followed the Keelung River and I have observed the profound scenery of valleys and gorges from the glass windows of the train.































The Pingxi Branch Railway was made to transport coal until the industry was shut down and the railway line was transformed into a tourist destination. I first headed to Jingtong (菁桐) Station which is the terminal station of the Pingxi Line. There are very few tourists in these places so there was less competition taking photos. I have fun taking pictures especially the one where I sat on the concrete platform with the colorful Pingxi train beside me. I looked like a kid trapped in time wearing a Taiwanese flag shirt by just looking at the photo. I strolled in the Old Street and the Jingtong Railway Story House reminded me of how life is simple in Jingtong.





















After Jingtong, I boarded the train after one hour and went to Pingxi Station. I wandered around the Old Street and I noticed the elevated railroad tracks which gives a nostalgic feeling to the visitors. The place is very different in Taipei where life is fast-paced and modern. Pingxi is known for sky lanterns and I saw many lanterns flying above in the air. The sky lanterns were used as signaling devices during the Qing Dynasty to remind the women, elderly and children that it is safe to return to their homes as the bandits in the town were already gone. Today, sky lanterns are still released into the sky but with written wishes of those people hopeful that they will be fulfilled.
































After Pingxi, I went to Shifen (十分) and when I arrived there I was surprised by the scenery formed by the mountains, the town and the railway station. Wow! The Shifen Old Street sandwiched the railway track and when the trains were not around people were busy with their sky lanterns. I was so hungry at that time so I went to a restaurant to eat noodles. A grandma asked for my order and I was her only customer at that time. While I was having my meal she had chitchat with her neighbors as if she has nothing to do in life. Life here in Shifen is also simple and free of worries.








I also went to a store where I bought a wooden postcard bearing the Aug. 31 date. This will become part of my “Taiwan collections” and it will always remind me of my adventure in Taiwan Day 365. My travel would not be complete if I didn’t release a sky lantern. I ordered one from a shop for NTD 150 and I chose a red color. I wrote my wishes on the four sides of the red lantern. I then released my lantern into the sky after writing my wishes. I hope that God would hear the words that my heart wants to shout.


Jingtong, Pingxi and Shifen. They are classic towns in modern times. Visiting them will always give you a thick atmosphere of nostalgia. They are really the towns that time forgot.
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