Just south of Jiufen, the scenic PINGXI BRANCH RAIL LINE (平溪支線; píngxī zhīxiàn) makes another rewarding day-trip from Taipei, winding its way almost 13km up the Keelung River valley to the atmospheric village of Jingtong and passing through the old mining communities of Pingxi and Shifen. For much of the twentieth century this was the heart of Taiwan’s coal industry, and, though the mines have all now closed, you’ll find several reminders of its industrial past scattered around the valley. These days however, it’s the mountain scenery, hiking trails and waterfalls that attract most of the tourists. The valley is also the location for one of Taiwan’s most captivating lantern festivals.

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